“Husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”
How should a Christian husband treat his wife? While some men treat their wives as little more than a convenience, the apostle Paul tells us that Christian husbands have a special responsibility to “love their wives as Christ loved the church.”
When we think of a Christian husband’s responsibility to love his wife, we must not forget that this is part of his responsibility of mutual submission in his personal relationships. Of course, it would be easy to think that because a husband is referred to as the ‘head of the wife’ that he thereby gets to impose his will and desires on her whenever he likes. However, this is not so.
It is interesting that Paul doesn’t say, “Husbands, keep your wives in place; order them around and control their lives.” Instead, he says, “Love them just as Christ loved the church.” This means that Christian husbands should love their wives in the same way that the Christ shows His love for the church; sacrificially, tenderly, and with a servant’s heart. There is no suggestion here that a husband can act unilaterally, throw his weight around, or dominate his wife.
I know it’s easy for some men to interpret the idea of headship in terms of power and the right to command. However, if we are ever tempted to think this way, we need to remember that Jesus expressly disavows any ideas of headship, leadership and authority that exclusively focus on command or domination.
I suppose it’s not surprising that men are often confused about this. After all, even the apostles had confused ideas about leadership and authority right up until the time that Jesus died. The Gospels tell us that they generally understood authority in terms of power, control and privilege. On one particular occasion, Jesus challenged these notions: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over their peoples, and their officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But it shall not be so among you. Instead,” He said, “Whoever wants to be great must become a servant and whoever wants to be first must become your slave. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).
On the night on which He was betrayed, Jesus gave a very poignant reminder of this principle by washing the apostle’s feet. In the first century world, washing the feet of houseguests was the work of a menial slave. Although Jesus was their rabbi, He took upon himself a slave’s uniform and performed a slave’s duty for His followers. Afterwards He said, “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you… Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:12-17).
Do you see Jesus’ point? He’s reminding us that even if we have authority over others, as Christians our task is nevertheless to serve other people selflessly. This means that a Christian husband, while he may be the head of his wife, nevertheless has the responsibility in that position to serve his wife and minister to her needs. For a Christian, authority always requires service.