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Leading with Love

Leading-With-LoveHow Can a Husband Lead with Love?

by Matthew Black, 8/15/2015, 12:36pm

There are major misconceptions about a husband leading in his home. To be honest, most men do not lead, and when they do, it can be abusive. My desire  is to show how courageous husbands can lead by loving in the home. The principles here are true not just for married people, but for singles as well.

The Bible plainly says the man is the head of his home. What does that mean? It can seem very intimidating and even unfair for a married couple. Does it mean that the man gets to make all the decisions? Does it mean that the woman must do every thing her husband says? What does it mean? When you see the biblical picture of headship, you will be amazed and thankful for God’s order of creation in marriage. The biblical equation of headship looks something like this: HEADSHIP = LOVE

Immediately we see that there is confusion about headship. Ask the average man what headship means to them, and he will suggest words like: power, authority, control, or leadership. The Bible uses a different word to describe headship: love! You will exercise your leadership, authority, etc., through your love. Strip authority of love and you have a monster. Raw power is tyranny.

To be the “head” of the home is not a relationship of superiority. It is actually using your position to love, build, and nurture a relationship of deep sacrifice with your wife. Husbands are to demonstrate their headship by sacrificing themselves for the wife.

With that in mind, notice our text does not say “Husbands rule over your wives, command them, demonstrate your authority over them and command them around.” It says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”. Give your self up for your wife. So now we have to ask ourselves the question. What is agape love?

What Love is Not

First let us look at what it is not. Agape love is not mere emotion. Love, as God defines it, is not primarily an emotion. The world says, “when the feeling stops, the love is over.” Love is not a tingly sensation. Love is not sentimentalism. Love has nothing to do with how you feel. God so loved the world that he gave His only Son. He didn’t look at the world and say, “I just can’t resist them; I’ve got to get them in heaven. They’re terrific.” There wasn’t one thing in us that was deserving. We were enemies; we hated God; we were sinful and vile, but God loved us anyway. And He loved us so much, he gave Himself.

Agape love is not mere appreciation. It is not just saying nice words to someone. Proverbs 27:6 — “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Love is more than empty words. Love is action. Love is an act of your will that chooses the best for the other person. We can say all kinds of nice things to a person and it not help them. Sometimes love is saying very hard words to a person.

Agape love is not admiration. It is not simply liking or being fond of someone. Agape love goes far beyond admiration. It sacrifices for those that are not admirable.

Love: a Reflection of God

We read in our Bible that “God is love.” Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s love. By looking at the cross we can say that agape love is a voluntary abandonment of self-preservation for the good of another. Husbands, use your position of authority to sacrifice your life for your wife.

Agape love is a God-centered love. Understand the Bible makes a shocking statement like: “God is agape”. 1 John 4:16 — “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

You cannot truly love your wife as you ought without being born again. This kind of selfless love is impossible simply through the human nature. You must have the divine nature dwelling in you. God must dwell in you. It is a God-centered love. Agape love is a voluntary act of the will. “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” (John 3:16).

I’ve heard men say about their wife—“I just don’t love her any more”. Well, then choose to love her. You’ve stopped abandoning yourself for the good of your wife. Start anew right now.

The Greatest Demonstration of Love

The demonstration of a husband’s love ought to mirror Christ’s act of sacrifice on the cross for His Bride. Over and over in the New Testament, the apostolic demonstration of love is the cross.

1 John 3:16 — “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” This is how we come to understand the love of God—look at the gruesome picture of Calvary. Look at the Son of God writhing there in unimaginable pain. The One who knew no sin, the Lamb who is worthy of all glory, writhing in pain. Men, demonstrate that to your wife.


The commitment of a husband and wife is not based on worthiness. It is based on Christ’s love for unworthy sinners.

But you say, “She doesn’t deserve my love. You have no idea how she’s been toward me. Remember that Christ’s love was given to people who had not merited it, who did not deserve it, who did nothing to earn it, in whom there was nothing that compelled Him to love them. A man’s commitment to his wife is never based on worthiness. A man should love his wife as Christ loved the most unworthy sinners. Neither the husband or wife are worthy of any love. We love each other because Christ first loved us. Real commitment is based on Christ’s unconditional love for us.

