“If you truly love someone, you want the best for them more than the benefits you receive when they’re at their best.”
I recently came across a quote from a well known pastor and author, which I felt hinted at a common viewpoint many modern, “discerning” Christian men have on marriage, even if they aren’t willing to describe it this bluntly:
Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either.
Let’s cut through the crap and be real. No man in his right mind is going to endorse this quote. There is plenty to be concerned with here, whether it’s the chauvinistic undertones, the traditional-wife ideas, or perhaps the part where he makes an “I’m not saying, I’m just saying…” connection between overweight wives and infidelity. None of us modern, “discerning” Christian men are going to agree with any of that stuff anyway. So let’s forget the fringe issues and skip messing with the minutia of political correctness, because the core message in this quote is a HUGE deal, and you’re completely missing it.
The underlying idea upon which this quote is built is that wives should keep themselves in shape for the purpose of satisfying their husbands’ sexual needs. And I think most Christian men would agree with that, whether they’re willing to admit it or not. After all, the Bible talks about husbands and wives meeting each other’s sexual needs (1 Cor 7:3), and keeping oneself in shape certainly seems like a legitimate factor in that equation. Plus, how can you disagree with something that promotes being healthy?
I want you to stop right now, whether you’re decades from marriage or decades into one, and invite the Holy Spirit to speak to you as you continue reading this, because the mentality I just described, while it may seem innocent enough, is robbing much of the church from experiencing the full potential of marriage.
If at any point in my marriage, my wife keeps herself in shape for the primary purpose of making me happy, I have completely failed as a husband. In my wife’s mind, the importance of meeting my needs should NEVER supersede the value of her own personal well-being. If I truly love my wife, I want her to be completely healthy – physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally – because that is what’s best for her, not because it’s what’s best for me.
If you truly love someone, you want the best for them more than the benefits you receive when they’re at their best.
I want my wife to feel like such a beautiful, highly valued, completely-favored queen, that she treats herself like one. I want her to stay spiritually healthy, because there is nothing more important in her life than being in love with Jesus. I want her to be emotionally healthy, because that’s the only way she will experience perfect peace and fullness of joy. I want her to do what it takes to stay physically healthy, simply because she values herself and the glorious temple that is her body. As my wife, of course she is going to consider how her health in these areas affects me, and there is nothing wrong with being motivated by the desire to please your spouse and offer him or her the best version of you. But if pleasing your spouse is the primary factor in how you treat yourself, you don’t understand how truly valuable you are, and that is infinitely more important than the symptoms manifesting as a result.
If I find that my wife has become unhealthy in an area, and my concern has to do with how this will affect me, I don’t love my wife; I simply like what she has to offer me. If I actually love her, then I have the privilege, as her “helpmate,” to partner with her in seeking the Holy Spirit and finding His restoration into perfect wholeness. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not self-seeking. It is not resentful or quick to anger. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things (1 Cor 13).
It’s so beautifully simple, and yet so many completely miss it. We have been given the capacity to love another human being in the manner that Christ loves us! In Ephesians 5:25, Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” This is Paul talking, the guy who doesn’t even like marriage, and he is commanding husbands to love their wives as Christ loves us. I’ve heard preachers talk about this verse as if it’s simply symbolic. Because of course, we couldn’t possibly be expected to literally love that perfectly. Apparently, the previous command to wives on submitting to their husbands should indeed be taken literally… but not the accompanying command to husbands. Seriously!? Just think about this for a moment: if Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is commanding us to do something, it means we actually have, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the capability of doing it. It means that, in this sacred union we call marriage, God has given two people the capacity to experience His perfect love through each other. It means that my love should be continually bringing my spouse into a deeper revelation of God’s love for her, and vice versa.
What a privilege! What a divine opportunity! Imagine the power of such a union. A relationship like that doesn’t simply enhance your life, it defines everything you are and everything you do. The relationship of love between you and your spouse literally contains the power to transform the Earth!
And yet how many couples settle for a lesser form of “love?” We are children of the Most High God, and as such, we have full access to the best. We’ve been given the opportunity to love each other like Christ loves us. We’ve been presented with the unfathomable capacity to love our spouse with everything inside us… with Christ inside us. This is the face of an ideal marriage. His face. By His grace, we can give and receive a perfect love every day of our lives. That’s what I want. That’s the ultimate adventure. If Jesus is my example, and He loved perfectly, why would I ever settle for anything less?
We’re the Body of Christ. Why should we settle for anything less?