Many men are good at going to church. But when it comes to leading their wives spiritually, its a completely different story. Their lives are marked by passivity covered in shame. Deep down, they know they should be doing something, but they can’t quite put their finger on exactly what that is.

Recently, I sat down for a cup of coffee with a young married guy. He asked me the same question I’ve been asked by many men before him. I really don’t think he came to me because he thinks I have the market cornered on the answer. I think he was just looking for some direction and thought I could help.

So here was his predicament…

He is a godly young guy, with a great girl as his new bride. They’ve only been married for about a year. He is the type of man that wants to be used by God, and to honor Him in his marriage. The problem is, he just doesn’t know how.

He is all-too-familiar with Paul’s words in the book of Ephesians regarding the role of husbands in marriage:

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, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”

As we sat over coffee that morning, his question was, “What does this look like?”

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We know that Jesus came to this earth, lived a perfect life, died a horrible death, and rose from the dead. He did this as a substitute for us, as we all deserve death as the just penalty for our actions. So when it comes to loving our wives like Christ loved the Church, how does that translate?

He and I talked for a little while about spiritual leadership in marriage. We talked about the life of Christ, and how humility defined him. I could tell that after looking at a few different verses, his question still remained.

I finally stopped and suggested a simple answer. “Why don’t you ask her?” That became his assignment for that week. He was to go home and discuss with his new bride how he could love her like Christ loved the Church.

He came back a few weeks later with a smile on his face. Apparently he and his wife had a great discussion on this. He eagerly passed on what they came up with…

For him to love his wife like Christ loved the Church, he was going to focus on a few areas:

1. Lead her by example. He was not going to focus on what his wife was or wasn’t doing. Instead, he would have Christ be the focus of his affection. His wife said that by seeing him read his Bible, she found herself wanting to do the same. This took his focus off of doing certain things, and put it squarely on walking with Christ. This was freeing for him.

2. Lead her by sharing. Men can be hidden beings. Wives struggle to find out what is going on in their heads, and each time they ask they seem to scare their husbands further into hiding. He was going to be different. She told him that she would love for him to share occasionally about what God is teaching him, and to ask her what God is teaching her. This leads to exciting conversation, and builds intimacy in the process.

3. Lead her by encouragement. He thought highly of his wife. He knows she is sharp, and that he is a blessed man to have such an incredible wife. The problem is, he rarely told her. She shared with him that it would mean a lot if he used his words to intentionally bless her. For whatever reason, he recognized this would be hard for him, but he was going to extend the effort to encourage her.

4. Lead her by serving. Through talking with his wife, he realized there were many things she did just because he didn’t take the initiative to do them. There were mundane chores like emptying the dishwasher all the way to more significant tasks like keeping a family budget. His wife was more of the money person in the family. He was more carefree. The result was stress on their marriage. She asked that he serve her by taking an interest in the finances and keeping to their agreed upon budget.

He recognized in order to do these things he would have to die to his own desires or personal agenda. But he was ok with that, knowing that Jesus died to his own agenda as well.

How would you translate this biblical mandate for your marriage? What does it look like to love your wife like Christ loved the Church?