Loving Your Wife As Your Own Body

In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

-Ephesians 5:28

Photo: Pixabay
In Ephesians, Paul uses the metaphor of the body, to describe the church, and it's relationship to Christ.  Then Paul draws a parallel between Christ's and the church's relationship, with the husband and the wife's relationship.  As Christ loves his body, the church; husbands also love the their wives, as they love themselves.

There is a method of teaching "the husbands and wives passage" in Ephesians 5, where the teacher says, "this is for you, wives", or, "and now, this is for you, husbands".  Worse than that is to talk to the men, the husbands, about, "what those wives need to to", or to talk to the ladies about, "what those husbands need to do".  We end up blaming the other party for our lack of obedience.

"If she would just be submissive", men lament, or, "If he would be more loving, like Christ"; ladies cry.  And both of these whinings are wrong.  If you have a crazy, wild, rebellious wife; love her.  If you have a un-Christlike, boar of a husband, then submit to him anyways (1 Peter 3:1).

When we only look at one verse, there is truth there, but we have trouble understanding it and applying it, unless we look at the context.  The context of Christian marriage is Christ.  And, Christians are members of Christ's body, metaphorically speaking, which is the church.

Christ loves his body.  And, like a human body, all the parts of the body follow the head and work together, in harmony.  Working together is inherent and learned.

When the body does not work together or follow the head, metaphorically speaking, then, it does not work, and if you press the metaphor onto that situation, you have an absurd picture of a body, not connected to it's head or parts of the body operating independently or out of harmony with the rest of the body.  Today, Christ's body, the church on earth, is much like this; not always following it's head and with body parts acting independently or unharmoniously.

The body metaphor of Christ and the church is that Christ cares for the body and the body submits to him and comes under his headship.  As I stated above, how a husband or wife functions in Christian marriage is not predicated on how well their spouse is doing, but upon their own obedience to Christ.  And where Christ guides, he provides.  What he asks of you, he will help you to do.  In fact, Jesus called the Holy Spirit just that, "the Helper" (John 14:26).

It is very common, for a person to be angry at their spouse.  But, anger is a reaction to something.  Anger is a secondary emotion.  Perhaps, you got hurt or your expectation was not met.  Or you are afraid or disappointed.

Remember that anger never accomplishes the righteousness of God (James 1:20).  You might be angry at your spouse.  There is healthy and unhealthy anger.  Jesus got angry.  But he did not punish and abuse or harm people with it.  We can learn to express and release our anger in healthier ways.  Passive-aggressive anger or "stonewalling" are also dysfunctional (they do not help you or the other) and sinful.

Christ is the mediator in all conflict.  Christ is your healer, for all your damaged emotions.  You must cultivate your own relationship to Christ as the one who is making you whole, and then relate to your spouse as a person also being made whole.

Each one of us is responsible to have our love relationship with him and to let him give us the ability to have grace, speak truth, and forgive.  He's got patience and truth together.  We are his disciples, learning to live his way.

Christian couples who forget Christ and just just see their spouse, put too much on them.  Christian marriage has Christ holding the couple together in their covenant.  Christian marriage is impossible without Christ in the center of it.  You must actively participate with him.

The husband and wife relationship is written about in Ephesians, by Paul, in the context of the body metaphor.  Husbands love their wives, as they love their own body.  You don't get mad at your body, but you nurture it.  You care for your body.

Even though you are a man, you are called to nurture.  Nurturing is not effeminate, but Jesus-style leadership.  Remember that Christian leadership isn't bossing, but serving (Matt. 20:25-28, Mk. 10:42-4, Lk. 22:25-6).

Let's look at the body metaphor in Ephesians, from chapter's one through five:
And He put everything under His feet and appointed Him as head over everything for the church,  which is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way. (1:22-23)
In His flesh, He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. He did this so that He might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross and put the hostility to death by it. When the Messiah came, He proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.

The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling—  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (4:4-6)

And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,  for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ. (4:11-12)

But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ. From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part. (4:15-16)

Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives are to submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of His body.

For this reason a man will leave
his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two will become one flesh.

This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church.
To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.
If we want to find out what it means for a husband to love his wife as himself, we find out by looking at the previous verses.  It is right there in verses 25 to 32.  Paul compares the relationship of husband and wife to Christ and his church.