Romans 5:8 — “but God shows [demonstrates] his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ gave own spotless life for the most unworthy and rotten people. This is LOVE. The word Paul uses is agape. Christ died for those who spit upon Him, who ridiculed Him, and who hated Him.

How Should Husbands Practice Biblical Headship?

Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”. You say great. This is an impossible command. This is like telling me to jump over the moon. How can I love like Christ?

This command cannot be obeyed by the husband without the supernatural power of God’s grace. The husband has an absolute necessity of God’s grace. He must be born again to fulfill this command. The way to change your marriage is not by changing your wife. It is by changing yourself. God must change you. You must be a born again man. Without grace, you cannot have the marriage God would have for you. Without the God who is love dwelling in you, you cannot truly love anyone.

Understand the love you are called to takes supernatural grace. God does not call us to love our wives when they treat us well. That’s not Christlike love. The person we are called to love is the one nailing us to the cross! “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

You must know how to practice biblical love. We see this in Corinthians 13. A sure sign that you are not practicing biblical love in your marriage is that there are walls of bitterness there.

Husband, does your wife listen to you? If the answer is no, then you are probably not demonstrating love to her in a way she understands. There may be walls of bitterness in your marriage that need to be torn down.

Listen to how Paul describes the importance of love: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” In Paul’s day, in the worship of Cybele and Dionysus, two pagan false gods, there was speaking in ecstatic languages accompanied by “clanging cymbals, smashing gongs, and blaring trumpets”[1] What Paul seems to be saying is, no matter how eloquent you are, if you do not have love in your life and your walk with Christ, you are no different than pagans.

The 16 Attributes of Love

Paul gives fourteen biblical attributes of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4–8a — “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

1 – Love is Patient

Love is patient. “Love is patient” (vs. 1). The KJV says, “Charity suffereth long” (verse 4). Long suffering is the ability to control anger or frustration. The word translated patient here is makrothumia. It means “long-tempered” and is the exact opposite of our expression “short-fused.” Patience is how love reacts in order to minimize a negative situation. Husbands, when you don’t get what you want, how do you react? A lack of patience will turn your home into a war zone. Patience waits and never gives in to sinful anger. Patience waits for a godly outcome.

The opposite of patience is a short fuse. Often when we are hurting in a marriage we want to say something hurtful back.

You must choose to be patient. You must choose to put aside feelings of anger and bitterness and pride. If you do not have patient love, you will over react and you will act foolish and angry. You will regret it.

Choose to patiently put aside sinful anger. Choose to patiently deal with the problem. Sinful anger never makes the situation better. It creates new wrongs and new hurts and new problems. Love suffers long with those feelings of anger without acting on them.

Proverbs 14.29, “He that is slow to wrath [anger] is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit [quick-tempered] exalteth folly.”

Consider our Lord as an example of perfect patience. While the Lord Jesus Christ was hanging on the cross, after He had endured all that He had endured, He said this about His killers: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34a). Christ could have cursed his killers on the cross, but instead he blessed them when they hurt Him. He asked His Father not to hold this against them.

2 – Love is Kind & Giving

Love is kind. “…is kind” (verse 4). The word kind is translated from a Greek word (chresteuomai) that means to be useful or profitable, to furnish what is needed. To be kind is to make life easier for the other person.

This kind of love looks for ways to make life easier for another by giving…

  • a helping hand
  • a kind note or call
  • a word of encouragement
  • a significant amount of time and attention
hands holding letters spelling words

Love demonstrates care and gentleness for the other person

Kindness is love in action. The opposite of kindness is harshness and a suspicious spirit. Kindness on the other hand introduces positives into all situations. Kindness is “the sympathetic kindliness or sweetness of temper which puts others at their ease, and shrinks from giving pain”.[2] Kindness thinks far more of others than of self. Kindness can be broken down into four categories: gentleness, helpfulness, willingness, and initiative.

