Friday, January 15, 2010

Husbands That Reflect Christ

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
~Ephesians 5:25-33

A peculiar thing has happened to me during my nearly nine years of marriage. We often have the Christian radio station playing in both our home and our car, and I’ve noticed something about a lot of the songs they play. This thing that I have noticed, well, at first, I felt really guilty, even sacrilegious at feeling it.

A lot of those songs, with words directed toward God…they made me think of my husband.

I felt like this was probably really bad, like God would think I was somehow placing my husband in higher estimation than Him.

But I think I was wrong.

I have read the above verses many times over recently, and have come to the conclusion that when songs about God remind me of my husband, it isn’t wrong, in fact, it’s very right! The husband is supposed to be representative of Christ in the marriage relationship. They are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Doesn’t it make sense then that wives are to love their husbands as the church loves Christ?

Now, I am not suggesting that a wife ever put her husband before God. No one should ever put anyone else before God. As my five-year-old son say, “I love you Mom, but I love God more!” But if a wife can listen to lyrics such as these and be reminded of her husband, I think it’s wonderful!

I was wasting time
Oh so sure to find somebody
Who’ll never go
How could I know
None I’d found was true
None could be but you
The only one love divine
My heart, my mind are yours
~Amy Grant, ‘Everywhere I Go’



I am struggling to find a way to make myself attractive to You, attractive to You
I am trying to be more deserving of the gift You have to me, so free

(Chorus:)

It's funny how all I can be is someone completely ugly
And yet when You look at me, You don't see a wretch
You see a reflection of something beautiful
I am searching for the water that can wash me clean enough to earn Your love
I want to stop all the things that break Your heart, but come so natural to me, naturally

(Chorus)

I can't believe you could fall in love with me
~Todd Agnew, ‘Something Beautiful’


There are so many, I could go on forever!

The point is, that the way we feel when enveloped in God’s love and mercy and strength, is also the way we are supposed to feel when we think about or are with our husbands! We all know about that glorious Proverbs 31 woman, but where is the description of the perfect husband? It’s all throughout the Bible, because the perfect husband is the one who is like God!

Of course none of us, as women, can ever completely measure up to the perfection that is the Proverbs 31 woman, and we shouldn’t expect our husbands to be absolute perfection, either! But blessed indeed is the woman whose husband shows the characteristics of God when dealing with her, their children, and life in general.

Think about these attributes of God:

 Eternal
 Unchanging
 All-Knowing
 Good
 Loving
 Gracious
 Merciful
 Just and Slow to Anger

Let’s look at how each of these attributes can be shown in a husband…

Eternal

“…from everlasting to everlasting You are God.”
~Psalm 90:2

Now, of course our husbands are not eternal in the exact same way as God is. They were not there when the earth was formed! But think in terms of our own short lives…who is the one person you will spend the majority of your life with? Your husband! We leave our parents when we marry, just as our children will leave us when they marry, but our husbands are there for the long-haul. If a husband is a godly man, his wife will feel the eternal commitment he has to her, to their marriage, to their family, and to her spiritual welfare – and remember, our spirits are eternal!

Unchanging

“Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.”
~Hebrews 6:17

Unchanging – think steadfast, unconditional. Oh, the ways our husbands can show steadfastness to us! How sad it is that so many women complain about not being able to change their husbands! Men are naturally imbued with the inclination toward steadfastness, and we try to nag it out of them!

It is often said that it is a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. How true this is! As highly emotional creatures, it is only natural for us as women to be easily swayed. But listen to what Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians:

“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”
~Ephesians 4:14-15

Christ, the head of the church. Our husbands, head of our marriage. Like the early Christians who trusted Christ to lead them in truth and turn their hearts from worldly thinking, we as wives should be able to trust our husbands to remain steadfast and to guide us safely through life. As God loves His children unconditionally, we should be able to trust that our husbands will gently chastise us when we stray and willingly forgive us.

