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Are Men In Your Church Hearing Their Native Tongue Spoken?

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Imagine with me a guy who is a lifelong fitness nut. He only eats the best of foods, he can run a 5K at the drop of a hat in less than twenty minutes, and he goes to the gym five days a week. Let’s suppose he is also instrumental in helping his girlfriend and future wife lose weight and get into shape, after a lifetime of struggles for her.

But then three years into their marriage, she has put on fifty pounds. Her husband is confused and wonders what happened. She tells him she is no longer interested in going to any of her old favorite group fitness classes because she feels like everyone is looking at her and judging her. Also, her husband’s parents own the gym she had been going to and gave her personal training every day. While he thought this would’ve been inviting for her, she felt as though they were critiquing her every day, in essence trying to get her to be more like their son.

Do you feel for this young wife? She has struggled with weight all of her life, and now she is married to Mr. CrossFit, whose parents own the gym she no longer feels comfortable going to? I would bet we all show empathy toward her and would be slow to defend any husband who decides she is wrong to feel as she does and needs to suck it up and be as strong as he is in the area of health and fitness.

Fortunately, the above scenario is fictional. But unfortunately, it is based on an email I received from a young wife, who wrote:

I brought my husband to Christ several years ago, and now he is not coming to church. We will be married for three years in the spring. We are still really young, and he is still in school. He won’t go to counseling with me because he says all they will do is bash him. Also, my parents teach the young marrieds class at our church.

The young husband and still fairly new Christian no longer comes to church or the young married class his in-laws teach and refuses to go to counseling out of fear of being “bashed.” Swap out new Christian and church for newly in shape and a gym, and we have the same story. But the question is, do you still feel the same kind of empathy for him as you did for the fictional wife?

Perhaps this guy is unteachable and is being unreasonable. We don’t know the full story. Certainly many men for seemingly no good reason have decided to stop taking their families to biblically based churches that had been serving their marriage and family well.

On the other hand, his in-laws teach their Sunday school class. Even if we assume a healthy, fair, and balanced teaching on God’s design for marriage, who wouldn’t feel at least a little awkward sitting in a marriage class being taught by their in-laws?

As well, he claims a counselor will only “bash him.” Is he being unreasonable here? Perhaps not. A male counselor once shared with me: “My efforts in counseling were for the husband to love the wife, but I did not have any understanding to relate to the wife the command of respect to the husband.” He did not have any understanding toward the command of respect! And this was a male counselor!

For years I have said that a woman’s native tongue is love. She speaks love, she hears love, she gives love, she feels love. Every day she wakes up with love at the forefront of her mind. This is how God designed her. It’s what makes her who she is. Love, love, love!


Love is not the man’s native tongue! Never has, never will be. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t need love. Men and women need love equally. But it is not his native tongue. He does not “speak love,” certainly not like a woman does. His language is respect. He feels (or doesn’t feel) respect. He understands respect. He is overwhelmingly concerned with being respected.

As a result, when a church or marriage counselor focuses on love and only love, the wife may be nodding to the point of whiplash, but her husband is like a German in an Ivy League Latin class, never hearing anything spoken in his native language.

Could that have been how this young Christian newlywed felt every time he went to Sunday school or church and the topic was on marriage? Was the focus always on the woman’s native tongue but never his? If so, are you beginning to feel more empathetic toward him? The Christian leaders of this infant Christian were not speaking on his God-designed need for respect. He knew something was missing from what he was learning but he couldn’t pinpoint what, and it frustrated him to the point of wanting to stay away.

It’s easy to excuse the Hollywood culture for making all the love stories they have that bring in billions of dollars every year. And the greeting card industry knows who is buying the cards, and who they're buying them for, and it’s not guys buying cards for other guys. So they, too, will focus on love because that’s how they’ll sell more cards. But when a church or Christian counselor misses the boat on respect, they’re not only doing a disservice to the men before them, they’re disregarding Scripture.

Ephesians 5:33 does not stop at “Each one of you also must love his wife.” That is only half the message. Rather it adds immediately, “. . . and the wife must respect her husband.” First Peter 3:1-2 speaks of how a disobedient husband “may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” How in the world could, in essence, silence win over the heart of a disobedient husband? Because his wife was speaking his language of respect!

Sadly, I believe a big reason that respect for the husband is often looked over by the church is because of how culture has turned the word “submit” into a bit of a taboo, particularly in Ephesians 5:22, where Paul writes, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” But if one were to study Ephesians 5 in depth, they would find that Paul is saying a husband is to “submit” to his wife’s need for love, and a wife is to “submit” to her husband’s need for respect. So just as she needs love (which no one argues), he needs respect in the same way. Why would a church or counselor back down from teaching this beautifully balanced scriptural truth?

Because I have no doubt that those who do dare to teach it would hear testimonies like this one, which I have received plenty of:

After the close [of the Love and Respect Conference] on Saturday, we spent the best afternoon and evening with each other we have had in years. It was like we were in our twenties again and so in love. I can honestly tell you, I never realized how important, how life-giving, respect was to my husband.

This husband, now encouraged beyond imagination, finally heard someone speaking in his native tongue! 

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider

  1. A counselor told Emerson, “My efforts in counseling were for the husband to love the wife, but I did not have any understanding to relate to the wife the command of respect to the husband.” Have you known other counselors and church leaders who could say the same? Why do you think they have missed the command of respect?
  2. How have you noticed your spouse’s native tongue at its loudest? How do you usually respond? How might you begin to respond in a more loving or respectful way?
  3. Do you agree that there is a bit of a taboo or hesitation in parts of the church to expand on scripture’s use of “submit,” in the case of Ephesians 5:22? Why is that?
  4. Is the Love and Respect message being taught in your church in a biblically sound way?