Gentleness. Kindness leads you to be very sensitive about being unnecessarily harsh. You are sensitive, tender. Even if you say hard things you are careful to bend over backwards to make your words as easy as possible to hear.

Helpfulenss. Kindness means you are always looking around to meet the needs of the moment. You come into a dirty, disorganized house, and instead of yelling about how it ought to be, you say nothing and simply start doing the dishes, helping with the laundry, pick up a screaming child, using your words of love to calm the situation. Kindness means you put your needs on hold to meet the needs of others.

Willingness. Kindness inspires you to be agreeable. Instead of being obstinate, stubborn, always right and self-righteous, you want to cooperate. You are totally pliable and flexible and willing to help. A kind husband ends a thousand potential arguments by his willingness to listen and not demand his way.

Initiative. Kindness thinks ahead and takes the first step. Kind love is always thinking of others. A kind husband will not have to be coerced off the couch to help set the table. No the kind husband thinks ahead and is already setting the table and filling the glasses before being asked. A kind husband helps put the house back in order after company. A kind husband will help get the children ready for church or ready for bed without the wife having to ask. A kind husband will take the initiative!

3 – Love is Not Selfish

Love does not envy (verse 4). Envy is pure selfishness. James 3 says if you have selfishness in your life, it will produce “disorder and every vile practice.”

It means you wish the good things happening to another were happening to you. It means you think you are better than your wife. The Bible forbids any Christian for having this attitude, especially husbands toward their wives. Paul says in Philippians 2:3 — “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

To love means you won’t be grieved at any blessings of another person, their wealth, gifts, qualities or status. Love means you want the very best for your wife. You do everything you can to help her succeed.

Are you selfish and envious in your marriage, men? Do you put your desires and interests above your spouses? Love puts selfishness to death. Love wants the other person to succeed. Husbands, love your wife. Do not envy the fact that she does not have life as hard as you. The truth is she may have it much harder. And even if she doesn’t, you should not be upset. That’s envy. That’s not love.

The opposite of envy is selflessness. It means you will sacrifice so that your wife can succeed. She wants to succeed in little things. It may mean you start putting the children to bed so she can get to bed before 3am! It may mean that you come home from work earlier to help her prepare for a big day of company.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I want my wife to succeed in the home?
  • Do I want her to feel loved by me?
  • Does my wife see me as looking out for myself first?

Instead of being envious and selfish, write your wife a love note telling her you were thinking about her. For those who are unmarried, choose someone from the congregation that you want to encourage. Instead of thinking they have it easier than you, find something they might be struggling with, and encourage them with a note.

4 – Love Does Not Boast

“I’ve got it all figured out.” Love never says that. Love does not brag or boast. The idea is literally to “parade oneself”. Have you ever been in a difficult discussion with your spouse, and when you were in a corner, you began to paint yourself as the most spiritual person on the planet? You say things like: “I would never do that!” That is not love. That is selfishness.

To boast means to be “rash in bragging about one’s own excellences or endowments” (Barnes). This attitude of vaunting comes from the attitude of superiority over others; It is usually combined with a feeling of contempt or disregard for your wife.

When we are offended we act as if we have never done the same thing. How should we respond when we are offended? To love by closing your mouth and being very carefl what you say. Say with David, “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).

Listen to the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:29–32 — “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Let me paraphrase it for you: Ephesians 4:31 “Let all manner of bitterness, and rage, and grudges, and raising of your voice, and misrepresentation, be taken off of you and thrown in a garbage heap, with all thoughts of evil towards others”. Sanitize your self from these six evils. These are the filthy rags of the old man. Put them off, and throw them far, far away from you in the garbage heap.

Stop boasting and having a superior attitude against your spouse and be tender and forgiving “even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.”

5 – Love is Humble

Love is not “arrogant” or literally “puffed up” or arrogant (verse 5). True love means you have a very low view of yourself. To love means not to overvalue yourself by concentrating on your achievements, your respect and position, your abilities and gifts. You realize everything you have is a gift from God. “To whom much is given much will be required”. To love means you do not compare yourself with others to try and show yourself to be better than they are.

