The High Calling of the Husband

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Week 9, 2003
This week we continue our study with Ephesians 5:25-29:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also 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,

that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or
wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.

So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves
his own wife loves himself;

for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ
also does the church,

Along with last week’s verses, this concludes the Bible’s most important marriage counseling. It is interesting to note that the only marriage counseling in the Bible was given by one who was never married. Was this because he could give a more objective view? In the opinion of some skeptics it is much easier to preach things you do not have to personally try to live up to! He certainly laid out some very high standards, but this is the Word of God, and for the true believer, compromising or making excuses is not an option.

Together the verses from this week and last week basically say that the woman should respect and obey her husband as the church does the Lord, and that the husband should love and serve his wife as Christ does the church. The fulfillment of this will make the Christian marriage one of the great witnesses of the Lord’s relationship with His people. Certainly, to have a godly marriage that comes anywhere close to these standards is a remarkable thing today, even among Christians. In fact, recent studies have revealed that evangelical Christians are now divorcing at a faster rate than non-believers. Why is this happening?

Probably the main reason is because it seems that the devil’s main assault on humanity at this time is directed at destroying the family. Man is a social creature. After the Lord created man He said, “… It is not good that the man should be alone…” (Genesis 2:18). This is interesting because man and God had fellowship at this time. Though our relationship to God is even more basic than human need, God created us to also need each other. The family is the most basic social structure. To the degree that the devil can weaken or destroy this relationship will be the degree to which he can destabilize and then destroy mankind itself.

Destroying mankind, or getting us to destroy each other, is the devil’s basic strategy. Restoring mankind to the purpose for which we were created—to have fellowship with God and to cultivate His creation—is God’s basic strategy. The family is one of the central and most important battlegrounds where this conflict is waged for the destiny of mankind.

This ploy of the devil to destroy the family will not ultimately work because of the faithful ones who during the greatest onslaught will rise to the greatest obedience. Right now the intensity of the onslaught is causing a great separation to take place between the truly faithful, and those who are at best lukewarm. As the onslaught increases it will be a miracle if anyone can stand. That is the point—everyone who is standing for truth and righteousness will be considered miraculous, and the whole world will one day acknowledge them.

During this increasing darkness those who do stand, whose marriages survive, will not only be survivors, but glorious testimonies of what God desired the marriage relationship to be. The ones that are just barely “hanging on” are going to have an increasingly difficult time. Soon everyone who is not gaining ground will be losing it. The relationships of marriages that prevail are going to be the ones that are built on the Word of God. As the Lord taught, it will only be those who built their houses on hearing and obeying the Word of God who will be able to stand the storm that is coming.

If the Word of God and the standards of what God has called the marriage relationship to be, offends you now, you, or your marriage, you will not make it through what is coming. We must make a choice as to whether we are going to live by human philosophies and standards of the day or by God’s standards.

On the other hand, remember, there is a ditch on either side of the path of life. A main reason for the meltdown of Christian marriages today is the idealistic interpretation of the Word of God in relation to Christian marriages. This is the setting forth of standards that no one can live up to, and causes a frustration and continual feeling of defeat that only weakens marriages.

Often I talk with husbands or wives who read Christian books about marriage and are frustrated with their spouses because they are not living up to the ideals presented in the books. Of course, it is obvious that if their spouse would also read the book they would be just as frustrated with them for not measuring up to their part either. This is often the fault line (pun intended) that begins the break up of the marriage. What is the answer?

First, I think we need to lower our expectations in marriage. I am not saying that for shock effect, I am saying it because I believe it is true. Last Mother’s Day we asked several of the mothers in our local congregation to share what they would like to have for Mother’s Day. We were expecting them to share some things that their children could do for them, but almost all of their requests were directed at their husbands. I do not think a single husband could have lived up to those requests without quitting his job, giving up all his time with the Lord, his children, recreation, and everything else, but loving and serving his wife. The women who shared these things were honestly wanting what they had requested.

Now on Father’s Day we got even. There was little hope for any wife who had children, a home, relationship to the Lord, much less a job, or any outside relationships, to live up to what the husbands wanted their wives to be like. I hope this was a revelation to all. I think we need to start by giving grace to each other and determining that we are not going to make unrealistic expectations of one another.

However, we must not compromise the standards that the Scriptures teach about marriage, but we need to understand that it may take our entire marriage to attain them. By this I mean that if the Lord knows we are going to live to be married fifty years, it may take that long for us to get them right. Sound crazy? Not as crazy as believing we can achieve these biblical standards immediately.

Could this mean that we will only be a witness of what marriage is supposed to be like for one year? Perhaps, and that may be enough. However, I think the truth may be somewhere between these two extremes.

So am I saying that I do not believe anyone can have a biblical marriage until they have been married for decades? No. I think everyone who seeks to obey the Lord and His mandate can have a glorious relationship from the beginning, and at each stage along the way, but even though the Lord has done just about every kind of miracle imaginable I do not see anywhere in Scripture where He makes anyone instantly mature. Just as being a mature Christian takes time and effort, so does having a mature marriage.

Coach Bill McCartney, the founder of Promise Keepers, shared something at our last Pastor and Leader’s conference that was eye opening to many. He said just recently that his wife had said he finally became the husband that she had always dreamed of having. They are now in their sixties. It took them decades to get there.

It was interesting to me that Coach never mentioned whether his wife met his expectations as a wife, but that is because it was obvious he was more intent on whether he was living up to his part than thinking about whether she was living up to her part. I do think this is the way it should be for husbands. The Scriptures are clear that the greatest responsibility for making the marriage into what it should be does lie with the man.

My simple proposal for complying with the biblical mandate of Ephesians five for marriage is to give yourself time. Know that in your first year of marriage you are going to have an immature marriage—and that is okay! It is okay for a one-year-old to be one. Enjoy growing up and don’t try to rush it.

There are many marriages that have stayed at the same level, or even moved backwards for years. Maybe you have been married twenty years now and have not really made much progress for the last fifteen. This is often the case when children come. However, you have probably made more progress than you think though you may feel more frustrated in your marriage now. Even if you become convicted and know that you have to do something, I encourage you not to try to make up the ground too fast. That can be counter-productive.

By this I mean that instead of trying to have daily devotions with your wife and children, start with weekly devotions. Also, keep them short. I would recommend something like fifteen minutes rather than an hour. If you are faithful they will probably start to get so good that you will want to go longer, and then you will want to do them more often. It is much better to have shorter and fewer times with real life in them than longer and more frequent ones that are so boring and lifeless that they are viewed more a punishment than an opportunity.

I realize that I have very superficially touched on the verses for this week and last. Indeed, many books have been written on these verses, and they are worthy of many books. However, we obviously cannot do that here, so the main thing I have tried to accomplish is the appeal to get real. We need to acknowledge our failures, and try to remove the unrealistic expectations that are rooted more in idealism than revelation. Then we need to develop a workable, step-by-step approach to a mature Christian marriage that can be achieved.

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