Loving our Wives with the Cross in Mind

During the month of January, five different men are contributing guest posts in our "The Family Man that Follows Jesus" series. It will give me a month off, so I can spend time with my growing family, and I am really excited to personally learn from the series myself.

This week, Drew Bontrager, the Connections Pastor at Lakeview Church in Indianapolis, IN. Drew has written about how important it is for husbands to remember the example of Jesus on the cross. The humble servant-heart of Jesus is the template for how we should engage with our wives in marriage. Drew became a friend while being a classmate of mine at Bethel Seminary and is a great man who loves Jesus very much. I am excited to share his post with you all. A more complete bio of Drew is available at the end of the post.

Love Sick

Recently, my wife Courtney had been sick. It hasn’t been anything major, just a common cold and fever but it put her in bed for a couple of days. She experienced common symptoms: headaches, sore throat, her temperature went up and down, and she was just exhausted.

Now I know it’s a bit cheesy but my heart breaks to see her in pain even if it is just a common cold, and I felt kind of bad because she probably got it from me. I had gotten sick a few days prior to Court, with the same stuff and was absolutely of no use to humanity, but to make matters worse I started recovering and feeling great while she was still in the thick of it. She never said it but I imagined she was thinking, “You did this to me!”

But here’s the cool part of the story; her sickness afforded me the opportunity to serve her. While she was officially out of commission, I had to step up my game. So I was doing everything. 

I prepared food for her, which was a miracle. Granted, it was food she had already cooked and all I had to do was heat it up, but nonetheless I “cooked” and cleaned up afterwards. I picked up her used tissues and threw them away. I made a run to the drug store to pick up extra meds and remedies. I checked in on her throughout my day. I cleaned the home. I made sure she had everything she needed. I was forced to put her needs and interests before my own.

At first, Court was hesitant about making requests. She started out by saying, “Could you…if it’s not too much trouble…possibly get me some more water?” Of course I obliged and slowly she started realizing, she could pretty much ask for anything. She was eating it up and all of a sudden, her tone changed. What was once a shy and polite request, became a demand as she said, “Where’s my water?!” Which was one of those questions that’s not really a question.

The most fascinating thing about it all is that while I served her, I noticed that it genuinely brought me joy. Albeit, it was a challenge at times and I didn’t always have the best attitude. There were times I almost said, “Get your own water!” Thankfully, I never did but even in the struggle of my own humanity, I found love and fulfillment as I gave myself up for her.

Out of reverence for Christ

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ…Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Eph 2:21, 25, 28)

Paul starts this passage in the letter to the Ephesians; in which my NIV Bible calls “Instructions for Christian Households,” with an imperative to both husbands and wives who follow Jesus, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (5:21). In other words, if we love Jesus then we should serve our spouse simply out of our love and devotion for Jesus.

He continues in 5:25 and he speaks more specifically to husbands and how they can love their wives, “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” This passage beautifully echoes another one of Paul’s writings in Philippians 2:1-5 when he encourages the Philippian believers to humble themselves, value others above self, and put the interest of others before their own because this is the mindset of Christ. The context of relationships Paul was writing about in Philippians was different than in Ephesians, but the imperative was the same; follow the example of Jesus who humbled Himself all the way to the cross.

The picture God wants in our eyes when husbands see their wives is the cross. The self-sacrificial love of the cross is how to cultivate a healthy marriage relationship. Paul reminds us that when we think about how to love our wives, how to serve our wives, or how to relate to our wives that we must think of the cross.

Dynamic Service

My wife and I have been married for 5 ½ years now but I quickly discovered after we got married that I am naturally a selfish person. Serving Courtney and putting her needs before my own does not come easy. Though, it seems that the more I serve her, the more I enjoy serving her.

Serving isn’t something that only transforms the person receiving the service. Serving is dynamic. Paul said that when we love our wives, we love ourselves. There is something profoundly deep, mysterious, and wonderful that happens in a marriage relationship when a man and a woman love one another the way Jesus loved us. It places us in a humble position to give without the assurance or proposal of receiving anything in return. This type of generosity and vulnerability is the heart of God for a husband. 

The self-sacrificial love of the cross is how to cultivate a healthy marriage.

This Is Hard

I have been challenged lately with this question, how can I serve my wife in my normal day-to-day life the way Christ loved the church? Because if I’m honest, this is hard! It’s one thing to serve my wife when she is sick and incapable of taking care of herself every once and a while, but it’s a whole different ball game when she is healthy, autonomous, and taking care of business! And if I’m brutally honest, most of the time, I just don’t feel like it. I don’t feel like listening to my wife or asking her questions after a long day of work. I don’t feel like going on a walk with her because I’d rather watch sports. Or I don’t feel like cuddling up on the couch because I would rather have my own space.

The reality however is that I’m most likely not alone in my feelings because this is very natural. It’s not natural to want to serve. It’s natural to think of self. It’s natural to want to do things that give me satisfaction. The cross reminds us that God doesn’t want us to live a natural life.

God has something so much deeper and rewarding for us. The Kingdom of God is always counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. Jesus said that the first will be last and that if you want to live, then you must die to yourself. The cross shows us that if you want the kind of marriage God intends and to be the best husband you can be, then you have to live it like it’s not about you! 

More about Drew

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Drew grew up in Indianapolis, IN where he met his wife Courtney. They are childhood sweethearts and have now been married for 5+ years. Drew traveled to Minneapolis to study and prepare for the call of God on his life to become a pastor. He studied Pastoral Studies at North Central University and Theological Studies at Bethel Seminary. He has served at two churches as an associate pastor for the past 5+ years and is currently back in Indianapolis serving as a staff pastor with his family at his home church, Lakeview Church. Drew's heart is to reach people for Christ and help them connect to the church family and use their gifts in ministry.