We often focus on what we will get out of a marriage relationship:  Is this person my soul mate?  Does she speak to me?  Does she affirm me?  Do her strengths compliment me?  And so forth. 

Perhaps it’s time to start focusing on what we men can bring to a marriage relationship and to start working on these areas right now in our lives, so that we will have something to bring to the table (a man’s dowry, if you will) before making a lifelong commitment.

“It is painful, being a man, to have to assert the privilege, or the burden, which Christianity lays upon my own sex.  I am crushingly aware of how inadequate most of us are, on our actual and historical individualities, to fill the place prepared for us.”

— C.S. Lewis from God in the Dock

As men, we are expected (by society) to be cool, dress fashionably, make a lot of money, drive a sports car, have chiseled looks, and have it all together in order to be “marriage material.”  As Christians, we are to be God-fearing, prayerful, seminary scholars on the path to eldership within our church.  Since most of us fall short of these so-called expectations, what can we do to bring the most to our marriages and where do we start?  We can begin by delving deep into the following passage.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25).

How did Christ actually love the church?  Simply put, through sacrificial and sanctifying love.

Sacrificial Love

As a single adult, the term sacrificial is not at the forefront of my thoughts.  My day usually revolves around me, my needs, my wants and my desires.  However, for me to prepare to be the best husband I can be, I must begin now to incorporate sacrificial thinking into my daily life.

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh (Ephesians 5:31).

Jesus so loved the church that he gave himself up for her through his death.  If we are to love our wives someday as Christ loved the church, we must be prepared to die to ourselves in many ways that are a part of our everyday lives.  As two people become one, individual freedom, time and desires should be replaced with (or at least negotiated) with marital goals, obligations and activities.

Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?  (Acts 9:4).

Persecution of the church caused pain deep within Jesus’ soul as indicated by His response to Saul.  Christ chose to suffer with His bride; husbands must be willing to share in the struggles of theirs.  It is not only a commitment, but also a sign of love.  Her problems, disappointments and losses become yours; mine and hers become ours.

I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them (John 17:9-10).

Jesus spent His time on earth, including his last moments, praying for Himself, for those closest to Him and for the church.  One of the most intimate things a couple can do is to pray together.  It would only follow that one of the most precious acts that a husband can do for his wife is to pray specifically for her.  Don’t just make it a “dinner time” prayer, go off each day and fervently cover your future wife in all areas of her life.  If you are currently in a relationship, ask how you can pray for her and do it.

I don’t know what it will be like to be married someday, but after all of my years of living single, I recognize that I will need to die to myself in many areas of my life, be prepared to share in both the triumphs and the struggles of my wife, and pray fervently for and with my future mate.

Sanctifying Love

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word (Ephesians 5:25-26).

Marriage under Christ is a relationship that will bring two individuals closer to Him and cause both to change for the better, making each more holy.  It is the responsibility of the man within a marriage to help lead the couple closer to holiness, towards sanctification.

The head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God (1 Corinthians 11:3).

Today, we have a mixed message of what true leadership is.  Is a leader someone who scores a basket or a touchdown and beats his chest drawing attention to himself?  Is a leader a politician who uses their position not to serve but to self-serve?  Was Adam, our first male role model, a leader by following his wife into sin instead of standing up for what he knew was wrong?

The movie We Were Soldiers, starring Mel Gibson, depicted the life of Lt Col Hal Moore during his service in the Vietnam War.  His motto was, “We will all come home together.”  His men fought for and alongside him so diligently because he led with integrity, by example, and with love.  That is true leadership.

To be that kind of leader, who leads a marriage closer to sanctification, we (men) must first place ourselves under the Lordship and authority of God.  Only through our relationship with Him can we learn how to live out His Word in our heart, exemplify His Word in our actions and follow His Word in how we love, which will all lead to holiness.

Lead with Integrity

For richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health…till death do us part. 

— Common wedding vows

With the divorce rate hovering around 50%, I often wonder what happens to these vows that are made when a couple says, “I do.”  A wedding is one of the few times in life where a person makes a public vow in front of God and witnesses, and chooses to enter into a commitment of marriage based upon love, not feelings. 

  • Love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37).
  • Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you (Hebrew 13:5).
  • Do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony (Matthew 19:18).
  • Keep the oaths you have made to the Lord (Matthew 5:33).

Leading with integrity in a marriage means memorizing and living out verses like these.  If we truly love God and love others according to Scripture, we will honor our commitments and God’s commandments will live deep within our soul.  When we reach that point, we will lead our marriages with integrity, grow closer to God and to each other.

Lead by Example 

In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing, so that no one can speak a word of blame against you.  You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people.  Let your lives shine brightly before them (Philippians 2:14-15).
 
When God returned to the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:8-20), he called to Adam and asked, “Did you eat fruit from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?”  His response was not that of someone who was leading by example.  Adam’s first words were, “You gave this woman to me…”  God calls us to take responsibility for our actions, confess our wrongdoing, and repent. 

Marriages need that kind of a leader, one who is willing to admit his wrong and one who is leading under the Lordship and guidance of the Lord.  Leading by example doesn’t mean bringing attention to your achievements or telling others what they should be doing.  A husband can pray in solitude, help his wife without asking, spend time with the children, and show love to his wife through his actions.  Whether married or not, we can all lead by example.

Lead with Love 

Love is patient, love is kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  Love does not demand its own way.  Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.  It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

I have heard these words spoken at almost every wedding ceremony that I have been a part of and I wonder if anyone really considers what this verse is saying.  Love is patient affects almost every other emotion or reaction in a relationship.

  • A patient person is less likely to be jealous, boastful, proud or rude
  • A patient person is probably less demanding
  • A patient person is probably more forgiving and understanding.
  • A patient person is more likely to listen first before reacting (and not react emotionally)
  • A patient person is more likely to wait on God

If love is patient, then patience is probably one of the most important traits a leader can have, especially if he wants to lead with love.

Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it….In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they love their own bodies.  The man who loves his wife loves himself.  No one ever hates his own body, but feeds and takes care of it.  And that is what Christ does for the church (Ephesians 5:25, 28-30).

Jesus’ message for us is clear.  We are to love our (future) wives as He loved the church, in a sacrificial and sanctifying way; we are to love her like we love ourselves.  It seems simple enough and it can be if we learn to take our eyes off of us and our personal desires.  If we place our eyes on the Lord, we will learn to live more sacrificially with our lives, our time and our prayers.  As we do, our lives will become an example of integrity and love to others.  This is what we can bring to a marriage.

So men, besides that ugly chair you can't get rid of, what are you bringing to a marriage?

 

 Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books), as well as the monthly column, He Said-She Said, in Crosswalk.com's Singles Channel.  An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback?  Send your comments and questions to CYdmg@yahoo.com.