Oh, did I type that outloud?
“Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.” (Col. 3:19, NKJV)
When God says, “Husbands, love your wives,” he speaks of the woman as a complex being. He calls every man to love his whole wife just as every man loves his whole self (Eph. 5:29). This means that a husband must do all he can to understand his wife’s world. What follows are eight admonitions to love our wives with respect to their various facets.
The Bible uses the word “love” over 350 times. Almost 10% of these times are in the Song of Solomon (which comprises less than 0.5 percent of Scripture). One thing we learn from this is that a husband should use words to express his love for his wife. “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away! O my dove…let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely” (Song 2:10). I know of no woman who wouldn’t love to hear her husband speak to her like that.
A loving husband graciously convinces his wife that, to him, she is the most important person in the world. By this I don’t mean that he persuades her that he will never leave her. That’s not good enough, of course. Does your wife know that you value her above all else? Intellectual love also means engaging your wife’s mind. Many men win the hand of their future wife by thoughtful, engaging, conversation. Too many men fail to take this habit into marriage.
At the most basic level, by physical love a husband strives to meet his wife’s physical needs. An able man who consistently chooses not to provide for the physical needs of his wife does not love her. At the same time, men must help their wives steward God’s provisions in order to maximize their earnings.
Physical love is also complimentary. Your wife needn’t be a supermodel to receive regular, sincere, compliments. Physical love must be exclusive. Taking second looks at other women or carrying on about their beauty is destructive. Each man must strive to please his own wife (1 Cor. 7:3,33)
Men tend to be task-oriented. But often we neglect one of our greatest responsibilities; the cultivation of godliness in our wives. We need to become comfortable with the phrase, “as for me and my house” (Josh. 24:14-15). Joshua understood that as a covenant head, his choices had a profound impact of those under his care. He must always think of the spiritual good of his dependents.
This means making thoughtful, prayerful, decisions, even if they are unpopular. “We are going to church today even though that woman verbally hurt you last week. We must have family worship even with our busy schedule.” These are expressions of love.
For couples with children, relational love may require a husband to protect his wife from her “closest relatives.” Be swift and firm to discipline children for disrespecting mom. Resist contradicting her in front of the children. Give her “time off” when necessary. Outside of the home, develop an interest in her friends. Help her to focus on friends that are best for her.
Be tender in your wife’s failures. She needs to know that you love her even if you are saddened by her sin. Be grateful that she is different than you. A loving husband sees his wife as God’s gift to him even if she is not perfect.
If a wife’s greatest calling is to be submissive to her husband (Col. 3:18), a loving husband helps his wife to be submissive. Some wives never learn biblical submission because their husbands rarely set a positive example. They fight against the council of the church. They speak blasphemously of civil authorities. They complain about their employer’s policies. Yet they demand full submission from their wives. God says, all men must submit to proper authority (Rom. 13:1). You can hardly help your wife do this if you aren’t doing it yourself.
Ultimately, we are loveless because we love ourselves more than we love God and are dissatisfied with God’s provision. This means that the more you love God the better equipped you will be to truly love your wife.
By his matchless grace, God draws us to love him and empowers us to love others. Matthew Henry notes that the epistles which focus most on the glory of divine grace, and the majesty of the Lord Jesus, “are the most particular…in pressing the duties of the several relations.” The gospel is the good news that the Son of God “loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Christ loves the whole Christian–heart, mind, body, soul–and every other part. Only as we come to terms with what that means will we be able to obey God’s word. “Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.”