By the time most girls are teenagers, they’ve made at least one rendition of the “What I’m Looking For in a Husband” list, complete with all the non-negotiables…you know, like “6’2” or above and muscly,” “knows how to cook,” “has a job that pays 6 figures,” and “wants 5 kids.”
Those are nice things, but ladies, they are not non-negotiables. In fact, a man may possess none of those qualities and still be godly, honorable, and very much worthy of your time. Don’t write a man off simply because his body and bank account are less than impressive. Instead, evaluate his character. Below, I’m sharing the 3 non-negotiables that would be on my husband list, in hopes that they’ll help you sort out some priorities as you date, court, and prepare for marriage.
** By the way, my fiancé fits the bill! **
HE LOVES GOD MORE THAN HE LOVES YOU
This is key. Before you marry a man, you have to know that he loves the Lord more than he loves you. In the first of the Ten Commandments, God says, “You shall have no other gods before Me…for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:3, 5). This prohibition against “other gods” goes beyond the idols of gold and wood common in the days of the ancient Israelites. It also applies to the idols that so often take precedence in our hearts today – money, love, success, fame. If the man you’re dating loves you more than he loves Christ, he is idolizing you. If he longs for sex (even for sex within marriage, which is a good thing) more than he longs for closer communion for the living God, he is making an idol out of his own desires. Putting anyone or anything before God is sin and you cannot marry a man who consistently and unrepentantly loves you more than he loves God.
I realize that this point may seem insensitive. I mean, you want him to love you, right? Of course. But not before He loves God. Since we got engaged, my fiancé has told me multiple times, “You’re the most important thing to me under heaven.” “Under heaven” is the operative phrase in that statement. To hear that I am the most important thing to him, period, would exalt me to a place I don’t belong and, frankly, put far too much pressure on me and on our relationship. To hear that I’m the most important thing to him under heaven though is a privilege and a joy indeed.
SIN MAKES HIM UNCOMFORTABLE
I’m not saying that he has to be sinless. After all, that’s an impossible task for anyone other than Jesus. However, seeing how comfortable, or uncomfortable for that matter, a man with sin, isn’t a bad way to evaluate his character.
Does he flee from sexual temptation or does he revel in it (1 Corinthians 6:18)? Does he mind his mouth, making an effort to only use wholesome language, or does he speak flippantly, as if his words don’t matter (Ephesians 4:29, James 1:26)? Does he avoid carousing or does he give his body to drunkenness on a regular basis (1 Peter 4:3)?
Sin should make him uncomfortable. When he sins, it should drive him to repentance. When you sin, he should not simply go along with it, but instead address it with you in all gentleness and humility. A man who is comfortable with sin and makes no effort towards his progressive sanctification is not a man to marry. Instead, seek someone who continually lays his sins and shortcomings at the foot of the cross and then rests in the grace that is there.
HE IS DETERMINED TO LOVE YOU AS CHRIST LOVES THE CHURCH
In the fifth chapter of Ephesians, Paul provides an explanation of what marriage is, what it is for, and what it should look like. He says that husbands are to love their wives and that wives are to submit to their husbands in order to display Christ’s relationship with the church (Ephesians 5:22-33). As John Piper puts it, “Marriage exists to display the merciful covenant-keeping love of Christ and the faithfulness of His bride,” and this cannot happen without sacrificial love and submission (This Momentary Marriage).
Nowadays, plenty of women look down their noses at the idea of submission. They think it’s demeaning, unfair, and antiquated. But they don’t understand the beauty of God’s design for marriage. When a husband loves his wife as Christ loves the church, it will be her natural joy to submit to him. A husband who loves his wife as Christ loves the church, will not demean her or disregard her work. Instead, he will remember the reservoir of wisdom that she is. A husband who loves his wife as Christ loves the church will not expect her to cook and clean and do the laundry while he just sits around. Instead, he will cherish her and respect her and work to outdo her in showing honor and affection (Romans 12:10).
If a man is determined to make you his bride, make sure that he is first determined to love you as Christ loves His.
A WORD OF GRACE
When I said that the traits discussed above were non-negotiables, I didn’t mean that a man isn’t worth your interest if he messes up from time to time. No man (apart from Christ) will ever be able to do all 3 of these things all the time. So give him grace and love him well, forgiving him as God, in Christ, has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).