All-Knowing

“For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything.”
~ 1 John 3:20

How well does your husband know you? How well do you let him know you? If you are like me, you might have come into marriage with some emotional baggage from previous relationships that make it difficult for you to let down you guard and truly share your whole self with your husband. I am here to tell you that when you do finally break down that wall of defenses and let yourself be known completely to your husband, it is a very sweet surrender.

A husband who truly knows his wife – all her hopes and dreams as well as all her flaws, fears, and shortcomings – will be of the greatest help to her. I see this as especially helpful in dealing with the wife’s struggles. You husband cannot help you if he does not know all the details of what is going on in your heart and mind. A good husband knows what his wife is troubled by. He knows what areas of life to help her avoid in order to avoid temptation and “make her holy.” This, of course, requires the husband to be truly Christ-like so that his wife feels safe in sharing her secrets with him without fear of anger or retribution.

Good

“But you, O Sovereign LORD, deal well with me for your name's sake; out of the goodness of your love, deliver me.”
~Psalm 109:21


Goodness is one of those qualities that is hard to define. Children are called “good” when they are obedient, work is pronounced “good” when it meets certain expectations, food is proclaimed as “good” when it is aesthetically pleasing. Just what is “good”, anyway?

Well, Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary says that goodness "in man is not a mere passive quality, but the deliberate preference of right to wrong, the firm and persistent resistance of all moral evil, and the choosing and following of all moral good.”

Dictionary.com lists as synonyms to goodness:

“integrity, honesty, uprightness, probity. GOODNESS, MORALITY, VIRTUE refer to qualities of character or conduct that entitle the possessor to approval and esteem. GOODNESS is the simple word for the general quality recognized in character or conduct: Many could tell of her goodness and kindness. MORALITY implies conformity to the recognized standards of right conduct: a citizen of the highest morality. VIRTUE is a rather formal word, and suggests usually GOODNESS that is consciously or steadily maintained, often in spite of temptations or evil influences: of unassailable virtue; firm and of unwavering virtue.”

So what makes for a “good” husband? A good man! A man who is knowledgeable in the teachings of the Bible and who consistently applies these teachings to his life will make a good husband. This is why it is so important to know the true character of a man before you marry him!

A good husband is one you can trust with your life – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually – because you know his moral foundation is solidly built on the good truth of the Bible. You can trust him to be loving, forgiving, hard-working, and self-sacrificing because you know the true goodness of his heart. A good husband is a special blessing, indeed!

Loving

“So we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him”
~1 John 4:16

That a husband should be loving toward his wife seems obvious. Why else would you get married? But this does not mean merely eros love, which is what most people think of when they think of the word “love.”

In the Greek, there are three different kinds of love attributed to God in the Bible. Husbands (and wives, too, by the way) should be showing all three kinds of
love in addition to the more physical eros love.

A brief look at the different kinds of love:

Eros – the basest, most human form of love, truly more akin to lust, this is the feeling that attracts us to someone physically. This type of love certainly has its place within the marriage, but is the least important in the big scheme of things.

Phileo – the ‘friendship’ love (think Philadelphia – city of brotherly love). This is also the love we use for things, such as “I love flowers” or “I love dogs”. This type of love conveys a fondness or preference, a liking of some person or thing, generally because of some similarity (in people) or a want/need that is met (in things).

Storge – this is familial love, representing the parent/child, brother/sister, and even the husband/wife bond. This type of love generally includes a fierce loyalty and desire to defend and protect. In Romans 12:10, the Greek word used for love is philostorgos, a combination of friendship and familial love:

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

Agape – this is true God love. This is the word used in the above verse of 1 John 4:16 to describe the love God has for us. This is true unconditional love. Agape is the form of love most often expressed as a verb – an action. Agape love is a willed choice, not simply an emotion. This is the kind of love that is often easier to show to strangers than to our own family! It is easy to serve in, say, a ministry to the homeless with agape love, but not so easy to show that same love to someone we have to share our time and space with every single day!