Look at how Jesus treated people.  That is how husbands should treat their wives.  Husbands get to be disciples in learning how to live in Christ.  Then we get to learn how to treat our wife the way that Jesus treats his bride.

God wants each of us to walk in a one flesh relationship with Jesus.  Husbands and wives also live in a one flesh relationship with each other.  On both fronts, it is profound and mysterious, yet real.

When we do not take our relationship with Christ seriously and walk in him, it is not a surprise that we would be flabbergasted by the call to a marriage just like that.  The calling for husbands is very high, but God is happy to help us learn to walk in it.
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless." 
Here is the "tall order".  I see agape love, sacrifice, and a call to holiness through the word.  It looks like husbands are called by God to do every good thing they can do, to help their wives to be Christian women - women who are like Christ, godly.

I don't think this means that the husband has no life other than this ministry to his wife, but that it means that this is how you relate to her.  And the Christlike life of the husband is a life of being on-duty or on-call for his wife and not absent, like a good shepherd.
"In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of His body."
The husband has a relationship of being one with Christ.  He is a disciple.  He is a Jesus follower and servant.  He serves Christ and serves his wife.

Remember the word and command, to, "love God with all your heart, mind, and strength; and then to love your neighbor as your self".  When you are loved by God, you begin to love your self in a wholesome and healthy way; with dignity, based on self-esteem from God.

When the word says, "husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies", we are talking about the love of God, not selfish, self-centered love.  This is reflected in the next statement, "He who loves his wife loves himself."  If you are not loving to your wife, or others for that matter, it says that you don't love your self.

Selfish people are not lovers.  Authentic love is godly love and godly love is giving, generous, and sacrificial.  Giving, generosity, and sacrifice is when you share your time, and resources.

The more relational that these acts of love are, the more authentic are.  Every recorded moment of Jesus life shows us what God's love is like.  Jesus' life is love actualized.

A husband might worry that if he really goes with what the word of God prescribes for him, then he will get lost and pretty much cease to exist.  "What about ME?!", the soul of the husband cries.  The truth is that the husband is called to follow Christ, taking up his cross and following; becoming a person who says, "I no longer live, and the life I now life is by faith in the Son of God" (Gal. 2:20).  You will not disappear, but become what God wants you to be.

A side note, is that we do not crucify our selves.  There is no masochism in Christianity.

You must lose your life, for His sake, to find your life (Matt. 10:39, 16:25).

One last note, is that a Christian man can be very devoted to Christ, but not be a very good husband.  In other words, neglectful.  He is "doing great things", while his wife and children suffer the ongoing loss or absence of a husband and father.  This is a failure on the man's part and has never been God's plan for any man.

You can not be too devoted to Jesus.  But if that life is not lived out in your marriage and your fathering, then your life is not really Jesus' life, but a misshaped caricature.

How can it be, that a Christian speaker, author, or musician can be effective in ministry; while failing in their personal life?  All of us are broken, cracked-pots, who are on-the-mend or being sanctified.  We are all becoming more Christlike.  And, it is the God who touches people and saves, heals, and delivers them.

You are not the gift.  A man may be something special and effective, in his giftedness.  But when he comes home, his wife still asks him to take out the garbage, and he serves her, with love.

We don't expect perfection from anyone's life.  But when someone has a gift from God and people are blessed by that gift, then the person's life can become driven by the "success" that the gift brings to them.  On the one hand, God gave that person the gift (we are not arguing that point) and God raises people up into particular leadership roles.  On the other hand, that person is still called to their second role as husband or wife and fathering or mothering.

Loving God comes first, loving your spouse and children comes second, and then everything else comes in a distant third.  In this "third tier" is ministry and vocation.  The man or woman that puts ministry or vocation before their spouse or family has failed and is wrong.  A mistake, delusion, or error is when you believe that ministry or vocation come before spouse and children.

Christianity is not "the new legalism", but life in Christ.  His guidance and restraint is actually easy (Matt. 11:28-30).  That means that, walking with and living through him is life-giving, to and through you and not that zapping burnout or work.

Walk with Jesus who loves you.  Love yourself as He loves you.  Then love your wife with that love.  Repeat.