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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Role of a Husband – Part 2

“So what are the responsibilities of a husband?”

I’m so glad you asked. God has listed several tasks for husbands. Unfortunately, we husbands have spent so much time pointing out how our wives are supposed to submit and lording it over them, or bemoaning the fact that none of this is working like that, that we seem to have missed that God has a list of things to which we are supposed to pay attention.

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, because we are members of His body (Eph. 5:25-30).

Now, when was the last time you read that whole passage and tried to take it all into account?

We understand the “love your wives” part. We have wives who remind us of that. (I would suggest, however, that you go read 1 Cor. 13:4-8 to see God’s perspective on just what “love” means.) But look at the explanation of how we are to love our wives – “as Christ also loved the church”. If our example of love is as Christ loved the church, how did Christ love the church? He “gave Himself up for her”. And why? His aim was to “sanctify her” and cleanse her, presenting her with “no spot or wrinkle”, “holy and blameless.” Get hold of that for a moment. That is a large task. It is, in fact, larger than any human husband can accomplish. But according to Paul, it is our example. That is, our love should be volitional, intentional, and purposeful. It should exceed mere “warm feelings” and seek instead for every corner of good you can provide for her. Every corner of good, including physical, social, and spiritual endeavors. You are to help to “unwrinkled” her, to “sanctify” her (or set her apart). Her best interest in everything should be your first priority, even at the cost of your life. And when I say “at the cost of your life”, I include “at the cost of your pride, your comfort, your convenience, your preferences.” It’s a funny thing about many guys; we would willingly give our lives for our wives, but would we inconvenience ourselves? After all, it was a hard day. She should be able to do those dishes herself. We are, after all, the head of the house, right? Not when her best interest is your first priority.

Fortunately, Paul takes it down a notch from there. Here is his explanation in human husband terms: We are to love our wives as our own bodies. Now, here is a common mistake. “You can’t love others until you love yourself.” Apparently, according to Paul, we already do love ourselves. His proof is that we take care of ourselves. We eat, we sleep, we nurture ourselves. We may have self-image issues, but we definitely love ourselves or those issues wouldn’t bother us. We already love ourselves. The way in which we love ourselves ought to be the way in which we love our wives.

Now, think back. When was the last time you made yourself skip a meal because you had made a mistake? Or when did you fail to dress yourself because your boss chewed you out at work? Why, then, do we condition our love for our wives on their response to us? When we base our method of loving our wives on her attitudes and actions toward us, is that “giving yourself up for her”? Note that our example, Jesus, gave His life for people who were hiding and even denying they knew Him. This love we are to give to our wives is not conditioned by her response.

Responsibility #1, then, is to love your wife. That love is not conditioned by her response to you. It is conditioned, instead, by Responsibility #2:

You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7).

The second responsibility of a husband is to “live with your wives in an understanding way.” Now, any guy can tell you that this is an impossible request. Is it even remotely possible that a male can understand a female? The obvious answer, according to Peter, is “Yes!” Therefore, we must. We must become students of our wives. We must learn what makes her tick. We must find out her likes, her dislikes, her needs and desires. This is our task as husbands. Learn her!

This information, gathered over time, will condition the first responsibility of loving our wives. We humans have a tendency to get confused and try to please others by doing what pleases us. This seems logical on the surface, but it fails to accomplish its goal (pleasing others) because it doesn’t take into account the “others” we are seeking to please. Most of us know, for instance, that giving a wife a power tool for her birthday, something that would likely please us immensely, will produce the opposite response in her. Instead, when we seek to love our wives informed by our understanding of her, we can begin to meet her needs rather than our perception of her needs through our desires. What we normally do is so convoluted. “I would want/need that. She must. So I’ll give her that … because I would want it regardless of what she would want.” No! Our love must be conditioned by our understanding. Sometimes that means giving her not what she wants, but what, based on sound understanding, she needs. But for love to be most effective it must be conditioned by understanding, and the argument that “Who can understand women?” must be discarded.

Responsibility #3 is also included in Peter’s remarks. He says, “Grant her honor”. Now, we guys, having read the information written to our wives, know that it is their responsibility to respect us. But somehow, amidst all the confusion, we missed the part where we are supposed to honor her. So while wives are supposed to revere their husbands (not your responsibility, guys!), husbands are supposed to honor, esteem, value, consider of great worth, our wives. She is to be treated as “a weaker vessel”, not because she is weaker, but because she is of great worth. She is a “fellow heir”. She may be constructed like Corning ware, unbreakable, but treat her like fine china. She is valuable.

Before going on, it is important to note that this responsibility carries with it a warning. Husbands, take note! A failure to do this – to learn to understand and to honor your wife – will hinder your prayer life. It is not possible to stand in defiance of God’s command to love your wife (which includes these aspects) and then expect to have your dialogue with Him unperturbed. So when your prayer life seems to suffer, check into how you are viewing and responding to your wife.

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