6 – Love is Not Rude

Love is not rude (verse 5). Rudeness is characterized by irritability. It’s when you are under pressure and you turn sour. Some people seem to have the motto, “Never pass up an opportunity to get upset with your spouse”. To be irritable means to “be near the point of a knife”. Are you the kind of a person that is always feeling poked by a situation. Rude people are those who are always locked and loaded and ready to overreact.

Rudeness really is the way a person acts when they have no care for the person around them. Love is careful to act appropriately. Under pressure, love acts appropriately. Love does not turn sour.

Rudeness is like a destructive storm waiting to happen. It tramples over people and has no care what destruction it leaves in its path.

When tough circumstances come, often we want to take out our tiredness on other people. We may be hurting inside, and we want to release on others. We need to take it to the prayer closet. When war is raging in your heart, confine the storm to yourself, and do not act rudely to others, especially your wife.

7 – Love is the First to Give In

Love does not seek its own way (1 Corinthians 13:5-“It does not insist on its own way”). The man who is concerned with getting all he can from his wife is not loving. If you are concerned with only what you can GET from your wife, you are sowing the seeds of destruction for your marriage.

Remember Christ loves you, not because of anything you can give to Him, but because of what He can give to you. You cannot help Christ in any way. He loves to bestow favor on you that you do not deserve. He got nothing out of it but helping you. That’s love.

8 – Love is Not Touchy

Love is not easily offended “is not irritable” (verse 5). The idea here is that love is not easily injured or offended. Psalm 119:165 —“Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.” Lit, “In nothing they will be offended”.

Most marriages are in turmoil not because of BIG things, but because of little tiny things that drive us crazy. Those little things that offend us are a sign that we are very self centered. Love is not this way. Love is selfless.

Are you easily offended? Do you go off at little things? Jesus endured a cross because he loved the church. He endured the mocking, the crown of thorns. Do you love your wife. Come what may, when you love like God loves you will not be so easily offended.

9 – the-love-of-godLove Keeps No Record of Wrongs

Love is not resentful. It keeps no record of wrongs suffered (1 Corinthians 13:5). 1 Peter 4:8 — “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” If you have kept a record of wrongs, it means that you are not loving. To forgive means never to bring it up again. It is a true sign of love to forgive as Jesus told us to – seventy times seven! And so it is with God’s love. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12)

10 – Love Doesn’t Hold Grudges or Clam Up

Love does not rejoice in or bring up former wrongdoing. Love does takes no pleasure in iniquity. When our spouse falls into sin, we must grieve with them. When we love someone we cannot rejoice at their sins or the consequences of sin, but we are grieved at them. We want to help them and restore them.

Husbands, consider Galatians 6:1-3–concerning your wife, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Restore your wife.

What we are tempted to do with faults is to store them up and use them in a time of war. Instead of rejoicing in iniquity, seek to help your spouse reconcile. If she asks for forgiveness, forgive her immediately.

What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is not so much about forgetting. We hear the phrase “forgive and forget”. Well, there are some things we have a hard time forgetting. And even though God forgives us, he chooses to put those sins in the sea of His forgetfulness. In other words, to forgive is to choose never to bring up the offence ever again.

This does not mean that we ignore sin. If your wife sins against you, you should deal with the problem. Go after the problem, not the person. Love your wife, and deal with the sin. Consider Matthew 18:15 — “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone”. Then when forgiveness is granted, you never have the right to bring up the offense ever again.

11 – Love Focuses on the Positive

Love rejoices with the truth. The idea is rejoicing in spiritual victories when one is walking in the truth (Gill). It is so important to deal truthfully. There are things in your marriage that you need to work out biblically, but you must be honest and rejoice in truth.

Many arguments begin because of a wrong idea of what your wife is saying. She says something, and you are totally offended because you think the worst. She is offended because you thought something so evil of her. And so the cycle goes. You must deal with your marriage with honesty. Ask your spouse to repeat what was said, then REPEAT it back. Ask her “Is this what you said?” And she’ll say, “No, of course I do not meant that”. Well, what do you mean…etc. If something is wrong in the marriage, you must be careful to establish the truth.

