Reviewed by Paul Tautges
Do you ever wish you could start over? I mean really start over? Do you ever feel, as a husband, that you wish you knew then — when you first got married — what you know now? If we are honest with ourselves then surely each of us will admit that we really did not know what we signed up for; we did not know the immense responsibility and privilege of being a husband. But now we know and our hearts’ desire it to become God’s kind of husband. But where do we start? The answer is simple, yet the process is difficult and will require the full surrender of self. The answer is to become like Christ, more accurately, to become the kind of husband that Jesus Christ is to His bride, the church. To aid us on our journey of surrendering to God and learning to love is a new book by Pastor Larry McCall, Loving Your Wife as Christ Loves the Church. It is a book that God is using to lead me to deeper levels of repentance and growth as a husband.
Biblical, Christ-Centered Counseling at its Best
Loving Your Wife as Christ Loves the Church is what true biblical counseling looks like; it is thoroughly Bible-based, Christ-centered, and grace-promoting. As Tedd Tripp writes in the Foreword, “worship is the key to marriage.” Therefore, it is only when we get our heart right before God in who we worship that our marriage becomes a Christ-glorifying, grace-promoting relationship. This is what gives this book its bull’s-eye focus on Christ. And this is what makes it a book that deeply convicts the heart of the husband who knows Christ, but continues to battle — day in and day out — the power of indwelling sin and its self-glorifying, self-pleasing traits.
Structure of the Book
The book is comprised of fourteen chapters and four appendices. Each chapter ends with discussion questions and action steps, which make the book a perfect resource for personal study, one-to-one counseling, and — most valuably — men’s small groups. Each chapter presents the biblical portrait of Christ and how he displays a certain aspect of His love to His bride, followed by practical counsel to us as to what our love should look like in light of Christ’s.
Chapter one presents Christ as the perfect husband. The next twelve chapters then develop the traits of Christ’s love for His bride, the Church. Chapter fourteen encourages us with some final challenges and rewards of becoming a Christlike husband. Finally, the four appendices address the following topics: knowing God, living with an unconverted wife, help for the man in a difficult marriage, and practical counsel for starting a men’s accountability group.
The Perfect Husband
Since not a single married man has had a perfect, earthly example to show us what it means to be a godly husband we all have the same need. Thankfully, Jesus Christ stands before each and every one of us as the perfect example whom we must learn to imitate. Christ is the benchmark for every Christian husband and Ephesians 5:25 is our singular call: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” In light of this, McCall writes, “Christian men in all cultures and in all generations were given the same Model.” Therefore, we are without excuse. None of us can get to the end of our earthly marriage and say that we failed because we did not have a good example. We have the perfect example. Jesus Christ is the one — and only One — we must learn to ultimately emulate. What does His love look like?
A Predetermined Love:
The love of Christ—the perfect husband—is deliberate, unconditional, and persevering. “How many ifs did you say in your wedding vows? That’s right. Zero. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
A Peerless Love:
Christ has a particular love for His bride that is unlike His love for the whole world (John 17). Therefore, our love for our wives means that our ears, eyes, lips, and hands are for her alone. Ultimately, this will only be true if our heart is hers alone (Chapter 4 deals with this in relation to adultery).
A Practical Love:
“Jesus is the only Man whose life perfectly corresponded with the words of His lips. There was never any inconsistency.” Serving our wives with practical love includes load-sharing and active-listening.
A Protecting Love:
Jesus’ protecting love for his bride is explained in the sixth chapter. This chapter was particularly convicting to me, personally. I see so many ways I have failed, out of my own self-interest and naïvete—to protect my wife from harm.
A Purposeful Love:
Christ’s goal is that His bride reflects Him. Our purposeful love must set a godly example, provide biblical instruction, and constantly encourage.
A Providing Love:
Christ’s love nurtures and cares. Ours must do the same by providing financial stability, emotional security, spiritual strengthening, social stimulus, and sexual satisfaction.
A Passionate Love:
Here the author handles the matter of sex and romance in a gracious, honorable manner.
A Praying Love:
Being a Christlike husband means praying for, and with, our wife. Pastor McCall explains the why, what, and how of prayer in marriage. He also explains why praying with our wives can be so difficult and identifies hindrances to overcome. This is a very humbling chapter.
A Purifying Love:
The husband is the wife’s primary discipler. Christ’s cleansing and feeding love is our example of how we are to influence our wives as Christ influences us.
A Pardoning Love:
Christ’s patient, forgiving love is our example. Pastor McCall provides biblical reasons why we must always forgive our wives for their sins against us.
A Persevering Love:
This chapter beautifully defends the permanence of marriage based upon the love of Christ for us, His bride.
Challenges and Rewards
The book concludes by explaining the challenges and rewards of biblical husbanding. Each of us faces the challenge of insufficient resources; however, in God’s love for us in Christ and His provision of the local church, we have the resources we need to become a husband who loves his wife as Christ already does the church.
Loving Your Wife as Christ Loves the Church is a book that I highly recommend. As I have begun reading through it a second time, I am concluding it is the best extra-biblical book on what it means to be a husband that I’ve read. This is not a book filled with a little-bit-of-Bible and a lot of man’s wisdom. Instead, it is deeply rooted in Scripture and applies it to us in a pastoral manner and tone. I am thankful to God for putting Pastor Larry McCall into my life through this book and am hopeful for how He will use its biblical counsel to transform my heart and life. Perhaps you will want to get a copy for yourself or suggest it to your pastor as a future resource in your men’s ministry.
Paul Tautges is senior pastor of Cornerstone Community Church (Cleveland, Ohio), biblical counselor; and review editor for counseling here at Books At a Glance.