Recent conversations here in Zambia brought to mind this message I spoke to young single men who were seminary students in Egypt. I wrote it in English but spoke it in Arabic at a chapel service of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (April 22, 2009). It was written for the Egyptian context, which is unique, but some things carry over to other cultures.
I’ve noticed there’s a topic that we haven’t focused on in chapel, even though it’s one I hear about in many conversations here at our seminary. The topic that I hear about is finding a suitable young woman and marrying her. I’m not going to talk exactly about that, though, but about something closely related. I notice that students tend to give a big effort to find someone to marry. And of course that challenge deserves focus and effort—it’s extremely important! But the truth is that that is only part of the challenge. There’s another part that also deserves focus and a big effort.
The first verse we will read is Colossians 3:19a: “Husbands, love your wives …”
And the second is from Ephesians 5:25, 28: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”. Verse 28 says something similar “In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”
It’s very easy before one marries to think that the big challenge is finding a suitable girl who will agree to marry him. The truth is that we need to place beside this another goal and challenge. And it is this: that we give the same effort to become ready for our roles as husbands. It won’t do to assume that we are already ready for this role, and that the one thing left to do is to find a wife. I believe the command that we love our wives is present in the Bible because it is not something that we naturally do without thinking about it. And so the Bible reminds us to concentrate on it.
One reason we need to focus on it is that your role as a husband will be a very big role that you will play in your life. And another reason is that our marriage has a big effect on our ministry. I’m convinced that we minister not only with skills and gifts but also by the kind of life we live. And how we live our life in our marriage is a big part of the kind of life we live. Our marriage can make God’s love become tangible and real to the people around us.
In Col 3:18 and in Eph 5:25, 28 the Bible says, three times, that we’re to love our wives, and the Greek verbs are in the present tense. The idea is that this is something we do continually, day after day. Our main role in our marriage is to love our wives. That’s the foundational part of our role. So we need to become able to love our wives.
We tend to assume that the big challenge and goal is finding a girl who is suitable and agrees to marriage. Because of this, a guy tends to think there is progress or no progress in this matter according to whether or not he sees a potential wife on the horizon. And if there’s no one in view, he feels that there is no encouraging news. And there can be a lot of frustration as he waits on God to provide the young woman. He feels there’s little he can do except wait. But I want to clarify that this perspective is mistaken.
It’s not correct because the second goal and the second challenge are as important, or more important, as the first one. There are many things that the guy can do toward the second goal and challenge. I mean this: You don’t have to focus only on finding a suitable wife. You can focus on becoming suitable. That is, focus on becoming someone who is able to love another person.
The question, “Are you suitable for marriage?” is as important as the question, “Have you found the one that you’ll marry?”
Are you ready for marriage? I mean: Are you doing things to grow so can became a husband who really loves his wife? What will happen if you find the girl but she sees that you aren’t mature and don’t have the ability to think beyond yourself and love another person? If she thinks that you will love her and show care to her day after day, that will make a big difference and help her to choose you. And after you marry her, if you become successful in your role, you will also increase her ability to be successful in her role as a wife. She will love you better if you are able to love her well.
Let’s change our main focus from looking for spouses to becoming people who will be successful in our roles as husbands. Focus on becoming men who can love another person continually day after day, in good times and in difficult times. The Bible speaks somewhat rarely about our role as spouses, so why not concentrate on becoming quite good at what it does mention, even now, before you marry.
But how can you get yourself ready now, even before finding your wife? By focusing on loving others now, especially in your close relationships. Take for example your family or your friends at the seminary and the guy you share a room with. Of course, there are differences between these relationships and marriage! But there are also important similarities.
When you marry, you will live out your life very, very closely with another person, closer to one another probably than in any other relationship. Your marriage will be a place of Christian fellowship. Your marriage will be a piece of the body of Christ. And this is not very different from your life here at the seminary. What you can learn through your experience in fellowship here you can apply in many ways to marriage. This seminary and your marriage—both—are places of growth as disciples. The life you live here can prepare you for marriage. You can do things now and here to make your marriage happier in the future, if you focus on becoming a person who is able to love someone else.
For example, if you have a problem between you and a friend, you can learn to talk about a problem with him and solve it with gentleness, from start to finish. And if you learn how to handle your anger and sadness in ways that don’t hurt a friend, this also will help your marriage. You can also practice giving practical help and support to your friends. And you can learn to be polite, honest, and unselfish in your relationships. If you learn how to do these things, you will have a better marriage.
So, whether you can see your future wife on the horizon or not, there are important things you can do right now that will help your marriage. If you do them, you will grow, and in the future you will give a beautiful gift to your wife. You will be a husband who can love his wife day after day. She will thank God for you.
The challenge is this: Shift perspective, from finding a wife to becoming ready to be a husband who loves his wife.