Husbands, care for your wives. Cherish her as your own body (Eph. 5:28). She is not merely your partner. She is your other half, your own flesh and bone. You don’t abuse your body; you build up, protect, and nourish it. Likewise, cherish and care for your wife. “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Col. 3:19). You should just as easily treat your wife harshly as you should punch yourself in the face. “The man who does not love his wife,” Calvin says, “is a monster.”3
These three verbs describe freely given love: lead, sacrifice, and care. Let me speak directly to men with each of these words.
Husbands, lead your wives. I remember hearing John Piper say on more than one occasion that the husband should be the one who most often says, “let’s.” That simple piece of advice has always stuck with me. “Honey, let’s go on a walk.” “Let’s pray together.” “Let’s get the kids ready for bed.” Take the initiative, men. This isn’t about making every decision or believing that listening to your wife is a sign of weakness. John Witherspoon puts it well: “I therefore take the liberty of rescuing from the number of hen-peckt, those who ask the advice, and follow the direction of their wives in most cases, because they are really better than any they could give themselves.”1 Good leaders sometimes follow, and insightful followers sometimes are given the opportunity to lead. The point about “let’s” is the man’s posture, his eagerness to make plans, take risks, and be fully engaged in the marital relationship.
This is especially true when it comes to spiritual leadership. Christian husbands can be aggressive and assertive when it comes to making money, tackling problems at work, or pursuing their hobbies, but when it comes to loving leadership in the home, too often they’re doormats. They take zero responsibility for the spiritual well-being of their household.
And yet God holds men accountable for the spiritual welfare of their wives. “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, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25–27). I have a responsibility for my wife’s holiness. Trisha’s marriage to me should be an instrument of edification, purification, and sanctification.
Being a spiritual leader means taking the initiative to repair the breach when the relationship has been damaged. If Christ loves the church, his wayward bride, and continually woos her back from her spiritual adulteries, how much more should you woo back your wife after a disagreement when half the time it will be your fault anyway? It is always 100 percent the church’s fault. And it is never 100 percent your wife’s fault. Husbands ought to take the first step toward reconciliation when the marriage has grown cold with hurts and disappointments.
Husbands, sacrifice for your wives. Perhaps the most important thing for your marriage is that you understand the doctrine of the atonement. Jesus died for the church. Your leadership as a husband is a self-sacrificing leadership.
This can mean little things: coming home early, taking care of the kids, participating joyfully in something she likes to do, overlooking an offense, running errands, fixing something around the house, cleaning up the house. Loving your wife can also entail bigger sacrifices.