One of the big issues that Christian men run into when in a relationship or marriage is lack of mission, which often leads to idolization of the wife.
1 Corinthians 7:25 Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy. 26 I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you. 29 But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; 30 and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; 31 and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.
The importance of this passage is that we need to always take a heavenly perspective on things. Paul was indeed referring to the present persecution of the Church in his time, but it also extends out to the Church as a whole over time whether in good or bad times. God’s importance comes first.
What does it mean for a husband to live as if he had no wife? How does this jive with the passage of Ephesians for husbands to love the wife?
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
Christ’s example of loving the Church sacrificially for the purpose of sanctification (not feelings!) was putting God’s purpose for His life first. He even wanted the Father to take the cup away from him in the garden. He didn’t fall prey to the prevailing Jewish thought at the time that the Messiah was to be a sociopolitical and military Messiah that saved the Jewish nation, which included His disciples own thoughts about what He would do.
So too any single man or married man should be part of the body of Christ, using His gifts of the Spirit to enrich the body and evangelize and carry out God’s mission here on earth: the Great Commission. No man is an island, and he needs to be plugged into a community of believers. This is one of my huge criticisms of many of the men who stop going to Church. Yes, people at Church can hurt you. Even Christians are fallible human beings that often let their pride get in the way. But that should not stop you from continuing to use your life to minister to others, even in the Church.
As we know, when a girl or the wife becomes the center of attention, the pedestal, she becomes his idol. This is not only idolization, but this leads to destructive actions that cause harm to the marriage. Life starts to become about making her happy or catering to her whims at the expense of everything else. This leads to a dissatisfaction and discontent in the wife which often turns into rebellion and divorce. The cultural and churchian milieu which encourages putting the wife first only causes this snowball to grow larger as there is no force of resistance against it.
Indeed, Jesus models this through leading by example and laying down His life for our own sanctification. Husbands have this call too in marriage: to model Christ’s sacrificial love. A large part of that is not solely teaching and correcting her spiritually (which is what I usually talk about), but also modeling the life of Christ’s ministry through our own gifts of the Spirit, evangelism, and discipleship in the Church.
The pedestal is always filled. Many Christian husbands have it unassumingly on the wife, but in the absence of a wife what is going to fill it? What should fill it? The answer is clear.
Living as if you had no wife means…
Very few Christian men lead a missional lifestyle, and I think by and large this is also one of the reasons why they are unattractive to women (aside from things like obesity and other factors). Many non-Christian men have a purpose such as the love of money or power or bedding women or whatever. These purposes are obviously sinful and futile in the end, but they are attractive to women because women are attracted to the traits behind these: driven and ambitious.
It would be wise for any single Christian man to know and pursue their God-given mission even before any women come into his life. This way they cannot be put on a pedestal or idolized from the get go, and it correctly models the example of Christ.
Christian husbands who have not been doing this have a harder time, and that’s why “pulling back” from a wife to focus on doing what God has called us to do is so important. It gives God the opportunity to now use our own life as a living witness for Him whereas before there was a dysfunctional pattern of idolization of her feelings and expectations. This was the sin of Adam; intentionally going along with his wife in the garden instead of following God’s command. So too Christian husbands have the choice. It’s a hard one, especially if there have been dysfunctional patterns for years.
A pure focus on God and His mission as first in your life is the model of both 1 Corinthians 7 and Ephesians 5. This is what it means for even a husband to live as if he had no wife. When this is put into perspective of Christ’s love for the Church, we can see it leads to appropriate modeling (spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally) of that relationship which helps to break any dysfunctional marriage pattern that has started or existed. Yes, it will be difficult, but following God’s Word has always been that way.