Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. – Paul
One of the enduring marks of the image of God found in people is the joy of creating beauty. When God created the world, He made a beautiful creation. The story of redemption is the transformation of that which had been uglified (to borrow a term from Narnia) into something gloriously lovely.
Even children love creating beauty. The first time those chubby hands awkardly grasp a crayon and scribble all over a page, they look up and say, “Look what I made!” and those innocent eyes are begging for your approval – “Oh honey, it’s beautiful! You’re an amazing artist!”
Ephesians 5 tells us about Jesus’ goal for His bride, the church – that she would be “holy and blameless,” that she would have “no spot or wrinkle,” that she would be found “in all her glory.” He does this for the sake of the church – how wonderful it is to be made beautiful! He does it for His own sake – how wonderful it is to create such beauty!
Everything Jesus does in and for the church is moving toward this end; every triumph and every tragedy He sovereignly arranges to beautify His bride. Jesus’ love for His bride is a love in motion; His love moved Him to die for His bride; His love moved Him to send His Spirit to purify His bride; His love removes the spots and wrinkles in His bride. He doesn’t look at the blemishes in His bride and stand back and scold her until she scrubs them out, He sees the faults and flaws, and determines to remove them Himself.
Presentation day is coming. Someday Jesus is going to “unveil” His bride, to present her to Himself. He is going to finish His loving labor and say, as He did in the beginning: “This is very good!” He is going to stand before His Father, and the angelic host, and say something like, “Look at my bride! Look what I have made!” And on that joyous day, gazing upon the all-glorious Groom standing beside the bride He has redeemed, the bride He has sanctified, the bride He has glorified, the angels will gasp and say, “She’s beautiful!” And gazing upon the Lord Jesus standing hand-in-hand with His bride, they’ll say, “They’re perfect for each other!”
Wait… a bride who is perfect for Jesus? Really, it has to be this way. If the Father looked at the bride and said, “Son, you could have done better,” He wouldn’t just be disparaging the bride, He’d be disparaging the groom who prepared the bride. The beauty of the bride is in exact proportion to the creative and redemptive ability of the groom, which are, of course, infinite.
Jesus doesn’t marry down. He can’t, because He won’t settle for creating anything less than perfection, and the bride is of His own creation. She has been made gloriously fitting by and for her glorious groom, by His infinite love, at an infinite cost, to His infinite joy.
What Jesus does on a grand scale is illustrated in miniature by ordinary marriage between ordinary people. Jesus is our model. So husbands, see how Jesus loves His bride, and love yours like that. See Jesus give Himself up for her, and do the same. See Jesus make His bride glorious, and you do that too. We love creating beauty, it gives us great joy; create, enhance, magnify the beauty in your wife, it will give you great joy.
When Jesus is finished with His bride, she is stunningly beautiful; what would you expect from the Master Creator of all things beautiful? I wonder what most wives will look like when their husbands are done with them. I can’t prove it from the text, but I wonder if, since Jesus will “present to Himself” His bride, might husbands also be presenting their own brides to Jesus? Is it just possible that He will say, “I gave you a wife, let me see what you’ve done with her. Show me your work.”
A number of years ago a dear sweet lady in her 80’s told me about her father, who was a saint in the church and a devil outside it. She told me how he sexually violated his own daughter, and how he would sleep with just about anyone he could. She told me about helping her mother cope with the gonorrhea she’d contracted from her philandering husband. She told me how her aged, widowed mother, in her final years, had to sleep in the same room with her and her husband, because she was so mentally and emotionally messed up she couldn’t handle being alone in the dark without breaking down.
I think about that wretch of a husband, and I think about Jesus saying to him someday, “Show me your wife. Let me see what you’ve done with her.” And he’ll have to present this broken little broken woman, left almost completely paralyzed by anxiety and fear because of the years of abuse, betrayal, and mistreatment at his hands, and he’ll have no choice but to say, “Here she is. You gave her to me, and this is what I made of her.” What must judgment day look like for that man?
Jesus has given us husbands all the tools we need to glorify our brides. He even gives us a great head start – our wives are beautiful when we marry them; it’s their beauty that makes us want to marry them in the first place! He has given us an intensely powerful passion for the pursuit of our desires – a man passionate about attaining something will die going after it, whether that thing be business, money, pleasure, or the love and glorification of his wife. God has given us a natural affection for “weaker vessels;” men instinctively protect those who are less able to protect themselves, happily fighting their battles for them. He has given us His Spirit, which agitates the soul toward the imitation of Christ and His exercise of love. And if that isn’t enough, He has gently told our wives to allow us to carry on our task – “submit to your own husbands as unto the Lord.”
As a brief aside, when Jesus says the husband is the head of the wife, and wives are to submit to their husbands, He’s not telling husbands He’s given them their own personal servant, He’s telling wives to let their husbands use the tools He’s given them for their benefit. He’s saying, “Let them do their work, and don’t stand in the way!” And he’s telling husbands, “You’re going to answer to Me for your wife someday. I’ve given you everything you need, you have absolutely no excuse for presenting to Me anything but a glorious bride!”
Typically in fairy tales and movies, the wedding is the climactic end of the story. But in reality, the wedding is the beginning of the story. Getting married is easy; making marriage produce beauty is hard. When we marry, we think we’ve found the perfect person, yet the wedding bells signal the beginning of two imperfect people (who have no clue how imperfect both of them are!) embarking on a journey of either building each other up, or tearing each other apart, of enhancing or destroying beauty. It is at the altar that the great task of modeling Jesus’ love in motion for the glorification of one’s spouse begins.
Being a husband is a great privilege, and comes with great benefits of all kinds. But it also comes with great responsibility and great accountability. When I stand before Jesus and He says “Show me your bride,” what will I have to show? What will the presentation of my wife say about the way I loved her? Will the years she spent with me make her more like the beautiful Lord Jesus, or will my cheeks burn with shame to set her before the Lord Jesus a mess of my own making, a testimony to my own unfaithfulness to the task of loving her in a beautifying way, a task I vowed before God Himself I’d undertake? Will Christlike love have enhanced her beauty, or will my own worldly version of selfish love inflict deep wounds on the soul of the very one whom I was charged to protect from harm? Will she be more glorious because of me, or will I all but leave her ruined? Will Jesus look at me and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” or will He say, “I gave you My sister, to love and to cherish; what is this you have done?”
picture from Google images