Almost everyone is familiar with The Proverbs 31 Woman – but what’s the male equivalent? In all my years of churchgoing, I can’t say I’ve ever heard men encouraged to embody a specific passage in the way women are. Yes, the Proverbs 31 characteristics are also applicable to men; however, when you’re selecting a potential spouse there are extra considerations…
“This mystery [of two becoming one] is great; but I am speaking with reference to [the relationship of] Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:32, AMP)
From height and build, to facial hair and accent – I’m sure there are numerous external factors that contribute to your vision of an ideal man. However, attraction can’t compensate for someone that is lacking the internal characteristics below. Although Ephesians 5 refers to marriage, these qualities definitely need to be present from courtship.
1. Is he someone you can submit to?
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Saviour of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” (v22-24, NKJV)
If you consider yourself to be a strong, independent woman, the idea of submission might sound archaic and/or unappealing. However, biblical submission was never intended to be oppressive; he’s your husband, not your boss. Nevertheless, it is your job to ascertain whether he is someone that you can submit to. In essence, is he a biblical leader? Would you trust his leadership? Paul qualifies the remit of his statement by adding that your submission should be “as to the Lord.” In other words, if he’s leading you in a sinful direction then you’re not obliged to follow him.
Spiritual headship is not a position to be taken lightly.
Unsurprisingly, strong spiritual leadership is the product of an active spiritual life. He has to be someone that invests time in spiritual growth; more importantly, he needs to apply what he learns. If he doesn’t know* Christ personally then he can’t possibly exemplify godly leadership. If you’re constantly having to encourage him to engage in spiritual things, or you sense you’re spiritually incompatible**, then that may make it difficult to submit to him. Whilst your significant other will never replace Christ, his commitment to honouring Him will elevate the atmosphere in your future home.
*Intercourse With God highlights the difference between knowing God and really knowing Him.
**When Reality Hits talks about the dangers of unequal yoking.
2. Does he have a sacrificial nature?
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (v25-27, NKJV)
I can’t emphasise “just as” enough! For him to love you the way that Christ loved the church is a tall order; in fact, it might even tempt you to make excuses for all the times he falls short. Don’t. Paul didn’t mince his words. If he looks the part, but doesn’t treat you well, then he’s NOT the person for you. Christ gave you His life – such was the extent of His sacrificial nature. Yet you’re entertaining men who can’t even give you faithfulness or honesty? A man who understands the quality of love that is due to you will be conscious about demonstrating it at all times.
Saying he loves you is easy. Putting his love in action is the challenging part.
Christ lived every aspect of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. If your significant other is happily ignoring one or more of those areas then he isn’t loving you the way you deserve. Unfortunately, if you’re not holding him accountable to that passage then you’re allowing him to treat you badly. A man who isn’t willing to genuinely put you first will always find reasons to justify his actions. Remind him that it’s impossible to love comfortably: Jesus’ love cost Him His life. Therefore, your significant other should be willing to endure the uncomfortable aspects of loving you. Whether it’s adjusting to your main love language* even though he doesn’t enjoy it, or respecting how you like things done even though it doesn’t matter to him**.
*Personality vs Love Languages talks about the importance of communicating in each other’s love language.
**She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes By The Sink is a HuffPost article written by a man who I would say finally grasped the importance of sacrifice in the small things, but by then it had cost him his marriage.
3. Does he nourish and cherish you?
“So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” (v28-29, NKJV)
For him to nourish and cherish himself is expected. Nothing groundbreaking. However, for him to express as much care to you as he does to himself is special. The Bible is clear that you should love your neighbour as your self (Mathew 22:39) and that cannot you demonstrate true love without knowing God (1 John 4:8). In courtship, you should be his closest ‘neighbour.’ However, marriage makes you even closer: you become one flesh. At this point, the beautiful thing about him loving you is that he’s loving himself. Caring for you as himself should be a given in marriage, but it’s a skill learned in courtship.
Nourishing and cherishing requires selflessness.
To truly nourish and cherish you, not only does he have to be attentive towards what you say (meeting needs), but also perceptive about what you don’t say (anticipating needs)*. It’s very easy for a man to be selfish in ensuring his own needs are met whilst neglecting yours. Alternatively, he may care for you, but to a lesser extent than he would himself. In either case he’s failing to love you “as the Lord does the church.” Jesus consistently prioritised the needs of the church, thus, He was able to meet and anticipate its needs. A man that finds it cumbersome to consider your needs as much as his own lacks the selflessness required to be a Christ-like husband.
* Try not to make him do too much mind reading though.
- Reciprocate his ‘Ephesians 5-ness’ – the portions of Ephesians 5 I’ve focused on refer to what is required of the man. BUT… I must stress that you can’t expect him to be a spiritual leader, love you sacrificially, and nourish and care for you if you’re failing to do your part! Love is give and take.
- Take time to invest in friendships – don’t jump into courtships prematurely. You’ll see evidence of a lot of these characteristics (or lack thereof) before committing to a relationship.
- Encourage your male friends to study this passage – not for the sake of preparing them to be future bae, but simply because they need to know/be reminded of what is expected of them.
A relationship is deeper than just being with your #MCM. The Bible is clear on the characteristics of the guy you should be with and a man that is aware of the weight of his responsibility will conduct himself accordingly. Don’t settle for less.