Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Loving our Wife with God's Love

As I’ve been studying the traits listed in 2 Peter 1:5-8, I’ve come to the last one in the list which is agape love. We men have a tendency to skip over details in the attempt to finish a project. The same thing happens in our study of the Word. Therefore, in order to avoid that tendency, I began to think through what’s involved in adding and increasing this kind of love in my life as it relates to my role as a husband. Scripture of course is not silent on this issue, so follow along as I work through this a little bit.

Ephesians 5:25-28 says the following: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.”

The word “love” in these verses is agape – the kind of selfless, giving love that God has for us. This love does not flow from feelings and emotion, although both may be present. Rather, this is the kind of love that gives without expecting anything in return.

A husband, then, is to love his wife in exactly the same way that Christ loved the church. What Christ did out of love for the church was to give Himself for her. Similarly, we husbands should give of ourselves for our wife. Christ of course gave His life and there is a sense in which we need to be willing to give our life to protect our wife. But probably more difficult than this is the fact that we are to be giving ourselves for our wife all of the time. This means that there will be sacrifice. We will not be able to do all of the things we would do if we were single. Not only will we give up some of the things we would rather do, love does this without becoming bitter or resentful in the process. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love does not seek its own interests. Rather it gives itself for the interests of others.

Continuing in Ephesians, Paul explains the purpose for the self sacrifice—“that He might present her to himself a glorious church …that she should be holy and without blemish.” While we can’t provide ourselves as an atonement for our wife, our goal should be similar. As the head of our wife, we are to love her by helping her to grow in her faith and relationship with Christ. Our efforts should be focused on increasing her holiness and godliness through loving ministry of the Word to her.

If you’re like me, an immediate reaction to this thought is, “How am I supposed to do that when I’m not so sure of my own holiness and godliness?” That thought should bring us to the motivation to become the man God wants us to be in our own relationship with Him so that we will then have the resources to help our wife in her spiritual walk. What a tremendous this responsibility this is. When we say, “I do” on our wedding day, we are taking on this commitment.

The unfortunate thing is that we do not seem to be getting this message across to the young men we are raising in our churches and we do not seem to be teaching our young women to be looking for this desire and characteristic to be present and growing in the life of the men they date.

It would be interesting to get an online discussion going on this topic and the implications for dating and courtship in our society.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Adding Love

The pinnacle of attributes or characteristics to be added to our faith is love. Each one of these traits is built on the preceding ones. Last time we saw that brotherly love was added to the mix. Now, built upon that we have agape love. It is an interesting study to investigate these two kinds of love – brotherly love and agape love – to see what they have in common and how they differ. (William Dicks does a good job of comparing the two on his blog here.) Vine distinguishes them by saying that phileo more nearly represents tender affection. Agape love is one that values and esteems. It is an unselfish love, ready to serve. Vine also says that agape “is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations.”

Paul tells us in I Corinthians 13 that we can have a lot of good attributes and do many admirable things, but if love is missing we are but a sounding brass or clanging cymbal. We may have all kinds of faith, but without love we are nothing and we are profited nothing.

Perhaps then we can see why Peter would put love at the very top of the list. Without all of these traits and love as the pinnacle, Peter says we are shortsighted, even to blindness. (2 Peter 1:9)

My question to us as faithful men then is how do we add this to all of the rest. What steps can we concretely and diligently take to develop this characteristic?

1 John 4:7 (NKJV)7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

First and foremost then is the need to be born of God. We cannot be faithful men and have this kind of love if we have not been born again through the Spirit of God.

If we are born again, then we have experienced the love of God first hand and should be able to communicate that love to others. What steps can we take to develop the kind of love we should have? We just need to practice. God gives us opportunities every day with our families and coworkers and people we meet along the way to practice loving those who may not deserve it. If Vine is correct that this love is not based upon our feelings, we should not wait until it feels right to demonstrate love. We need to just practice. Practice sacrificing your time and energy for someone else just because it is right and good to do so.

May God help us as we practice the diligence of adding this kind of love into our lives.