File this under “Things I Wish I Had Known.” I wish I had understood what this meant when I was first married:
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-28)
I’ve heard sermons on how Jesus “gave Himself up for” the church and how husbands should adopt that attitude, but never one that continues on to explain how the “to make her holy, cleansing her…” and “…to present her to Himself … holy and blameless” pertains to marriage. What’s that all about? I wish I had someone sit me down as a young man and explain all that in an understandable way.
Let’s start with this: When you hire a babysitter, your deepest hope is that he or she will take care of your child with all the love and care you would. You entrust your child into the sitter’s care. When you enter into marriage, God entrusts you with the love and care of His precious daughter. And she has been brought up in a world that is awash in distorted ideas about what it means to be a woman. Even if she is not one of the one-in-seven girls who is sexually abused as a child, she has been bombarded with destructive lies about what makes a woman attractive and valuable. Part of a husband’s role and responsibility is to treat his wife with honor and respect, protecting her and gently cleansing away those twisted attitudes. To do so involves some “giving himself up.” But the end result is marriage with a real woman, who knows her full value, instead of one who desperately tries to measure up to unrealistic “performance” standards.
As we eventually discovered, the payoff is worth it.
28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:28)