“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her” ~ Ephesians 5:25
A verse often cited at Marriage conferences and retreats. A passage often given to counsel husbands who are tired of the marriage they are in. A verse used at weddings as part of the vows or as a commission from the minister to the groom. A verse, due to it’s familiarity, that is often not really thought of too deeply. Hopefully this is not one of those times.
Yes, Paul gave this particular encouragement to husbands, but the way they are to love is not exclusive to the husband wife relationship as it’s founded in the way Jesus loved. As followers of Jesus, we are to love as he loved. Yes, I am to love my wife this way; but I am also to love the church as Jesus loved the church, am I not?
Think of it – To love as Christ loved. Wow! Does it not cause you to feel joy at the thought of being loved so much; yet a joy not unmixed with the apprehension of knowing the difficulty of your responsibility (as His disciple) of loving that deeply – that selflessly? To love as Christ loved the church. How did he love the church?
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him. Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:3-6
Yes, He died for us, but look at the circumstances! He was hated and rejected by men – the very men He was DYING to set free! The Son of God became acquainted with sickness, and became repulsive to a humanity that was rife with the stench of sin and death. A foul smelling humanity turned it’s nose up, repulsed at the aroma of love that was radiating from The Messiah; yet there was no complaint from Him, there was no demand for respect from Him. In love He bore our pains! The payment of sin is death – our master, Satan, was storing up to pay his slaves their wages for faithfully doing his sin-service and Jesus stepped in and took the blow. And you know what humanity did? You know what the very people Jesus loved did? Attributed that death blow to being dealt from Jehovah God and thus deservedly received by Jesus. Appalling doesn’t begin to describe it! As He was excruciatingly giving His life to save humanity that very humanity was reviling Him! Is this not insane?!! Both the lost and the saved would answer a resounding, “YES!” The lost as they think this kind of love is ridiculous, the saved as the arrogance that spurns it is so. (I Cor. 1:18)
But that’s not the end. Look at the part of humanity that does believe Him. The part that, through faith, is part of His people this side of the cross. We’re not much better. The Corinthian church was divided and fighting over the most ridiculous of things. They were exploiting the grace the redeemed them from the clutches of death and were using it to still carry on as if they were still slaves of it.
Or how about the church at Ephesus. Yeah, they were on fire.. for a while. But they had degenerated into a group of people who had forgotten their love. Jesus graciously calls them back, but the fact is, they needed to be called back! Their love for the One who went through hell for them had dulled. Then there are the churches of Pergamum and Thyatira who were perverting truth and causing harm within the church. People for whom Christ died, trying to destroy others for whom Christ died! No bones about it, Jesus died for a people who would fail to appreciate that sacrifice, who would abuse that sacrifice, and try to harm others in the name of that sacrifice. This is us. We do these things! Yet Jesus loved us and gave Himself for us.
Wow! I want to love like that – to love as Christ loved.