“So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” – Ephesians 5:33
Men and women are completely equal in a marriage, but God created us with different sets of needs. He designed marriage to allow a husband and wife to meet each other’s needs. Husbands are instructed to love their wives as they love themselves. You might think that wives are instructed to love their husbands, but if you read the Bible from cover to cover, you will never find a command that says, “Wives, love your husbands!” It is implied: for example, Titus 2: 4 says, “These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children…” So, of course, wives are supposed to love their husbands although you will not find the exhortation “love your husbands” in the Bible.
What you will find over and over in Scripture, is this command: “Wives, respect your husband.” These verses tell us that that the number one need of a husband is respect. And when the husband senses respect from his wife, he will believe he is loved as well. Paul doesn’t say, “respect your husband the same way your friends respect their husbands.” He doesn’t even say, “respect your husband like your mother respected your father.” He doesn’t qualify it at all. Respect your husband, period. That’s the standard the Bible gives to women.
Wives are called to submit to their husbands, husbands are called to love their wives and both are called to love and submit to God. These roles cannot be supported if there is no respect. Respect is basically the acknowledgment of each other’s roles, personalities and qualities and holding it in high regard. A husband plays his role better when respected but so do wives. If we don’t respect our spouse, we not only affect our spouse’s role, but our roles as well.
Respect does not exist without love and love will always give birth to respect. As we learn to love our spouse more and more without condition or premise, we will naturally see more respect grow out of it. Love spurs us to deny ourselves, accommodate the needs of others, put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, etc. Respect means to esteem, to regard, to value, to look up to, to admire, to heed, to notice, to consider, to recognize, to defer to, to honor, and to be kind to. The bottom line is that love and respect come down to choosing to esteem someone and their God-given role, even when it’s demanding, challenging and requires us to get uncomfortable.
Respect brings about change. There is no doubt that there are people reading this devotional and thinking that the author has obviously never met my husband. He does things that eliminate any notion of respect. That may well be true. But just as the unconditional love of Christ can change us, so can the unconditional respect that we give to our spouse change them. There are many times when it’s not easy for a wife to give her husband respect. It takes lots of patience and prayers to let God take control of you and make you able to make wise choices when it comes to respecting your husband. Much of marriage was meant to be unconditional in the same way God is unconditional about many things in our relationship with Him.
- How do you go about loving your wife as Christ loved the church?
- What can you do this week to forgive your spouse, love him or her first, and cooperating with God in your marriage this week?