As we saw in Friday's post, we husbands are called to exhibit agape love towards our wives. At an abstract level, as described in I Corinthians 13, this is a pretty idealistic command. In some ways this is discouraging. As a husband, I flinch every time I read this chapter. I Corinthians 13 was the text from which my father preached at my wedding. (And yes, it was very cool to have Dad perform the wedding ceremony for us!) Reading from it makes me realize how often I've failed to live up to the ideal.
Part of the problem with the ideal, though, is that it provides little in the way of practical guidelines, or examples. It doesn't give any examples of how we can be kind, for instance. Now, yes, it is true that we should be able to discern whether we are acting kindly or not. But. Actual examples of how we are to treat our wives would add to our general knowledge of proper behavior, and provide a frame of reference within which we can better work.
Fortunately, Paul gives us such an example whenhe points out that we are to love our wives as "Christ also loved the church." Jesus Himself can be our example of ways to love our wives! How exciting! (And yes, a tad scary...there's NO WAY I can live up to His example 24x7.)
So let's take a look at some of the ways Jesus loved His church, especially through His interaction with the Apostles. First, and most obvious, Jesus died for the church. While we cannot take on our wife's sins and bring them redemption, we most certainly need to be willing to die for them. We are supposed to love our wives with agape love, and there is no agape love greater than laying down our lives for our (best!) friends. This ties back to the I Corinthians 13 claim that love "always protects" (v. 7.) We need to be willing to protect them, even with our very lives; their well-being comes first. Fortunately, this type of decision doesn't come up too often - but for darn sure I'm the one who gets up to explore strange sounds in the night. If it's a burglar, I'd rather it be me beat about the head than her. The purpose of Jesus' giving of His life is different from the (potential) giving of mine; but they both are the result of agape love.
This is, fortunately, not the only example Christ set for us. He also provided a couple of more mundane examples for how we can show love to our wives. I'm not sure how popular they'll be, since it may mean that some of the "traditional" chore assignments are rearranged, but they are ways that Jesus showed love to His disciples. First, Jesus made breakfast for them. This is seemingly a small thing, but the disciples had been out working (fishing), getting at first discouraged with the absence of fish, then working hard when Jesus provided a huge catch. Tell me there aren't times your wife puts in a hard day, at work or with kids, and wouldn't feel deeply loved if you cooked dinner for her and the family. Or watched the kids and gave her some peace and quiet. Or cleaned the house. The seemingly mundane can be a huge blessing to someone who's weary. (Admitted: general stereotyping above - but statistically, women still do most of the household chores. Guys too often lack the servant heart we should have in this area especially.)
The second example was when Jesus washed the disciples' feet. This is a beautifully humble picture of servant love. Jesus did a task that was beneath Him; this was normally a task for servants. This isn't a task we are often called to, and I've only seen it done symbolically. But the principle is much broader. Jesus humbled Himself to serve His disciples. We need to humble ourselves and dig in with tasks that are "beneath" us, or outside our normal role.
There are other examples. Jesus taught the church, and so we should show love in teaching our wives on the (rare) occassions they don't know as much as us. Jesus healed the sick; we should care for our wives when they are hurting. Jesus was compassionate towards sinners, and we need to shower compassion and forgiveness on our wives when they sin.
Jesus outserved the church, as Wellington Boone said. There's no way we could do more for Him than He did for us. If we are to love our wives as Christ loved the church, guys, we have to serve them more than they serve us. Is it possible? Not always, in my experience...though I have my moments. I've married a servant-hearted woman, and it's hard to keep up with her, let alone outserve her. But scripture leaves me no choice. To truly love her as I ought, I must serve her as Christ served His church.