*This is the first post in a series from A Guide to Biblical Manhood.

Even the least observant men among us know that they should love their wives. That’s clear in the passages included here from the writings of Peter and Paul. But, when you look at the context of their writing, you see that there’s a particular way men are to love their wives.

Men are to lead in love.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior” (Eph. 5:22-23). Far from saying that authority and submission are a bad thing in marriage, Paul is saying that they’re supposed to be there and it’s supposed to picture Christ in the church, but he goes on to explain that it’s to be done in a particular way.

He writes, “In the same way husbands should love their 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 Christ does the church, because we are members of his body” (Eph. 5:28-30)

Related: Download the Free PDF of A Guide to Biblical Manhood by Randy Stinson & Dan Dumas

So there’s a picture of the Gospel here — a particular way to lead in love. You’re supposed to do it as if it were second nature, just like how you care for your own body. It’s very natural for you to drink something when you get thirsty or to eat something when you get hungry or to go to the doctor if you get sick or injured. Nobody gives you an award for that. That’s just how you treat your own body. Now that you’re “one flesh” with your wife in marriage, you’re to lead in such a way as if you were naturally caring for your own body.

Later, Paul writes to the Colossians, “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Col. 3:19). Now, why would he say that? Maybe he’s anticipating under the influence of the Holy Spirit that in a fallen world, there may be certain sinful tendencies a man might have to be harsh with his wife instead of being gentle like he should. It’s the same reason that Paul warns us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think (Romans 12:3). Why? Because we tend to do that.

When the apostle Peter writes about marriage he says, “husbands live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as a weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7a). Why would Peter need to remind husbands that their wives are heirs with them — that they are equal to them? Because, in a fallen world, people who are given authority sometimes believe that they are better than the people they’re leading. In a marriage, a man in his sinfulness can be deluded into thinking that because he’s the leader, he’s better. And so Peter reminds husbands to treat their wives as equals.

Related: Raising future men and women

When Adam saw Eve for the first time, he said, “this is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh” — he was saying, you’re equal to me, you’re the same substance as me. In Galatians 3;28, Paul helps us understand our equality in Christ: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Paul isn’t saying, “in Christ you lose your ethnicity, your job status or your gender,” but he is saying that those things don’t give you additional status with God — it’s Christ alone.

God gives us authority and leadership as men, but it’s not to be used for our own self-aggrandizement; it’s to be used for the good of those we’re serving. That’s why we call it servant leadership and sacrificial leadership. It should be to the point of your own self-neglect; for the good of those you’re leading.

So what does it look like to daily lead in love? Much could be offered here, but we want to focus on five practical ways that men should lead their marriages in love.

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A Guide to Biblical Manhood

By Randy Stinson & Dan Dumas

How to serve your wife, how to mold men through baseball, how to make men in the church and more practical theology for cultivating men of God who are doers of the Word for the sake of the Gospel.

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Randy Stinson serves as Senior vice president for academic administration and provost. He is also associate professor of leadership and family ministry. You can follow Dr. Stinson on Twitter at @RandyStinson.

Dan Dumas is senior vice president for institutional administration at Southern Seminary. He is a church planter and pastor-teacher at Crossing Church in Louisville, Ky. You can connect with him on Twitter at @DanDumas, on Facebook or at DanDumas.com.