Next year, I will have been a husband for 19 years! The vows we said to each other still hold true today.

While I do not remember the exact words from our wedding day (unless I get out the VHS tape), the premise remains — I promised to love, honor, cherish and be faithful to Haley for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

But, I said some exact words I’ll never forget. I said, “I promise to love you just as Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:25). What does it mean for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church? And more importantly, how do I walk this out personally in my marriage?

In Eph. 5:25-31, the Apostle Paul says a lot more to the Christian husbands than to the wives. He sets the high standard from the beginning by saying Christ is the example of how husbands are to love their wives. In the Christian’s home, marriage should be an illustration of Jesus and the church.

So, as a husband, I must discover how Jesus loved the church and love my wife that way. I must learn how Jesus talked to His bride (the church) and talk to my bride that way. I must find out how Jesus treated His wife (the church) and treat my wife the same way. Would Jesus call His wife a name that brings shame or harm? Would Jesus’ physical touch towards His wife be crude or violent? How would Jesus talk about His bride when they weren’t around?

Marriage is more than a physical union. Marriage is spiritual. I still call it “holy matrimony” when I perform wedding ceremonies. While the groom is sweating waiting for the ceremony to start, I often give him a copy of the vows and say, “Tell these to Jesus before you tell them to her.” Jesus is the only one who can help you keep your word and fulfill your marriage vows.

“What God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matt. 19:6). God joins — only He can make two become one and tear down whatever is making one revert back to two. Man without God separates — over the stupidest of petty issues. I once counseled a couple who was splitting up over a cheeseburger — yes — a cheeseburger.

What does a Christian husband look like? First, he sacrifices. Eph. 5:25 says Christ, “Gave himself up for her.” A sacrificial husband is not selfish (1 Cor. 13:4), “puts away childish ways” (1 Cor. 13:11), and puts his wife ahead of his buddies and hobbies. He serves his wife by gladly laying down his rights and picking up his responsibilities.

Secondly, a Christian husband sanctifies. Eph. 5:26-27 says a Christian husband washes his wife with the Word (the Bible). This isn’t a power-washer that blasts, but a gentle living-out and speaking Scripture that caresses. This not only purifies the marriage but is the glue that holds it together.

Thirdly, a Christian husband satisfies. Eph. 5:28-30 says a Christian husband is satisfied and satisfies his wife by loving her like Jesus does the church. This brings such a mutual fulfillment neither is tempted to search for it somewhere else. It’s not a myth or something only of your grandparent’s generation. You can be satisfied with and enjoy one another for a lifetime!

Most importantly, a Christian husband submits. Eph. 5:24 sets the stage for Eph. 5:25-31! It says, “The church submits to Christ.” When you submit your life to Christ and He saves you, you are saying, “I submit my selfishness, sinfulness and singleness.” You are joined to Him as His bride (the church). Now, you can learn how to be a husband from the best Husband, Jesus.

Stephen Harrison is the lead pastor of Family Church at White Hall.

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