A truly loving husband shows love to his wife in all four areas. Sometimes one form of love will dominate while another may recede, but Christ-like men will strive to be constantly showing love in as many ways as possible to their wives.

Gracious

“…the LORD your God is gracious and compassionate.”
~2 Chronicles 30:9

Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1998) defines “gracious” as:

Abounding in grace or mercy; manifesting love, or bestowing mercy; characterized by grace; beneficent; merciful; disposed to show kindness or favor…

Is your husband ever merciful and beneficent to you? What about when he helps with the dishes? Or takes the kids somewhere so you can have an hour to regain some sanity? Or even when he politely and lovingly accepts your ‘not tonight, dear, I have a headache’?

Anytime our husbands give us more than we deserve (which is probably quite often, if you think about it), anytime they give us a break, cut us some slack, forgive us when we have wronged them, they are showing grace to us, just as God shows grace to all His children.

Merciful

“The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him…”
~Daniel 9:9


Merciful and gracious go hand in hand. It is through mercy that grace is extended to us. God is ceaselessly merciful to all who cry out to Him for forgiveness and redemption, and the godly husband will act in the same way toward his wife. This is a place where we can refute the arguments against traditional biblical roles for husband and wife. Those who cry that the biblical submission of women to their husbands is unfair to women and places men in tyrannical positions over their families would do well to heed the entirety of Scripture. Women are to submit, but men are to strive toward being Christ-like, which means, in part, that they are to be ever forgiving of their wives’ imperfect natures and to lovingly and gently guide them, with mercy and grace, toward becoming more Christ-like themselves.

How many times have I myself needed the mercy of my husband! Whether it’s because I have been too busy (or sick, tired, or stressed) to clean the house that day, or because I lost my temper with one of the kids, or because I let my mind wander to unwholesome places, I need my husband as well as God to accept my repentance, forgive me, and help me toward being a better Christian.

Just and Slow to Anger

“But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love…”
~Nehemiah 9:17


What an amazing thing it is that God puts up with us at all! He could easily wipe us all out and create a new ‘man’ who would always do right and never sin. But He doesn’t. Why? Because He loves us. And He wants us to love Him! Love isn’t love when there is no choice or free will, so God allows us to think our own thoughts and make our own decisions. Luckily for us, He is willing to put up with a lot of stumbling on our part as we try to find our way!

Husbands must be the same way. Just as God grants free will to people, it is not the husband’s job to demand love and respect from his wife. We as women are certainly allowed to make our own choices. There are some men who will try to force their wives into submission, and while the result may be fearful obedience, it will never be real honor and respect.

Godly husbands must be just. This means they must give their wives a reason to honor and respect them. They must be the kind of man worthy of that respect, and worthy of their wife’s trust. They must also be ready and able to own up to their own shortcomings, and to realize that though they try to be Christ-like, they are not God, they are no more perfect than their wife, and sometimes they themselves are the ones who need to be chastised and changed. They must take responsibility for their own actions and realize and make repentance for their wrongs as well.

A godly husband is slow to anger. Men and women are different, and there will be times when what his wife says or does (or doesn’t do) will not make any sense to him at all. There will be times when he’ll be fed up, frustrated, at wit’s end. But anger is a dangerous thing. The man who is quickly and easily angered will find it hard to maintain any sort of peace within his home. God is slow to anger, and Christian men must work to reign in this dangerous emotion within themselves. A good Christian husband will respond in love. Sometimes it may be the firm hand of love, but it will always be gentle.

*********************************************************************************
So, all those ways our husbands can be to us as Christ was to the church, as God is to His children. I am thankful to have such a husband. I am amazingly blessed to be able to see God’s love given to me through my husband. I hope you are blessed as I am. If you are not (because the sad truth is that far too many women aren’t), then I pray that you and your husband together could find to firm truth of God’s word to stand upon, and together build up a godly marriage, a bond too strong to be broken…the covenantal bond between you, your husband, and God.

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
~Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

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