The month of February. It’s the season of Cupid, candy hearts, and all things red. It’s pretty remarkable that before the post-Christmas haze has cleared, the commercials have already switched to full-on advertisements for Valentine’s Day. I find it hard to believe that so many people can buy jewelry for both holidays, let alone a new car with a red ribbon on top. But the marketing makes it seem as though this is, in fact, normal. We all see right through it. In the name of love, Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark holiday about making money. Understandably, cynics can write the day off.
Perhaps we, as pastors, can take a slightly more optimistic view. Even with all the commercialism and empty sentimentalism, the day is still an excellent reminder to preach the goodness of marital love—and even more so to pursue love toward our wives. Ministry marriages are unique. Our challenges are not inherently different than other marriages, but the struggles are often highlighted.
In Ephesians 5:25-33, the one imperative for husbands is to love our wives. That’s the overarching verb, which is where Hallmark likes to stop. An understanding of love without a definition. Thankfully, Paul gives greater detail about what love should entail from a husband to a wife. A husband’s love is to be sanctifying (25-27), nourishing (28-30), and unifying (31-33).
In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are three thoughts from Paul for pastors loving their wives:
The root of sanctify is the Greek word hagias—holiness. If a husband truly loves his wife, the main goal will not be lavish dates and jewelry but to help her become holy. To be more like Jesus. The phrase “personal holiness” has come under fire in recent years by those claiming that efforts in holiness are legalism. There is a real danger in legalism that we must always be on guard against. God forbid that, in the name of love, we try to move our wives toward salvation by works. May it never be!
But just because there are legalistic dangers does not mean growth in holiness as a concept is bad. It’s our highest aim—to be like Jesus. Paul’s explicit instruction is that we are to love our wives so that they become more holy. And how are they to become more holy? Through the washing of the Word.
Because we love our wives, we want them to be women of the Word. Women that read, think, believe, study, and apply the word. As their husbands, we should lead the way forward for them. There are plenty of wonderful ways to be in the Bible—devotionals, Bible plans, and apps. But the chief ministry of the Word is through careful Biblical exposition each Sunday morning as God’s people gather for worship.
Application: Pastors’ wives are often so busy serving on Sunday that they are often unable to hear the consistent preaching of God’s Word. As a loving husband, help your wife be able to sit in the service consistently to hear good preaching.
Verse 29. “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it, just as Christ did the church.” We don’t have to think about caring for ourselves. It’s natural. Our natural impulse, not even sinfully, is to nourish ourselves. That’s our instinct.
Paul’s argument in Ephesians 5 is that in marriage, two become one. This doesn’t dissolve personalities into a muddied middle. In marriage, there is still a husband and a wife. But the two are one. Therefore, nourish your wife as you’ve always nourished yourself. Your instinct for self-nourishment now needs to include wife-nourishment.
Being a pastor’s wife brings unique challenges—many expectations from the congregation, some spoken, some not. There’s the constant mental battle of knowing people are grading and judging her husband. There are lots of meetings. She is never able to sit in church with her husband. It’s a unique call.
In the same way a plant needs good soil to thrive in a difficult climate, so must pastors provide good nourishment for their wives to thrive in ministry.
Application: Marriage to a pastor (let alone pastors like us!) is difficult. Know your wife well enough so that you’re able to provide the nourishment she needs to press on. Your ministry is intimately connected to the health of your wife. Nourish her.
Paul ends by saying that marital love that honors Christ is the kind of love that drives a husband closer to his wife, not away. We live in a time when divorce has very little shock value. Almost no one today says divorce is the result of sin before God. Marriages end all the time with little thought. Many avoid the institution of marriage altogether for the simplicity of being able to break up more efficiently without courts getting involved.
I suspect any pastor reading Focus on the Family is pro-marriage. I’m preaching to the choir here. But it would be wise for us pastors to understand the world is not doing us any favors in assisting us to grow closer to our wives. The evil one always whispers lies in our ears that pull us away from, not closer to, our wives.
My hunch has always been that of all that Satan would love to accomplish, the ruin of a pastor’s marriage is right at the top. A failed pastor’s marriage ruins the family. It wreaks havoc on the church. If Satan can separate what God has joined, he is surely pleased.
That means there is a target on your marriage. Out of love for your wife, be on constant alert for the powers that cheer on separation, not unification.
Application: Take time to be together as husband and wife. My wife and I bless ourselves with a long weekend once a year without the kids. Regular dates. Shared hobbies. Prioritizing sex. All are helpful ways of staying united in love.
There is plenty to be curmudgeonly about regarding Valentine’s Day. There are lots that we can discard as secular and wasteful. But the holiday also has some commendable qualities. It’s a day that reminds us to love our wives. Brother pastor, during this month of love, discard the bad and be thankful for a reminder to love the woman God has so graciously given you.