What is it that has happened to love?
Is it truly a lost art?
Have we forgotten that it is a pure action, not a feeling?
I’ve been thinking about these questions recently. It seems that all too often, even, and especially, within the realm of Christianity, we forget that love is not a kiss, a good body or fairy-tale one liner. Love is hanging on a cross.
Paul speaks in great depth about what love means in Ephesians, a book the church often misinterprets as a “rule book” for wives. Ephesians 5:21-27 says:
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (NIV)
There are multiple themes laced throughout those verses to address, but I want to bring one to your attention immediately. We often hear “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church,” and then the pastor gives their interpretation of it, however, we don’t need to reach for an interpretation! A few verses down, Paul explains, in detail, exactly what it is that God is saying: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
These verses are a charge to the husband more than they are about the wife’s position in the marriage. Christ is commanding that the husband be willing to lay his life down at any given moment because of his deep love, admiration and respect for his wife and children. When we look back at the Greek, the term “head” originally comes from the word kephale, which means the first person to march into battle, not the general or commander, but the very first soldiers, the ones that were on the frontline. Christ then makes a call to women to submit to, or show respect for, their husbands for their passionate love and commitment to them, but not to respect them as a higher authority.
Later the Scripture goes on to say that Christ gave himself up for her (the church) to make her holy and whole once again, making her a radiant church. This is the fulfillment of prophecy in Christ. That is exactly what a Christian marriage should resemble: the prophetic fulfillment of Christ’s cleansing through the word. Those verses (Ephesians 5:25,26) are what brings the elements of the fall out of a Christian marriage, allowing believers to rise above the old law and restraints that our sinful nature puts on us. Paul’s entire message to the Ephesians, and to all believers, was that we don’t have to suffer through inequality anymore, Christ has come and has broken the laws made in the flesh and fulfilled the laws made through prophecy. Christ came that we may be whole again, and in his return, he will finalize his authority as the Christ, creating a new heaven and a new earth, chaining Satan up and eliminating sinfulness from the earth.
What is love? Let Christ tell you.