Recently, my wife and I started having family worship again, a time set aside each day for us to read the Scriptures and pray together. Although we pray and read on our own, we need time in the Bible together as well.
We decided to start light with a seven-day reading plan on marriage. Our first passage was Ephesians 5:21–33. Verses 28–33 left me speechless and in tears:
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. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Paul, like a skillful artist, overwhelmed me with his picture of marriage. I could hardly speak, I was so convicted. I was awed. I asked my wife for observations so that I could gather my thoughts. But as she spoke about submission, I could only feel the weight of my responsibility.
I hadn’t loved my wife as if she was a member of my own body. I failed to even aspire to love her as Christ does the church, his body.
The Benefits of the Body
Our marriages should reflect the everlasting oneness, connection, intimacy, and unity we now enjoy with Christ.
The doctrine of “Christ’s body” teaches that there is a mysterious bond that exists between all believers who are connected with and dependent on Jesus Christ. In verse 30, Paul refers to us as members of Christ’s body. As members, we receive the benefits of being nourished and cherished by Christ (Ephesians 5:29).
This expression paints an intimate picture of our communion, unity, and oneness with Christ as believers. Christ as our head leads us and guides us. We submit to him just as our hands, legs, and other body parts submit to our brain.
At the same time, as the head, Christ nourishes, washes, and cherishes his members. Part of the good news is that Christ is willing and able to supply our needs. He proved as much when he gave himself as a ransom (1 Timothy 2:6), bore our sins in his body on a tree (1 Peter 2:24), became sin though he knew no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), and perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14).
Moreover, as members we receive spiritual gifts to equip us
for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (Ephesians 4:12–14)
The Man (or Woman) in the Mirror
This passage is a billboard for husbands. Our unity in marriage does not mean we’re not unique individuals, and it does not make our union eternal. Our marriage will end — when one of the two of us dies. It’s a temporal, earthly picture of Christ’s relationship with his bride, the church. But the everlasting oneness, connection, intimacy, and unity we now enjoy with Christ should be reflected in our temporary marriages.
Paul isn’t simply saying, “Husbands, love your wife like you love yourself.” If we see it this way, we fail to see the beauty and miracle of marriage. We also misunderstand our oneness with Jesus. Paul is saying, “Husbands, love your wife because she is your body.” You are one flesh. You cannot be separated. You are more connected to your spouse than you are to those who share your DNA.
“Christ’s love is both a picture of how to love your spouse and your source of strength to do so.”
Defeating my wife with my harsh or insensitive words is as senseless as standing in front of a mirror and arguing with myself. Refusing to nourish my wife by providing for her is more foolish than not feeding myself. Failing to wash her in the word of God is more repulsive than overlooking my own hygiene.
Paul reminded me of a simple (if grammatically incorrect) reality that I had quickly forgotten: she is me. Christ’s love is not only a picture of how I should love my wife, but my source of strength to live it out. His love exposes my sin and gives me power to overcome it. He empowers me to see that she is me, and to love selflessly and sacrificially as I have been loved.