Ephesians 5:21 – 33 “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
I know you’ve all been waiting with baited breath, wondering how I will address this passage. I am not a theologian, nor am I a marriage counselor. I am, however, a married person. And after nearly seventeen years of marriage, I have learned a thing or two that I wish I had known at the beginning of our marriage. It sure would have saved a lot of grief!
In verse 21, Paul told us all to submit to one another. So when he tells wives to submit to their husbands, he isn’t saying that husbands aren’t supposed to ever submit to their wives! And when he says that husbands are to love their wives, he isn’t implying that wives don’t have to love their husbands.
Instead, I believe Paul is giving us important insight into the differing natures of men and women. Of course we both need respect. Of course we both need to be loved. But there are subtle differences in our make-up that cause us to need these two things a little differently.
Men want, need, crave respect. Yes, they want to be loved as well, but they really, really need to feel powerful. If they feel hen-pecked, or put down, or disrespected in some way, it does something to their spirits. It causes them to be defensive, and it makes them feel like less of a man. This doesn’t mean, necessarily, that they think they are better than women. This is just a part of their DNA or something. It is in the way they are wired. They need respect.
Women, on the other hand, really, really need to feel loved. We need respect as well, but we can usually handle being second-in-command, as long as we feel loved and cherished. Having to answer to someone else doesn’t usually affect our spirits or our femininity. But feeling like our husbands don’t care about us . . . now that will break our hearts.
There is an interesting, beautiful thing about this bit of insight. When one person gives the other person what they need, it will often trigger a desired response! For example, when I treat my husband with honor and respect, when I smile that goofy love-struck smile at him and light up when he walks into a room, when I make him feel that he is the most important man that exists on this earth, then he naturally feels more loving toward me. But when I disapprove of him and nag him and put him down, well, he responds with annoyance and anger.
In the same way, when my husband showers me with words of praise and appreciation, when he makes sure I have gas in my car and brings me fresh flowers, I am more likely to light up and make him feel like he is the most macho, manly, brilliant man that has ever walked the earth. (Next to our Lord, of course.) When he treats me with love, I am more likely to treat him with respect, and vice versa.
When we treat each other this way, it paints a beautiful picture of Christ and the church. Christ loves the church with his very life. He put all of his feelings and desires aside, so that she could be saved. The church, in response, is to fall at His feet and worship Him.
When we model our marriages after this pattern, the results are remarkable. But our pride often keeps us from making the first move. We wives wait for our husbands to show love before we offer them respect. Husbands wait for their wives to respect them before they act in a loving way. But somebody has to break the cycle! I encourage you today, wives, to try to really, really respect your husbands for one month. Make him feel like he is the smartest, most wonderful man in the world, and see what happens! Husbands, try to be really, really loving toward your wives for one month. While there is no miraculous pill that can heal a hurting marriage, this formula is pretty close. You just might be surprised at the miracles that show up in your relationships, all because of a little love and respect!
Dear Father, Please help me to selflessly love and respect my spouse, and everyone in my life. I want to honor You in my relationships.
Note: God does not approve of any kind of physical abuse. If you are being physically abused, then your spouse needs help. He/she cannot get that help as long as you are available as a punching bag. If you feel you are in danger, please get out of the situation so that both you and your spouse can receive the kind of help that you need.