By Shawn McMullen
Last January the cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground in the harbor of the Tuscan island of Giglio and keeled over after striking underwater rocks. More than 30 people died in the incident. One of the survivors, a woman from France, later explained that her husband had sacrificed himself for her by giving her the only life jacket available. Nicole Servel said that as she plunged into the sea, her husband Francis instructed her to put on the life jacket, urged her not to worry, and assured her he would be all right. His body was later found in the wreckage. Mrs. Servel said, “I owe my life to my husband. He said to me ‘Jump! Jump!’ And as I don’t know how to swim, he gave me his life jacket.”
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
Many of the Mother’s Day sermons I’ve heard (and preached) through the years focused on the mother’s role and responsibilities in the Christian home, citing examples of biblical mothers (good and bad) and Scripture references about marriage and family relationships. Others challenged audiences to appreciate and honor mothers. A few used the concept of laying down one’s life for a friend to explain why and how mothers are to be loved.
Writing to Christian husbands (whose wives in many cases were also mothers), the apostle Paul said, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Another passage of Scripture, Philippians 2:5-8, may help us understand how Christ “gave himself up” for the church and suggest ways Christian husbands can demonstrate a similar love to their wives.
“He made himself nothing” for her (v. 7). “Being in very nature God,” Jesus divested himself of his heavenly glory to come to earth for the sake of the church. We may never fully comprehend the extent of Christ’s sacrifice in the incarnation, but Christian husbands can learn from his example and live sacrificially as they place their wives’ needs above their own.
He took on “the very nature of a servant” for her (v. 7). Jesus came into the world to serve the church, expending his strength and energy for her. Following Christ’s example, Christian husbands serve their wives, giving them the “first fruits” of their time, energy, and devotion.
“He humbled himself” for her (v. 8). Jesus could have lorded it over his creation. He could have called on his Father to dispatch thousands of angels (Matthew 26:53) to assist or protect him at any moment. But he didn’t. In a similar way, Christian husbands don’t obsess about their own potential or seek their own honor. Instead, they lay aside their egos to love, honor, and protect their wives.
He became “obedient to death” for her (v. 8). It’s been said, “Not only did Jesus die a cross death, he lived a cross life.” In a similar way, Christian husbands die to themselves (their preferences, their wills, their comfort, and convenience) every day as they seek to love their wives “as Christ loved the church.”