Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor. (Ephesians 5:25–27)
The reason there is so much misery in marriage is not that husbands and wives seek their own pleasure, but that they do not seek it in the pleasure of their spouses. The biblical mandate to husbands and wives is to seek your own joy in the joy of your spouse.
There is scarcely a more hedonistic passage in the Bible than the one on marriage in Ephesians 5:25–30. Husbands are told to love their wives the way Christ loved the church.
How did he love the church? Verse 25 says he “gave himself up for her.” But why? Verse 26 says, “that he might sanctify” and cleanse her. But why did he want to do that? Verse 27 answers, “that he might present the church to himself in splendor!”
Ah! There it is! “For the joy that was set before him [he] endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). What joy? The joy of marriage to his bride, the church. The joy of presenting the church to himself in blood-bought splendor.
Jesus does not intend to have a dirty and unholy wife. Therefore, he was willing to die to sanctify and cleanse his betrothed so he could present to himself a wife “in splendor.” He gained the desire of his heart by giving himself up in suffering for the good of his bride.
Then Paul applies this to husbands in verses 28–30: “In the same way husbands should love their 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 Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”
Jesus had said to husbands and wives — and everyone else — “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Marriage is an extraordinary place of application. It is not merely “as” you love yourself. But you are loving yourself. When you love the person with whom God has made you one flesh, you are loving yourself. That is, your greatest joy is found in seeking the greatest joy of your spouse.