Wednesday: Love Your Wife as You Do Yourself

What new argument does Paul use to encourage husbands to practice tender love toward their wives? Ephesians 5:28-30.

Paul’s rules for the Christian household (Ephesians 5:21-6:9) disclose a challenging social context. In Ephesians 5:28-30, Paul addresses husbands who, following the all-too-frequent pattern of the time, may choose to “hate their own flesh” (see Ephesians 5:28-29), abusing and beating their wives. In the Greco-Roman world of Paul’s day, the legal power of the “father of the family” (Latin, pater familias) was very broad. He could punish harshly or even kill his wife, children, and slaves and be within his legal rights (though exercising such power in extreme ways was increasingly constrained by public opinion).

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In Ephesians 5:25-27, Paul has detailed the ultimate example of love, Christ’s love for the church, offering a drastically different model for husbands than the usual one. Now, before laying out a new argument, he points again to that great Example, asking Christian husbands to respond “in the same way” (Ephesians 5:28-29) as Jesus, who “gave himself up” for His bride, the church, and attends to her every need (). Paul challenges Christian husbands to turn from the expected practices of their time and seek to match Christ’s tender love.

In Ephesians 5:28-30, Paul adds a new rationale to support the love of Christian husbands for their wives: Self-love. Paul offers a truism: “no one ever hated his own flesh” (at least no one thinking clearly). Husbands don’t harm themselves or beat up on their own bodies. Instead, they “nourish and cherish” them (Ephesians 5:29-30). In a bid to eliminate harshness and violence against Christian wives, Paul invites the Christian husband to identify with his wife. You are so much one with your wife, Paul argues, that to harm her is nothing short of inflicting self-harm, and most people in their right minds don’t do that.

Returning to the example of Jesus, Paul argues that Christ is Himself practicing tender self-care in cherishing believers who are “his body” (, Ephesians 5:30, ESV). Model your behavior toward your wife, says Paul, on the way you treat yourself and, ultimately, on the way Christ treats you.

Paul cites the example of Jesus to both wives and husbands. What can you learn from Jesus about loving those in your own family circle?

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