[Editor’s note: Regular readers are familiar with our nights of blessing, when men in our church gather to encourage a young man about to be married. Tonight we gathered to bless Kwame, who is marrying a young woman from our congregation.]
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:25-32 ESV)
Kwame, you come to us as a stranger. And we trust you will leave tonight as a friend. This is the great gift of Christian hospitality.
But you are more than a friend. You are a brother. And you intend to marry one of our daughters in the faith. So you come also as a son.
So we commend you in the Lord to discharge faithfully the office of a husband, caring for Kim as Christ cares for his church. The Ephesians text, however, requires much more than care. You already care for Kim. It is our prayer than you will learn to love her as Christ loves the church.
For example, Christ gave himself up for his bride. Giving ourselves up is not just a willingness to die for our wife, although she deserves and depends on our protection. Giving ourselves up is about how we live —constant, daily sacrifices, sometimes several times before breakfast. Putting aside our own interests for the sake of our wives and children is the most basic component of Christ-like, sacrificial love.
It is good to love our wives in this way. In fact it is good to spoil them when we can, to lavish them in the same way the grace of God pours over us, overwhelming us with undeserved mercy and irrepressible joy.
But the reason Christ loves the church in this way is to sanctify his bride, and present her to himself in splendor. So we give ourselves, frequently and freely, and we do this as Christ does it—to help our wives become radiant, holy, and beloved. We can’t help sanctify our wives, however, if we give up the principles that guide us and define us as sons of God.
This is the essential challenge—to protect and sanctify our wives, so that they flourish as daughters of God and find themselves more secure in our love. Biblical leadership does this, as we guide them toward biblical faithfulness. Such leadership is neither coercive or oppressive, but liberating and and patient.
This means you have a responsibility to create boundaries and expectations that lead your wife graciously toward godly maturity. And it means you must commit yourself to study and prayer, so you know what to do and how to explain it.
This is how we love them them as we love ourselves, and trust me, we do love ourselves. We cherish and nurture our own body—yet in marriage we become one flesh. We take care of ourselves. We look out for ourselves. And in marriage we learn better than we learn anywhere else to love someone else, to look after her interests, to be thoughtful and careful and kind.
I can tell you Kim is a strong willed woman. But it is the will of God you seek, and toward which you must point her and point yourself. Do not fail in this—to protect her, not just physically but spiritually, and not just when she agrees but when God tells you what He requires.
It is not enough to be well-educated, as you both are. It is wisdom you seek—the wisdom that begins with the fear of the Lord. You are being given a gift—a smart, beautiful, witty woman. But more than this you are being given a responsibility—to love her sacrificially, to guide her spiritually, and to worship God only.
This mystery is profound, and I am reminding you that it refers to Christ and the church. The way you do this will say more to your family than the words you speak. There are words that need to be said, certainly. But over time your testimony to your family and even your friends will be increased or diminished by how you manage this responsibility.
You will learn so much in marriage about when to speak and how to forgive. You will learn better how to bear the image of Christ in the world. By God’s grace those who know you will be drawn to your God as you are yourself transformed into the image of his Son.
Marriage helps transform us, more than any other human bond. You will find you must pray more and give more and love more. You will wait more and listen more and desire more.
We will pray, as friends and fathers and brothers, that you will find yourself rooted in the church of the living God, surrounded and strengthened by others who shoulder the Cross of Christ.
We will pray also for your life together, and for the children the Lord may give you.
And we will pray for you personally, that you will be strong in the faith, gracious in your leadership, and Christ like in your love for Kim.
This we pray, for the glory of God.