Editor’s Note: My husband and I had the great opportunity to go to the Focus Press Marriage Retreat this past weekend and wow! was it worth it. I would highly recommend making it a priority to go next year. All the details aren’t set yet, but so far the plan is for it to be about this time (near Valentine’s Day) and in Frisco, TX. This series of articles is inspired by and based on material from David Shannon given during the retreat. One of the focuses of the lessons was Ephesians 5:33 and that’s where this series will focus as well. Fair warning: this is not going to be a balanced series: I’ll be focusing on the women since that’s the audience I write for. 🙂
This verse sums up Paul’s instructions from 5:22 and on. Here the Holy Spirit, through Paul, hits on the number one need each spouse has. She needs him to love her with all he has; he needs her to respect him, give him reverence, and admiration. This can be a difficult task since it’s asking us to understand and give as highest importance that which we may not personally see as highest. While women definitely want to be respected and men assuredly want love, studies conducted by Shaunti Feldhahn show that if it came down to choosing love or respect, the overwhelming number of women would choose love, but it’s the exact opposite for men. Asked if they would rather feel alone and unloved or inadequate and disrespected, 74% of men would choose loneliness over disrespect (Feldhahn as cited by D. Shannon).
Notice what Ephesians 5:22-33 doesn’t say. It doesn’t say anything about the worthiness of the man or the worthiness of the woman. She is to submit and give respect; he is to love as Christ loves the church– based not on who he or she is, but based on Who God is and what He calls His people to do and be. As David Shannon put it, when a wife fails to respect and submit to her husband, she first fails God, then her husband. She is choosing her own way over God’s, choosing not to fit into God’s plan for the family, choosing not to trust Him and His ways. The idea that respect must be earned before it can be given is simply not Biblical.
What about a man who is a tyrant, perhaps even abusive? What is a woman to do in such a situation as this? Should she just stay in the abusive situation? Honestly, I think this is something that must be taken on a case-by-case basis and I’m not willing to give blanket advice except to say she should go to the elders of her congregation or perhaps to the preacher. Fortunately, though, most of us do not find ourselves in such a situation. Many of us are blessed with men who are good and even godly. Some may be married to men who are perhaps less than godly, but certainly do not fall in the abusive tyrant category. One thing is for sure: they will never be godly men if they are not given the opportunity (by you!) to lead as they are called. 1 Peter 3:1, 2 tells us that it may very well start with you. It is interesting to note the repetition of respect (some versions say “fear”) in 1 Peter 3:2 as a duty of the wife that can lead to his conversion.
Over the next few weeks we will be looking at what respect looks like (and what it DOESN’T look like) in a practical way. In the meantime, start by praying daily that you will be the respectful wife God has called you to be and by observing your husband for qualities which are respectable. Note that if you go into this exercise believing there is nothing to find, you are likely to prove yourself right. Start with a prayer and a positive attitude and just see how God blesses you.
“An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.” Proverbs 31:10