So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.Ephesians 5:28-30 (KJV)
Many Christians look to scripture for dating advice. However, dating wasn’t around in the ancient world or most of the world for that matter until the 1920s.
Nevertheless, while believers don’t have access to advice specific to dating in the Bible, God’s word contains a plethora of content pertaining to Christian marriage and relationships.
Moreover, since the end goal of dating is marriage then it follows that Christian couples can safely look to God’s words on marriage to help guide them through the dating journey. “Jesus Christ is to be the center of the Christian couple’s relationship.”
For instance, the three verses above come out of Paul’s famous passage in Ephesians where he teaches about Christian marriage and its parallels to God’s relationship with his church (or his bride).
Paul’s main point throughout the passage is that Jesus Christ is to be the center of the Christian couple’s relationship.
Therefore Jesus is the reason why Christian men and woman are to act in certain ways toward each other. They do so out of not just a love for each other, but for Jesus’ commands – to glorify and honor him.
Not just because “God says so” but because they love God and desire to follow him and let him work in their lives. (Phil. 2:13)
Wives are to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord. (Eph. 5:22) Men are to nourish and cherish their wives as the Lord does to his church. (Eph. 5:29)
These are just a few examples of the centrality of Jesus within Christian marriage – none are man-made constructs that change with the wind, but God ordained instructions that are the best plan for men and women.
Passion, romance, desire, companionship, tradition, customs – none are necessarily wrong at face value. Nevertheless, for Christians, when it comes to what compels a relationship forward, these are secondary motivators.
The world would often say otherwise, but Christian men and women, in marriage and in dating, are to be concerned first and foremost with acting and treating each other how Jesus would act and according to what he wants from and for them.
At another level Jesus is the center of marriage and dating relationships because marriage, men and women are all good gifts from God. (Gen. 2:18, Prov. 18:22, James 1:17)
In fact, Eve, the first woman, was brought to Adam, the first man, by God after he created her. Both are gifts for each other. (Gen. 2:22) And yet the centrality of Jesus in relationships is not just relegated to cosmic implications.
Yes, Jesus stands at the center of our desire to be married and to seek a companion, but he also stands as the motivating factor for how we are to act and treat each other on a daily basis.“Passion, romance, desire, companionship, tradition, customs – none are necessarily wrong at face value. Nevertheless, for Christians, when it comes to what compels a relationship forward, these are secondary motivators.”
For example, take the words “nourisheth” and “cherisheth.” These, which apply to men in the case of verse 29, inform a wide range of actions that a man is to take towards and for his wife or girlfriend.
In the Geek “nourisheth” means to bring up, and to promote health and strength.
Bring up implies a process, and it parallels with how God sanctifies his church. (Eph. 5:26)
A man must nourish his wife daily. Think about it, if you water a flower every other day it won’t grow strong, and it won’t be healthy, but a flower that is nourished every day will grow and flourish. The best in her will only be brought out through consistent love.
A man must regularly nourish the woman God has gifted him. Paying attention to her; treating her with gentleness – not with harsh words or put downs but with respect and reserve. This is daily nourishment in action.
Conversely, if you do not nourish something it withers and decays. A man who does not strengthen his wife or girlfriend with kind words weakens her confidence in him, God and herself.
A man who does not treat her with a Christ-like example stunts her growth. The man who is not attuned to her causes her to whither. In the end, male apathy to a woman’s needs can disintegrate a relationship.
Moreover, something that is not nourished can become sick which is the opposite of healthy. He is not to denigrate her, or do anything to promote unhealthiness or make her sick.
A similar theme runs in the meaning of the word “cherisheth.” In the Greek to cherish means to care for, and to comfort and impart warmth.“Men must take responsibility to sanctify their wives – to nourish and cherish them.”
Caring for her can manifest itself in innumerable ways. In each however there will remain a decided effort to make her feel at ease, loved, accepted, comfortable and content like the treasure she is.
A treasure knows it is valued. It sits perched around the protective environs of a museum where it can sit safely, comfortable and be admired by others for its value.
Paul also says that a man will nourish and cherish his wife because she is part of his own flesh. (Gen. 2:24) He goes one step further as well and states that the man’s nourishing and cherishing of his wife is similar to how the Lord nourishes and cherishes the church of which all Christians are members. (Eph. 5:30)
Those are high standards. They are the why behind how a Christian man is to treat the woman God has given him.
A woman who is daily nourished finds herself secure. A woman who is daily cherished will be comfortable.
Ultimately, the woman who has a man who follows such commands as her companion will find submission easy, and that’s the whole point. God’s system and complementary roles for men and women works.
Men must take responsibility to sanctify their wives – to nourish and cherish them.
Soli Deo gloria!
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Portrait of a Couple, Probably Isaac Abrahamsz Massa and Beatrix van der Laen by Frans Hals, c. 1622. The Rijksmuseum. SK-A-133.