“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.”
(Ephesians 5:25-27 ESV)
One of the things I’ve noticed, as a pastor, is that the true definition of love has been lost. It’s been replaced with something far inferior to the love described in Scripture. It’s a far cry from the love we’re called to possess for our spouse and to give them.
We understand love to be the emotion that we feel for our spouse. We understand it to be the butterflies in the tummy and the nervousness we feel in their presence. And this is why so many couples split up, citing the fact that they’ve fallen out of love.
We all know that, after we’re together for a time, the butterflies and the nervousness go away. We realize that, once we’re comfortable with one another, our annoying and sinful habits become visible. And what we once thought cute or endearing now grates on our last nerve.
We also realize that our feelings sometimes waver. We might feel more love for our spouse at one time and less at another. We may feel more loved by our spouse at one time and less at another. And sometimes, we become so angry or frustrated that we feel no love at all.
We must realize that, because of our sinful nature, our feelings can deceive us. We cannot trust our feelings to determine if love is present in our relationship. We must instead seek to give love to our spouse as God has commanded.
I think it’s safe to say that we all want to feel love in our marriage. However, the love to which we’re called is so much more. We can see this in the love husbands are called to give to their wives in the above passage.
The standard of our love is none other than Christ himself. Men, we’re called to love our wife as Christ loved church. We’re called to love her like Jesus, who gave up his life for our sanctification. We’re called upon to sacrifice ourselves for our wife’s blessing.
Like Christ, we must seek first and foremost to present our spouse to the Lord without spot or blemish. What this means is that we must seek our spouse’s eternal blessing above all else. We must love them in such a way that we encourage them in their faith, and that we encourage them to grow in their faith.
One of the mistakes we often make is to withhold our love. We give love only if we feel it’s something of which they’re deserving. But we must realize that our spouse will never be deserving of our love. Because they’re sinful, they’ll continually fall short. And just as Christ gives to us his love as an act of grace, we must do the same with our spouse.
This definition of love is repeated throughout Scripture. For example, we’re called in John 13 to love one another as Christ has loved us. Again, this is a sacrificial love. And we know this because Christ loved us by giving his life for us.
It’s for this reason that this word is translated in the King James Version as “charity.” It’s not primarily an emotion, but a gift of grace. It’s providing for the needs of another even when they have nothing to give in return.
Recognizing this truth, it’s not possible for us to fall out of love with our spouse. We may stop loving them. And, if this is true, we must repent. We must ask God for his mercy. And we must ask him to implant his love in our heart. We must ask him for the strength and the ability to love our spouse as he’s commanded.