At least twice in Scripture the husband is commanded to love his wife (Eph. 5:25; Col. 3:19). In the first, Christ is given as the example, His love being sincere, pure, ardent, and constant affection. Even with the imperfections and failures a wife has (and husbands have them, too), a husband is to love his wife in this manner at all times, which we can derive from the command given in 1 Pet. 3:7.
A wife might do things that boggle her husband, and he might wish that she were stronger in these areas than she is, but he is to understand that she is a woman as God created her. Her weaknesses are so the husband can come alongside her and be her protector and guard her in such areas. Husband and wife are complementary.
To love your wife is to place her first before yourself. That does not mean that you allow yourself to be walked upon by becoming placid, quiet, and submissive. No, the husband is to stand up for himself and be a fighter, a mighty man of valour. But as Phil. 2:3-4 says: “…count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you not only look to his own interests but also to the interests of others.” If your interests conflict, providing they fit the pattern of Phil. 4:8, then be willing to sacrifice your interest for the sake of your wife’s interest. For a wife to reverence her husband means that she does not tear him down, but that she must build him up.
In the second, husbands must love their wives with a tender and faithful affection. They must not be bitter toward them, not use them unkindly, not use harsh language or severe treatment, but be kind and obliging to them in all things. Husbands are to live with their wives in a wise and sober manner, not according to lust or passion. They must give due respect to her, protecting her person, supporting her credit, delighting in her conversation, affording her a handsome maintenance, and placing a due trust and confidence in her. To love your wife is to behave lovingly and peaceably toward her, cherishing her.
The word in Eph. 5:25 is “agapao,” the highest kind of love. It is spontaneous, a love irrespective of rights that makes much of a person. The gentile bride that Samson chose to love proved to be unworthy of him and his love. She allowed fear and family pressure to turn her away from him. A wife might act in such a sinful way that people would say, “she has no right to his love,” but this command in Scripture tells husbands to love their wives whether they deserve that love or not. The church didn’t deserve Christ’s love, and yet He loved her anyway and gave His life for her.
A husband who loves his wife would die for her rather than put her in harm’s way. He would sacrifice his life for hers. A husband should so love his wife in his heart that no sacrifice would seem to great for him to make for her. Just as a man must take care of his body, so he must see to his wife’s comfort. He must protect her from harm, desire her well-being, and pay close attention to the signals she sends. He needs to help her develop her potential, nourish her, and cherish her.
The husband is not to do his best to imitate Christ, he is to imitate Christ. The key to making the principles of marriage work is faith.
To love my wife is to put into practice the acts of love mentioned in 1 Corinthians from verses 4 through 8a: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; love is not arrogant or rude; love does not insist on its own way (sacrifice for the sake of your wife); love is not irritable or resentful; love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” “Love never ends!” Another rendering is “Love never fails.” You can fail-proof your marriage! If a person truly and honestly loves their spouse, the marriage cannot fail because they have fail-proofed it. If a person does not purely and sincerely love their spouse out of the depths of their heart, having made that decision to do so irrespective of rights, the devil and the world will try and work on them to either cheat on their spouse or to divorce their spouse, both of which are great sins.
How will we have the type of love that “is kind…is not provoked, [and] thinks no evil”? The only way is by allowing nothing of the old life to remain, and by having only simple, perfect trust in God – such a trust that we no longer want God’s blessings, but only want God Himself. Have we come to the point where God can withdraw His blessings from us without our trust in Him being affected?