The Bible tells how Christ loved the church and sacrificed himself to sanctify it, making it pure and holy. Husbands should emulate that by loving their wives as they love themselves, to nourish and tenderly care for it. Over at Sigma Frame, Jack muses about the nature of marital sanctification and how to achieve it.
“I have identified certain elements, such as giving women attention, women’s need for attention, bonding, Csíkszentmihályi Flow, desire, ego, feedback loops, headship authority, humility, incentives / motivation, sexual authority, and trust, but how these factors interact to produce attraction and sanctification is still unclear.”
How can various tactics and strategies guide one towards a sanctified marriage?
Sanctification is making something sacred or holy. Strongs defines it as “to make holy, consecrate, sanctify”, all synonyms for the same thing. Sanctification is making holy, pure, and without blemish: an offering or sacrifice to God. The very purpose of sacrifice is sanctification. Hebrews 10:10 says we are sanctified by the sacrifice of Jesus’ body. As Ephesians 5 notes, the way to sanctify one’s wife or family must be through love and sacrifice to God.
Jesus loved the Church. He loved the church, the congregation of believers. In Hebrew culture, the first rite of marriage was the father choosing the bride for his son. What followed was a marriage proposal and an offer of a bride price, a marriage contract and payment of the bride price, a set of binding rituals (shared cup, baptism), a betrothal period for a time, the groom returning to sweep away his bride, a marriage feast, and then finally taking her home.
The church is the body of believers. It is not made up of unbelievers. A person who does not believe cannot be the recipient of God’s love and sacrifice. They cannot be sanctified. The bride price has been rejected and no marriage will take place. But once the payment has been accepted and the contract signed, the bride no longer has any say in the matter. So too in marriage:
I command that the wife not depart from her husband, and that the husband not leave his wife. If any brother has an unbelieving wife, and she is content to live with him, let him not leave her. And the woman that has an unbelieving husband, and he is content to live with her, let her not leave her husband. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified because of the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified because of the husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are sanctified. Yet if the unbeliever departs, let him depart, the husband or the wife is not bound in such cases, but God has called us in peace. For how do you know, wife, if you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, if you will save your wife?
A husband sanctifies his wife by being Christ-like: loving and sacrificial. Even if she were an unfaithful prostitute, the bride price has—literally and figuratively—already been paid and there is no going back. And so it does not matter if a wife does not explicitly wish to be sanctified. Her assent to stay in the marriage is enough. The husband needs to remain blameless and pure, loving his unbelieving wife, in hopes that one day too she will embrace faithfulness to God and be saved.
Any strategy or technique designed to lead to marital sanctification must focus on personal holiness through love and sacrifice, to model Christ-likeness within marriage. It doesn’t mean she will embrace it. A husband’s duty to sanctify his wife—whatever means is chosen—is not predicated on her obedience, even though that is the goal.