As churches everywhere capitalize on Valentine’s Day, all of us can ponder a biblical mandate more serious than hearts and flowers.
Sweetheart dinners, couples retreats, and sermons about love are all great, as long as they move us beyond the frivolous expressions typical of our culture’s shallow take on deep issues. When it comes to marriage, God has spoken.
His command comes three times in Paul’s epistles, twice within a few phrases of each other. “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” Paul tells the Ephesians. “Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies” (5:25-28). To the Colossians, the apostle puts it this way: “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them” (3:19).
Probably two decades ago, Bob Russell quoted the command in a sermon I still remember. He told his audience at Cincinnati Bible Seminary’s Conference on Evangelism that he regularly repeats these verses to men in troubled marriages.
“My wife doesn’t understand me,” one counselee will claim. And Bob answers, “Love her.”
“My wife doesn’t meet my needs,” complains another. And Bob says, “Love her.”
“She’s quit fixing herself up. She’s gained so much weight since we’ve had children,” grumbles yet another Christian husband. Bob’s response: “Love her.”
Like all of the Bible’s directives, obedience to this one is not based on emotion. Bob pointed out that Christian husbands are to love their wives whether they feel like it or not. Indeed, the command isn’t about how we feel, but rather what we do.
This is not very romantic or sentimental, to be sure. Hallmark is not selling a Valentine that says, “I’m loving you because God says I have to.” But Bob’s sermon reminds us of a psychological truism: “Act the way you want to feel, and then you’ll more likely want to act the way you should.”
In other words, when a husband loves his wife—seeks her best interests first, finds ways to encourage and please her, does the tasks and runs the errands she needs accomplished—two things will happen. The wife will respond with affection (if not shock!). And the husband, seeing her warm response, will start looking for more ways to demonstrate love.
This all happens as husbands obey one of the simplest and clearest commands in all Scripture: “Love your wives.” And Valentine’s Day seems like the best time to give it a try.