Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Prime Directive

You can't refute Christ. When he says that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength, that's what he means. That's why "law" is unnecessary in the life of the believer; his life should be driven and compelled by an overarching love for and desire to please Almighty God.  It's the greatest commandment because living it out leads all others to be superfluous.

Commandment number two flows right off of that. Love your neighbor as yourself. Both of these sound tap-in easy on the surface, but when we get closer to the green, we see the putt is really a 150-footer with undulations that would make Augusta National's greenskeeper proud.

As you've heard countless times, love is not a feeling; it's an act of the will. Loving God gets hard when the inky blackness of my selfish heart gets in the way. Loving others gets hard when, coupled with the inky blackness of my heart, I have to deal with the inky blackness of your heart, too.

Paul gives us another commandment, but this one doesn't go out to the general masses.  It goes to husbands specifically, and in many ways seems more daunting than the general command to love your neighbors as yourself.  It is this,
"Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..."

~ Ephesians 5:25
Yes, there's more to the quote and I'll get to it in time, but notice the comparator that Paul uses--as Christ loved the Church.  I might be able to shrug off not loving someone so well because I might not love myself so well (a cop-out, by the way), but it is most uncomfortable to suggest that how I should love my woman should be on par with the epitome of sacrifice, the love of Christ for the church.  So extraordinary and far-reaching is this command to husbands that it is easily dismissed and ignored, but because it is so difficult and yet so needful for a marriage to succeed, it is the eponym for this blog and should be one of the life verses for every man who is married.

Over the weeks, months, and years to come, I will come back to this verse for I must remind myself of these things over and over again.  You must be reminded, too.

Because the "as Christ loved the church" part is so overwhelming and mind-blowing, let's focus on the first four words and the title to this blog, "Husbands, love your wives." Notice, this is a command and not a suggestion. Being God's word to his creation, this comes to us from the throneroom of heaven. Paul is merely the courier. His order to husbands? Love your wives.

You are on the front line in combat and you get an order direct from the general. How do you respond? More and more men in America drop their weapon and quit. Were they in actual combat, they would fall on a grenade for their compadre. Why will men not do the same for their woman? The enemy is not our bride; it's Satan and his ilk who seek your destruction (1 Peter 5:8) and the destruction of your marriage (1 Corinthians 7:5).

From God to us, "Love your wife." It's not a feeling. It's a command that demands action on our part.

"But I don't feel like it," we snivel. I challenge you over your lifetime to find one passage in God's word that ties this kind of love to feeling.

Love your wife.

"But you don't know my wife," we charge. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). While we were still rebels.  While we stood opposed to him. While we flayed his back.  While we clubbed him with bats. While we drove spikes into his body. No, I don't know your wife and you don't know mine, but I do know the darkness of my own heart, a heart redeemed by God long before I longed for him.

Love your wife.

"But you don't know what I've had to endure," we litigate. When we bluster about the wrongs we've suffered and the abuse we've endured, let's turn to Hosea. He was a prophet, a holy man of Israel. God asks him to marry a whore, a woman who's been with men beyond count. Hosea takes her as his own, loves her, and begins to have children by her. Gomer returns to her whoring ways. Hosea, at God's command, goes and buys her back out of her harlotry. God uses Hosea as a picture of his love for Israel. It is the same love of Christ for the church. It is the same love commanded to us as husbands for our wives.

Love your wife.

No loopholes. No caveats. Just a simple, straight-forward command from the One who loves us more than any other that we love (action not feeling) the woman he has provided us to be our helpmate, our bride. This woman we vowed to love before God and man when we took our oaths at the altar at some time past. It's long past time for us to stop quibbling and get to the business of obeying our commander. Only then will we come to know the rich and miraculous blessings that come to the man who loves his wife.

Brothers, love your wives.

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