In the past, many marriages were arranged. The parents of the bride and groom decided who their children should marry. However, most people today get married because they love each other and desire to spend their lives together. But as time goes by, the husband and wife see the flaws in each other. Each does things that take away from the feelings of love that they initially had. Things may even progress to feelings of animosity or divorce. Husbands and wives can be selfish, inconsiderate, lazy, rude, critical and just plain sinful; this is a prescription for problems in a marriage.
Let us look at God’s prescription for marriage. Ephesians 5:25-33 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own 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 the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Regardless of the reason that the man and woman got married, a husband is commanded to love his wife. God is love and we are to also be characterized by love. In all the areas of life that a man is to demonstrate love, what can be more important than to demonstrate love for his wife?
As a husband, the love that you are commanded to have for your wife is not the romantic love; you may or may not have romantic love for your wife. You are commanded to have agape love, which is a love that is selfless and seeks the good of your wife. This love is characterized by you being patient and kind, not boastful, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, where you keep no record of wrongs or delight in evil but rejoice with the truth, where you always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere. These characteristics of agape love are described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and they certainly apply to the love you are to have for your wife. You are to love your wife as your own body; you are to nourish and cherish your wife. You are to love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her; remember that Christ died for the church. Would you be willing to give yourself for your wife even to the point of death? Your wife needs to be loved with agape love. As a husband, if you would love your wife this way, your chances for serious marital problems or divorce will be extremely small. What normal wife will resist this kind of love? Everyone wants to be loved, and a wife certainly wants to be loved. Peter teaches husbands to dwell with their wives with understanding and giving them honor. 1 Peter 3:7 “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”
Paul wrote in Colossians 3:19 “Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.” In addition to being commanded to love their wives, husbands are not to be bitter toward them. Bitterness usually comes when one remembers the perceived offenses of the other person and holds resentment and animosity towards them. A husband is commanded to love his wife. When he truly loves his wife, he will forgive her and get rid of all feelings of bitterness towards her, regardless of what she has done.
Interestingly enough, in Ephesians 5 the wives are not commanded to love their husbands. Instead, they are told to respect their husbands. Apparently, this is one thing that a husband really needs from his wife: respect. I remember talking to one wife about this and she said that her husband was not worthy of respect. He was a Christian, but apparently she didn’t respect the decisions that he made. This attitude on her part was very damaging to their relationship. We are told in 1 Corinthians 11:3 that the head of woman is man as the head of man is Christ. This wife should have respected her husband if for no other reason than the fact that he is her head. Peter commands the wives to be submissive to their husbands. 1 Peter 3:1-2 “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.” Some men make bad decisions or don’t want to take the leadership in the family. The wife may disrespect her husband and assume the leadership. This is not God’s plan for the family. My advice to such a wife is to choose to respect your husband. Don’t assume the leadership; let him suffer the natural consequences of his decisions and actions and pray that God will change His heart. In such an environment, most men will eventually make better decisions and assume the proper role of leadership in the family that God wants them to have.
The older women are told to admonish the young women to love their husbands in Titus 2:3-4 “The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things — that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children.” You would think that it would be natural for women to love their husbands and their children, but even today, some women are selfish and don’t have the natural love they should have.
God’s prescription for marriage is agape love. Husbands and wives are each told to love their spouse. This is a choice they should make even when the romantic feelings are not there. Husbands and wives are to treat each other with agape love. My encouragement to you is to love and respect your spouse as God prescribes. I also encourage you to live so that your spouse finds it easy to love and respect you.