The foundation of the rule of the kingdom of God in the family is the unconditional love the husband has for his wife. All other attempts to express that rule without that foundation will never lead to the results we all seek—a home filled with love, joy, peace and secure children who reflect the kingdom in their lives.
This love is not the destination; it is the starting point. Nor will it ever be consistently present in my life as a husband until I 1.) clearly understand its agape nature, 2.) am willing to recognize its consistent absence in my life and 3) implement the only solution—repent for my sin of not loving my wife. “I see what agape love is, I haven’t loved my wife like that, and, Oh Lord, I repent! Please save me from my helplessness.” With that sincere prayer, the deck is cleared for the power of God to move.
Last week we saw the definition of agape love—it is unconditional—and we looked at what that means. This week we will look at two unmistakable characteristics that are observed when that unconditional love is in action.
First, agape love is initial, and here is what the Bible teaches “initial” looks like: Jesus committed Himself to us on the cross, in His humanity, before He knew if anyone would respond and love HIm back. His disciples, his closest friends and companions, all fled in fear and left Jesus to die alone. Yet He returned to them after His resurrection, still loved them and reiterated their mission to “feed His sheep”—extend His rule.
Jesus came after us with the same love when we wanted nothing to do with Him. “There is none who seeks after God, no not one (Romans 3:11).” He pursued us, tracked us down with His “Hound of Heaven,” the Holy Spirit, He trapped us in a corner, and He stepped on our necks with His love and we finally shouted, “I give up, Jesus, I give you my life!”
Here is the amazing thing: Paul tells us to love our wives in exactly the same way, thereby extending His rule in our branch of His kingdom in their lives (Ephesians 5:25). The man is the pursuer, the aggressor, the lover. He is the initiator, committing himself first in his love relationship with his wife. Every woman deep down inside, regardless of all the contradictory messages from the culture, is looking for a man like this who loves her first and is not discouraged, displeased or dissuaded by her initial rejection of his love. This rejection is often an unconscious test: “Does he really love me unconditionally or can I run him off?” That is what agape love is—unconditional love, not conditioned on the response of the loved one, that refuses to be “run off.”
Today, Satan is doing His very best to destroy marriages by reversing God’s divine order. Even as children, little girls are learning to be pursuers as their parents allow them to call boys on the telephone. As they enter puberty, the aggression intensifies, as girls actually pester boys for dates and then pursue them sexually. All this time the boy is learning to be passive, to be cool, and let the girls come to him. He is learning to be a responder to a girl’s advances rather than an initiator. He is learning to play the girl’s role, while the girl is learning to play his.
The amazing thing about this is that, when a woman has succeeded in capturing a man in this way, and he carries over this passive attitude into their marriage, she will eventually despise him. In every woman’s heart there is a desire to be ruled over with agape love by her man. She longs for an aggressive, strong, initiating lover, to whom she can give her life. God made her that way, and she, unknowingly, helped to create the passive, weak man whom she married, and for whom she now has no respect.
Second, agape love is sacrificial. “Toxic masculinity” is the modern definition of male leadership that is selfish and domineering—a man ruling to benefit itself. He uses those over whom he rules for himself rather than ruling only for their benefit. Agape love serves the one loved and is never tyrannical.
Jesus is our perfect pattern for our task as servant-rulers in our families. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Jesus did not please Himself, but continually gave His life away for others, culminating in that final great act of service, literally laying down His life voluntarily on the cross for His church. Men, this is our pattern of sacrificial love for our wives!
Can you see that when we love our wives in this way, “toxic masculinity” becomes laughable? Is Jesus’ rule toxic? The fact that it is not laughable in the culture today, and many fervently believe that being a strong man is toxic, is a true indictment of our rule as men in our families. The church today has not taught men to rule at all in their homes and certainly not to rule just as Jesus did.
Often, when a man marries there are conflicts between what a man always did as a single man, and what he will be called upon to do as a husband. Getting married means much more than simply having a new roommate. His wife has now become one-flesh with him and has needs as a wife that her husband is designed by God to meet. His time is no longer only his, to spend upon himself, but to be invested wisely on his family.
Some men refuse to let their families encroach upon their own personal habits. Rather than doing things their wives can do with them, they continue to do only their own individual activities. Their night out with the boys to play basketball, or their all-male two-week hunting or fishing trip is much more important than taking their wife out to dinner to bless her just for her pleasure. This of course does not mean that a man never plays ball, or goes hunting, or does anything by himself, but he does those things only after his wife and children are cared for and secured in his love.
Though I have understood these truths about loving my wife for some 50 years (Jill and I would never have married if I had not), I have had to painfully relearn them again and again over the years.
We have discussed in the last two postings the first step of man’s dual mission to rule in his family in the kingdom of God—loving them with agape love, just as Jesus does. Next week we will look at the second aspect of that rule—leading them with strong, firm leadership, again, just as Jesus would if He were here on site.