The Nature of True Love
The heart of a Christian husband comes to a focal point in one word, the key word for the husband, in Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” The word love is wonderful. We can see its sacrificial boldness in this very verse.
But this word love is overused in our world today. So can we drill down more deeply into this word? Paul helps us to do so, in verse 29. In the coherence of the passage, the words “nourishes” and “cherishes” in verse 29 restate and clarify the meaning of the word “love”: “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.” So Christ nourishing and cherishing the church as his own body is equivalent to Christ not hating but loving his church. Christ does not tyrannize us, and neither will a Christian husband lord it over his wife as her head, but quite the opposite. He will nourish and cherish her.
Marriage to a Christlike husband is, for a woman, the opposite of a dead-end life.
How then do “nourish” and “cherish” help us understand the true meaning of love? These words certainly take a husband beyond just bringing home a paycheck. They are words of wholehearted involvement.
He Nourishes Her
The word nourish means “to develop, to nurture, to lift up.” Paul uses this word in another relational context, in Ephesians 6:4, where he instructs Christian fathers, “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” So this word nourish is freighted with a sense of dignifying purpose and care and attention. Therefore, a loving Christian husband cares so deeply about his wife that he makes sure that her life is moving in a desirable direction, even as Christ nourishes us all.
Marriage to a Christlike husband is, for a woman, the opposite of a dead-end life. A woman married to a nourishing man comes to the end of her days as an older lady, and as she is sitting on a porch somewhere in her rocking chair looking back on her life, she is praising God and thinking, “Being married to my husband opened my whole life up. Yes, we suffered. Yes, we made mistakes. But in it all, my husband thought of me. He cared about how my life was going. What a great run we had, living together for Christ!” That is nourishing one’s wife.
He Cherishes Her
The word cherish goes even deeper emotionally, because this word means “to comfort, to warm, to soften” (as by heat). Our word heartwarming conveys the sense. Paul uses this word in 1 Thessalonians 2:7, where he says, “We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.”
So when a woman is married to a lovingly Christlike man who cherishes her, she feels warmth in her heart at being valued by her husband and held dear above all others, second only to Christ himself. Her husband doesn’t compare her with others or find fault with her or treat her as a loser he is stuck with. That would break her heart. Instead, her husband delights in her and prizes her, and she feels it deep inside with a heartwarming glow. That is cherishing one’s wife.
This article is adapted from Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel by Raymond C. Ortlund Jr.
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