Rev. VanOverloop is pastor of Georgetown Protestant Reformed Church in Bauer, Michigan.

In the home the husband is head, according to God’s command. This means that the husband’s responsibility to love has precedence. The husband is the source of the love of the marriage, of the home, and of the family. Love is a force which the husband in the home is primarily responsible for originating, and is primarily responsible for perpetuating.

To love is the law of a married man’s life. His duty to love comprehends all of his responsibilities.

How are you doing? Is this how you view your responsibility?

The husband’s responsibility to love is clearly taught in Ephesians 5:25, 28, 33. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.” “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself.”

Husbands are to love their God-given wives because Christ loved the church. Also, they are to love their wife in the manner Christ loved.

How are you doing? Follow the model provided by Christ. Learn from Christ. Seek to reflect (as much as you can) His love for the church as you live daily with your wife.

To love your wife sounds easy when you are engaged and first married. At other times, in every marriage, this love seems impossible. In both cases something is wrong. In both cases love is improperly defined and understood. It is thought that love is primarily a sentiment or passion, emotional feelings of attraction. This kind of “love” can be very sacrificial, but it often is twisted, in that it gives in order to receive, or (worse yet) in order to possess. This kind of “love” can easily fade, so we find ourselves saying (or thinking), “All the love is gone,” when what is meant is that the feelings, the emotions, are no longer present.

True love includes feelings and emotions, but it is not to be identified with them. Also, true love does not depend on feelings. The feeling or emotion of love must be educated by a conscience and controlled by a will. This conscience and will must be taught by the Scriptures and guided by gratitude. The conscience and will which educates and controls love must be taught God’s will. We are to love because we know this is what our good God demands of us and because we want to show our gratitude to Him.

God commands husbands to love. Repeated obedience to God’s command makes for the powerful habit of love.

True love of a wife is essentially not different from, but the same as, love of God and of the neighbor. Anyone who is hardhearted toward his duty of loving his wife, will also be hardhearted toward his calling to love God. In fact, not loving the wife is proof that there is no love for God. True love of a wife must be with Christian love — a love which has God for its object. It is a great appreciation for what God has done and is doing in her. It is great appreciation for what God has done, is doing, and will do for him through God’s use of her.

Real marital love does not keep springing from feelings for her, but has its origin in the Lord.

Real love, arising from humble and grateful obedience to the heavenly Father, says much about the kind of authority the husband exercises as the head of his home. Love determines the nature of his authority. Love tempers his authority with grace.

Does your love do that to your authority? Or do you exercise authority without evidence of love? Believers are under the authoritative rule of Christ, but that does not humiliate us. Because a husband’s rule of his home comes from God, he must exercise his authority with tenderness, without humiliating. The husband’s authority is founded on his love for his wife. His authority must be administered in the spirit of love.

Consider the love of Jesus Christ for His church in order better to know how the husband must love his wife.

Consider the free, electing love which chose us. It was a totally undeserved love. It was a completely unconditional love. He did not choose us because we were better or greater or more lovable. He chose us simply because He loved us.

Also consider that Christ’s headship is rooted in His sacrificial love for His people. Jesus humbled Himself in order to identify Himself with us, and this He did because He loved us.

The highest demonstration of God’s love for us is that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Christ loved (sacrificed Himself for) His bride, not because she was so attractive, but when she was filthy.

The aim of Christ’s love was, is, and will be to sanctify and cleanse His people. Christ’s act of love took the impure church and cleansed her and made her beautiful (without blemish). Christ’s love manifested itself when we were yet sinners. A greater and more profound example of love cannot be found.

Similarly, a husband’s head-ship stems from his love (the sacrifice of himself) for his wife. This may involve the big things of life. But more often it’s the little things of life which are so important to the making of a relationship (unnoticed by others, often even by the wife).

True love is a commitment which seeks what is good and beneficial for the wife (“gives honor,” I Peter 3:7). Love seeks to know and understand her. True love respects her as a fellow-saint, as one bought with Christ’s most precious blood (so she must be most precious), as clothed with His righteousness, and as bound for heaven. True love, then, will work to come to grips with her feelings, will value what she says, and will respect her opinion. Love is gentle, comforts her, prays for her, and helps her use her talents.

The purpose and goal of a husband’s love is not simply to satisfy her, or to keep peace. Many times a husband will be silent before his wife when she is nagging. The thinking is, “Just be quiet and she will get over it.” But Christ loved in order to sanctify the church. So a husband must seek his wife’s spiritual well-being, whether she responds or not.

True love of a husband considers the real needs of his wife and places those needs above his own. It is thinking (next to his commitment to Christ) first of his wife’s well-being (more than of self, friends, work, or hobbies). Love moves the husband to seek to meet his wife’s needs, which are first spiritual.

A husband’s love may not be controlled and governed by the behavior of his wife, for Christ loved and loves His bride unconditionally. The husband is commanded to love her — even if she does not notice or respond. She may have character traits or weaknesses that irritate, but he may not become bitter, as Christ is not. A loving husband will have patience, which does not mean he silently puts up with, but calmly talks to her about her weaknesses and sins.

You must constantly ask, “Do I love my wife in the way my Lord demands of me? Am I following the example of Christ?”

Husbands are commanded to love their wives “as their own bodies” (Eph. 5:28). This does not mean that he is to love his wife as he loves his own body. Rather it means that he must love his wife because she is his body. You and your wife are one flesh; and one part of the body cannot say to another part, “I have no need of you.” Originally God took the wife out of the man’s body. Even though the wife exists apart from her husband, with her own personality, marriage puts the woman back into a union with the man.

Therefore the husband must strive to include his wife in as many of his activities as possible. He should not talk about “my” child or “my” house, etc., but about “our” child and “our” house. He should not think of his time away. He may not live beside her without involving her. A married man may not live as if he is still single, as if he is free to pursue his own interests and ambitions. He must not neglect her, but must communicate with her about his own personal life and about matters of mutual interest.

We cannot be perfect in loving our wives, as Christ was and is in His love for His bride. But that the Spirit of this Christ dwells in us means that we can begin to approximate His loving leadership. We must follow our Lord’s example, by striving more and more to reflect His perfect love. It is possible to love our God-given wife through the power of the Spirit who dwells in us. We must pray for insight and wisdom to see where our love is lacking. We must pray for God’s Word to shape our thoughts, words, and actions.

Loving your wife is not optional. It is one of the chief ways in which a Christian home is distinguished from an unbeliever’s home. It is also one of the most evident ways in which a husband demonstrates his faith.

Husbands, love your wife for the glory of God.