"Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church." How does Christ love the church? We have already seen that He did not consider Himself, but laid down His own life that we might live through Him. Does that have meaning to us? What does it mean to lay down our lives? Again, it takes the Holy Spirit's eye salve to reveal the true meaning to our hearts. It means giving up our own ambitions and what we want to be. It means that everything that I have is not my own to do with as I please. My time, my resources, and even my body is not my own. I have been bought with a price. This is not just a one-time transaction but a daily walk. I must begin with an initial dealing with God, but then I must walk out that dealing in my daily walk. Christ has called me to be a living sacrifice.
When we finally come to this point and quiet our hearts before God, we will begin to see as God sees. In that light there is a step to take. It will be a step of service. At the last supper with His disciples, Christ took on Himself the garments of a servant and washed the disciples' feet. "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, happy are you if you do them" (John 13:15-17). The disciples did not understand, but I trust that today we understand. Christ gave His disciples a living example of the life He was calling each one of them to live. It was the reality of what He said earlier--that "a man must hate his own life" if he wants to be His disciple.
When we begin to see the demands, we may react like Peter who said, "Lord, increase our faith." This is why I have said that the foundation must be our relationship with God. God loves us because of who He is, not because of what He ought to do or what He will receive in return. We also must love out of who we are in Christ. We can all know what to do, but we will not do it, nor do we have the power to do it with the right attitude, unless we have let God change our hearts so that we are living the life of God in union with Christ. Knowing what to do is not enough. Most men know what to do but never do it. We must know the reality of "God working within us, both to will and to do His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).
When we speak of serving our wives, do we think only of doing things for our wives? This may be included, but this is not the main emphasis. Many men do things for their wives without ever loving them as Christ loved the church. "God so loved that He gave." What did He give--things? No, He gave Himself. That is a far different thing. To give yourself to another is entirely different from just giving them things or doing things for them. Yet it is this giving of ourselves that our wives are looking for. This is what will bring fulfillment as nothing else can.
If we hold back from giving ourselves, it keeps a barrier between us and our wives. Love is not fulfilled and complete. But when we give up that individual spirit, let down the walls of our hearts, and give ourselves without reservation, it will lead us into a new dimension in our relationship with our wives. This is what love is all about--giving of ourselves. We must let God redefine love for us, and He did that at Calvary. He is our example. We need more than an example, but the Lord can speak to us by His obedience to the Father. Once we see the goal, the Lord is there within us to give us power to fulfill the vision He has given.
What satisfies us in our relationship with God? Is it not when we sense that we have been taken into the arms of Jesus and are accepted before God in the Beloved? Do we need anything else? The outward circumstances of our lives may be everything but secure and desirable, but if we are secure in His love, our hearts are at rest and we are fulfilled. Is the marriage relationship any different? If a wife is secure in her husband's love, will she not be at rest and satisfied? And in that place, will not her greatest desire be to please her husband and do his will? So often a husband will try to force his will on his wife because "he is the head," and yet he has not fulfilled the first requirement, which is to love her as Christ loves the church.
We will consider the question of headship, but let us be clear that any attempt by a husband to give direction or put demands on his wife, without the foundation of love as God defines love, will end in disaster sooner or later.