Next year at this time, I’ll be married. Lord willing, Carly and I will be living in Orlando, Florida, starting our life together, getting ready for me to attend seminary. That’s almost unbelievable to write. With each passing day though, it sinks in a little deeper. I’ve only been engaged for five weeks (just as long as we dated!), but in that time, God has already taught me so much about Jesus’ relationship with the Church and how Carly and I (especially me) are called to imitate that.
Ephesians 5:26 says, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” At a Together for the Gospel conference, pastor Ligon Duncan said, “Doctrine is for marriage. Christ’s atonement has implications for how you men are to love your wife. Christ died for the Church. Husbands are called to do the same thing.” When we look at marriage like that, it’s humbling. For some, perhaps it’s depressing, thinking that men could never live up to that. The wonderful news of the gospel, however, is that Jesus has already accomplished the perfection we could not keep. Truly, we have a King and General who has won the victory for us in every area of life, including marriage.
Over the past month, the most compelling verse for me in preparation for marriage has been 1 Peter 3:7, which says, “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing her honor as the weaker vessel, since you are an heir with her in the grace of this life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” At first glance, you might scoff at this verse. What do you mean weaker?! How chauvinistic! The reality is, this verse is the complete opposite of chauvinism. In fact, this verse places the woman as the treasure of a man’s heart. This verse says that a man is to love, cherish, honor, and please his wife. Didn’t Jesus do that for us? He humbled himself to the point of death (Phil. 2:8), simply to show how much God loved his Bride. God wants us to have this perspective. Christ lived in complete understanding of the Church, knowing that he needed to give himself up so that we might be saved.
In my relationship with Carly, I have experienced this weight of glory. I have felt the Lord press it on my heart to live with Carly “in an understanding way.” What does this mean? Well, she is different than me and most days, I don’t have a clue why she is the way she is. Why? Because she’s a woman and I’m a man! We are entirely different. God calls me to chase her and figure her out. I want to know her. Didn’t Jesus do that for us? Didn’t he pursue and chase and woo us with his perfect and matchless grace? I’m not perfect-actually, I’m quite far from it. But God calls men to chase their wives and love them. It’s impossible to do with Carly on my own, but by God’s grace I’ll succeed.
This verse in Peter also calls husbands to show honor to their wives as the weaker vessel. Uh oh! Peter didn’t write that, did he? Hold on, Peter is not degrading wives. He’s stating the obvious. Physically and emotionally (in general!) women are weaker. This is how God made women. Instead of thinking that Peter is a pig-headed jerk, we need to remember that when Peter says this, his focus is on husbands, not wives. More importantly, we need to remember that God is the author of Scripture. It’s not bad to say this about women. Instead, it really puts the responsibility on the man to show his wife honor. What woman wouldn’t want that?
A husband shows his wife honor by trying to make her life easier through joyful and willing sacrifice. It’s not chauvinism for a man to lead and actually treat his wife like a lady. A man’s not being a jerk when he wants to sacrifice everything for his bride. I want to do that. After all, didn’t Jesus do that for us?