Often bitterness arises in the heart because we do not seek out the truth. Truly, much of what separates people in marriage is not even true! It is imagined faults. Love rejoices in the truth.

12 – Love Listens

Love bears with, or “covers” all things. The idea is that love protects. Paul uses the word “cherish” for this idea in Ephesians 5:28–29 — “ In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church”. Husbands are to cherish their wives.

When you hit your thumb with a hammer, you feel the pain, and you do all you can to relieve it. Do you do that for your wife? Do you know when she is hurting? Do you protect her?

1 Peter 3:7 has this idea of protection, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” Three ways to protect your wife are listed in this verse.

Concern. You are to learn about your wife. Find out what hurts her and protect her from it. Have lots of conversations with her. Get to know her. You are the initiater.

Courtesy. You are to treat your wife as a weaker vessel or a “fragile vase”. This means you show honor. She is a precious treasure.

Care. She is a fragile vase. She is emotionally more sensitive than you for the most part. Protect her! Do not tear her down. You can win the argument and destroy your wife! Don’t do it.

13 – Love Assumes & Thinks the Best

Love believes all things. Love believes the best of people. Remember when you were first courting your wife? You thought she could do no wrong. She had deficiencies then, but back then you thought they were “cute”. You loved her. You thought the best of her.

When things are going great in marriage all the deficiencies of your wife are forgotten, they are covered, but when things are hard, you fill in any blank spaces with further negatives. Focus on the positives of your wife. Give her the benefit of the doubt. Fill in the unknowns with positives.

Never, never, never speak ill of your wife in front of others. Speak about her as if she were there. Constantly rehearse in your mind the things that you are thankful about for her.

14 – Love Hopes for the Best

Love hopes all things. Love hopes for the best. Love fills in the blanks of life with good. It never thinks the worst, but always hopes and expects the best about a person when there is any question.

This could be translated as follows: “Love is always hopeful” or “Love hopes under all circumstances”. Love doesn’t write ”hopeless” over anyone or any circumstances.

This biblical optimism grows out of faith in God, not men. Hope is the joyous anticipation of good to come. This hope in God must be woven into the practical fabric of our lives.

Hope is not anchored in having things your way, thinking you can bargain with or manipulate God to act on what you think is in your best interest.

Hope is attached to God Himself to do what is right, good and best for all and knowing that He will give sufficient grace to handle any situation that His plan has for you. It is hope in Him that He will bring about what is good, right, fair, etc. in every one and all situations.

15 – Love Sticks with Imperfect People

Love “endures all things” (verse 7). Consider the definition of the Greek word (hupomeno 5278) translated endure is a military term used of an army holding a vital position at all costs. This could be translated as follows:

  • “Love is ever patient”
  • “Love endures without limit”
  • “Love gives us power to endure everything”

Battles have been won because a small pocket of men refused to quit and run. It means to remain under – that is to endure or sustain a load of miseries, adversities, persecutions or provocations in faith and patience.

“All things” – every sort of offense, pressure, affliction, difficulty, victory, defeat etc. Love endures! It eliminates attitudes such as:

  • I can’t take it anymore.
  • Things have got to ease up.
  • If things don’t change, I’ll crack.

Your love for God and others, energized by God within you (Phil. 2:13), is the source and strength for endurance. Only theology can change this. Knowing God and His love and care for you. How is your endurance seen in your home? at work? Etc.

Consider some biblical examples of endurance.

Job endured. Job 13:15 Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.

Paul endured. 2 Tim. 2:10 Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

Jesus Christ endured. Heb. 12:2,3 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (3) For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

16 – Love Bears Eternal Fruit

Love never ends or fails (verse 8). Love bears eternal fruit and brings eternal rewards. Love always prospers! May God use this simple study to change your life as you raise your commitment to love God and your wife biblically.


Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church! 1 John 3:16, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” The one closest to us is the one we should lay our life down for.

Marriage is a temporary institution. There is no marriage in heaven. Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. Determine to demonstrate Christ’s love for the church to your wife.


  1. List the attributes of love that you most struggle with.

[1] William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1956), 131.

[2] Ibid., 256.