What exactly is this thing we call love? We talk about it often. Countless songs have been written about it, everything from "A Crazy Little Thing Called Love" to "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing." The Beatles sang, "All You Need Is Love" and then broke up shortly afterward.

We use this word love so loosely that it is hard to even know what it means. We might say, "I love doughnuts," and then in the same breath say, "I love my wife." Of course, everyone knows that we don't love our wives in the same way that we love doughnuts. So what exactly is love? What does the word even mean?

The love that God wants husbands to have toward their wives, and wives toward their husbands, is more than a mere feeling of attachment or a romantic notion. Rather, it is a radical, life-changing, lifelong pursuit. It is a commitment. We must learn how to love, and it doesn't happen overnight.

Do you remember when you first fell in love? Maybe it was elementary school. (I was constantly falling in love with girls who didn't know that I existed.) Do you remember when you first fell in love with your wife? There was that excitement, that physical attraction to her.

But we need to mature in our love. You can't build a marriage on the initial attraction that brought you together. You must go beyond that and learn there is more to love than mere emotions. You can experience a love that will last a lifetime if you will learn to apply certain biblical principles.

In Ephesians 5:25–33, husbands are instructed three times in eight verses to love their wives. How? They are to love them as Christ loved the church.

Yes, it is a tall order. But there is no way around it. Show me a marriage that is falling apart, and in almost every case, there is a husband who failed to love his wife as he ought. I am not suggesting that if every husband loved his wife perfectly, there never would be another divorce. But there would be a whole lot less.

Husbands, if you would begin to apply this biblical principle, it could transform your marriage. Some husbands might say, "What about her? She is supposed to submit." Don't concern yourself with that. Instead, focus on what God has called you to do. I am not letting wives off the hook. But if you, as a husband, will do your part, then in most cases, your wife will do hers.

Consider this: Why are you a Christian today? Why have you put your faith in Jesus?

It's because He loves you unconditionally. He accepted you as you were and began to transform and change you. It was that love that wore down your rebellion and resistance. The Bible says, "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). Your submission to Christ today is a result of His love toward you, because you have come to see that His plans for you are good. You have come to see that even if God tells you to do something you don't want to do, it is always for your benefit. You surrender to Him. It is difficult at times, but you do it. His love won you over.

In the same way, if your wife can be confident that you have her best interests at heart, if she can see that you love her so deeply and so much that you are looking out for her welfare, then it will be far easier for her to submit to you as you love her as Christ loves the church.

You might be thinking, Who can live up to a love like this? No one can, in his own strength, that is. But the Bible says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).

It was God's goodness and God's kindness that won us over in the first place. As we demonstrate that love toward our wives, the same can take place.