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. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the Church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:25-33
Christians have a problem. When it relates to navigating the struggles and issues of marriage, divorce, adultery, abandonment, marital cruelty, and most other things within this realm, they’ll hear scripture rightly applied to this situation like “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her” but they don’t take the time to fully consider what that truly means and the implications it holds for them. Chiefly:
Notice that it doesn’t say “Husbands, love your wives as the Church loves Christ.” Why is this? Because marriage is a display of the covenant love that Christ has for his Church, and because the love that Christ has for his Church will always be stronger, purer, and more enduring than the love that the Church has for Christ.
We see the lack of the love of the Church everywhere. Whole denominations representing tens of thousands of Churches are completely apostate. They preach venom and theological poison at every chance they get. The pulpit, once inhabited by Shepherds who loved and cared for the flock by sanctifying them with the Word, is now populated with Wolves who juggle sheep heads to entertain the goats. They corrupt God’s word and then export that corruption to countries that swallow it whole out of pure desperation and ignorance. They wander off mission by reveling in mindless trivialities all for sake of the Pursuit Of The American Dream- ashamed of Christ and refusing to preach his gospel and the whole counsel of his word.
Even those who manage to avoid the worse crimes find themselves embroiled in silliness, irreverence, and misfired motivations. The Church’s love is so flawed and frail, and even what might be considered good Churches commit their fair share of indiscretions and sins. What a pitiful, partial, imperfect love the best of us have!
The Church has not done a good job at being loving. The bride has not done a very good job at being loving. She has run off to go whoremongering with haughty eyes and with a stiffened spine, riddled with diseases and defiantly staining her dress with spots and wrinkles- reeking with the scents from the foulest acts done in the darkest places of passions. It is nothing short of a continued, constant, chronic betrayal that spits on and stomps on any biblical and Spirit-filled notion of “love.”
That is the Church’s love. What of Christ’s?
His love is different.
Rather than returning these acts in kind, rather than exchanging blow for blow and hurt for hurt, Christ will take his bride- his angry, bitter, squabbling, resentful, filthy, shrieking, and kicking bride back into his arms and he will wash her with the water of his precious word, cleansing her so that he might present her to himself pure and spotless. He has taken the sins of his bride unto himself- a beautiful mixed metaphor that intertwines and interconnects all these beautiful truths-husband, wife, bride, groom, Christ, mankind- and has made her whole, bathing her in forgiveness. His love is endlessly unfailing. Endlessly patient. Endlessly Kind. Endlessly bearing all things. Endlessly holy.
When the Church is unfaithful, cruel, hurtful, adulterous, messy, spiteful, unforgiving and unrepentant, Christ still loves her.
That is why we are pointed to Jesus’ love and not our own as the example that we are to follow and pursue.
His love is the example that we are to emulate. We are never pointed to ourselves as the standard, but rather to him.
This means that even when your wife or husband is likewise exhaustively unfaithful, cruel, hurtful, adulterous, messy, spiteful, unforgiving, unrepentant, and bruising in their betrayals over a period of weeks, months, years, decades, that you love them still and treat them as Christ does. Will Christ break his covenant? Will he cease to pray for her? Will he cease to woo and draw her back? Will he cease to seek to cleanse and wash her? Will he cease to forgive her? Will he abandon his bride?
When you find your wife in bed with another man, or when you find porn all over his computer, or when everything he does disappoints you, or when his inability to spend money wisely is causing your hair to fall out, or when you can’t relate or understand each other anymore, or when she hasn’t had sex in over a year, or when your child is murdered and you blame each other, or when every word is a spiteful twist of the knife and you can’t stand the sight of each other and find yourself begging God to release you from this marriage.
Will you love your wife like Christ loves the Church, or will you love your wife like the Church loves Christ?