Today I'm going to touch on some of the differences between the three main passages we've been discussing:
- Ephesians 5:25-28:25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
- Colossians 3:19:Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
- 1 Peter 3:7:Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
Notice first the similarities. In all cases, we are to treat our wives well; to love them (agape!). Notice too that these are phrased as imperatives, or commands. These are not suggestions. Loving our wives is not optional.
There are, though, some interesting differences between the three passages - though they don't conflict at all. In Ephesians, Paul gives us this reason why we should love them: to prepare them to be presented by Christ as part of His church. Our love for our wives is driven in part by a desire that they enjoy the fruits of His cleansing Spirit. This motivation for love is spiritual.
In Colossians, husbands are to love their wives so as to avoid being harsh with them. The word translated "harsh" here is pikraino, and means "to embitter, exasperate." Even when our wives sin, we are to remain patient and compassionate. (This makes sense - we'd hope they treat us the same way when we screw up!) When we are having a bad day, we are to still love them, and not take it out on them. The emphasis for love here is emotional.
And in I Peter, we are to love our wives because they are fellow heirs as believers, and because doing so does not hinder our prayers. Again, our motivation is spiritual in nature. Loving our wives leads to both spiritual blessing for them, and spiritual blessing for us. How amazing that selfless love actually provides benefits to the lover! Our wives (those who are "saved") will be with us in eternity. Loving them on earth prepares both of us for that eternal sharing of Heaven.
Peter also implies that we are to love our wives because, as in I Corinthians 13:7, love aims to protect. The word "asthenes" - translated as "weaker partner" - means weaker in strength. While this is not a universal statement about the power of women(I've known many women stronger and abler than I!), in general, we are to love our wives as a way to protect them from physical harm. Again, this isn't to say women can't protect themselves. But we husbands need to have the kind of love that seeks to protect our wives. And this includes protection from us.
In each of these three passages, the emphasis differs as to why we are to love our wives. There is an emotional, a spiritual and a physical rationale behind the commands to love our wives. This implies that our love is to be expressed to the benefit of our wives' emotional, spiritual and physical well being. I love the fact that God provides for a full accounting of our wives' well being, not focusing us just on the physical, or just on the spiritual. Through the diversity of emphasis in these scriptural passages God shows His desire that we love our wives completely and wholly. There is nothing about our wives we are to neglect, nor is there one area where we are to minimize our love. We are to love all of their being.