Why Must Husbands Love and Wives Respect? [Video]
“Emerson, why do you teach that a husband must love his wife and a wife must respect her husband? Don’t we all need love and respect equally? After all, women need respect and men need love.” I agree that we all need love and respect equally.
But our research reveals that during conflict 83% of the husbands feel disrespected during marital squabbles and 72% of the wives feel unloved. For any number of reasons, men and women are different, and the beautiful thing is that God recognized that in Ephesians 5:33 where he commands husbands to love and wives to respect.
What is Ephesians 5:33? For those who are unfamiliar, this is a verse in the Bible. In fact, most view chapter 5 in Ephesians as the greatest treatise on marriage in the Bible.
The Apostle Paul authored this epistle. He wrote this letter on parchment as a prisoner in Rome. He was addressing a group of Christ followers at Ephesus, in present day Turkey. Though he penned this treatise around 60 A.D., the truths remain timeless.
He summarizes his exposition on marriage in verse 33 of chapter 5. There he encapsulates what the Lord revealed to him as an imperative: a husband must love his wife and a wife must respect her husband.
GOD’S LAST WORD ON MARRIAGE
I assert Ephesians 5:33 captures Abba Father’s last word to the church on marriage. Not last in chronology but ultimate in significance.
Let’s say my dad lay on his bed dying. Calling me into the room, he whispers in my ear, “Son, I need to tell you something. Please hear me.” When my dad opens his mouth next, I will glue my ears to every word he speaks. The last words of a dying man embody the most noteworthy words ever spoken by him.
Abba Father is not dying but whispers to us in Ephesians 5:33 his last words to the church on marriage. In effect He declares, “Church, come close. Listen to me. When a husband loves and a wife respects everything will be ok in their marriage. When they do not, things will not be ok."
GOD COMMANDS ONLY HUSBANDS TO AGAPE-LOVE
As I studied the Scriptures 30 hours a week for nearly 20 years as a pastor-teacher, what I found fascinating is that God commands only the husbands in the domestic portions of the Bible to agape-love their wives. God does not command wives to agape-love their husbands.
What I unearthed revolutionized my thinking.
Three Greek words represent marital love: agape, phileo, and eros. Agape-love stands for the unconditional God-like love. Phileo personifies brotherly love or friendship love. Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, derives from phileo. Eros embodies what we recognize as the erotic component of marital love. Husbands and wives express love unconditionally, as best of friends, and sexually.
WHY GOD DOES NOT COMMAND WIVES TO AGAPE-LOVE
One day I prayed, “Lord, why have you commanded me to agape-love Sarah but there is no such command to Sarah to agape-love me?”
I heard the Lord’s inaudible voice. “I put it within the nature of a woman to nurture. A woman loves to love at the level of intimacy. Only if emotionally crushed and wounded will she pull back from such closeness. Thus, I’m not going to command her to do what I created her to do because I’m not into redundancy.”
I was blown away by this insight. I began to watch and listen to women.
LOVE RESIDES WITHIN HER NATURE
I eavesdropped. I noticed that women never stop expressing love. Utterances of love exude from every pore of their bodies. For example, when seeing the kids off to school those words of love flow from a mother's heart like spring water flows from a deep well. “Love you. Have a wonderful day.” Later she calls her mom and closes the conversation with “I love you Mom, bye.” In writing a note to her BFF, she signs off with, “Love.”
She thinks relationally and she thinks of love.
When a little girl learns to write, she pens love notes. She learns quickly the two major icons symbolizing her love: XOXO’s and red hearts. She adds, “Hugs and Kisses."
God designed a mother as the safe haven for all who need love. Children are instructed, “If ever lost in an amusement park, go to a mother with three kids and tell her you cannot find your mommy. She will help you. Don’t go to a man in a uniform because he might not be safe.”
The only secure port in a storm is a mommy with three kids hanging on her. She is the epitome of love. She is God’s gift to humanity. She is the only predictable island of virtue.
GUARD AGAINST A CONDESCENDING PRIDE
But I need to insert for every woman reading this, “Do not take credit for this as though you are better than your husband for being more loving, and then judging him with contempt as less loving than he ought to be. God made you this way to no large credit to you. Be grateful and humble. God also allowed your husband to struggle to love in ways that you do not.”
EMERSON COMPARED TO SARAH
As for Sarah and me, I don’t love by nature like Sarah does. If I did, then God’s command in Ephesians 5:33 to me to love is unnecessary. I may as well cut it out of my Bible. I don’t need God to tell me what to do since I will do it on my own.
However, God puts me under divine command because I do not love by nature in the same way that Sarah does. I love less naturally. Truth is, left to myself I can be quite unloving at the level of intimacy.
Is Sarah a perfect lover and I am always unloving by nature? No. But generally speaking, I am less loving than she is in the marriage. In God’s wisdom He chose for me to fill the gap by obeying His command.
What about wives, do they have no vulnerabilities?
TITUS 2:4 AND PHILEO
Though God does not command a wife to agape-love, He instructs her to phileo. In Titus 2:4 the older women are to “encourage the young women to love (phileo) their husbands, to love (phileo) their children."
She needs the older women to encourage her to be less negative and friendlier in the home. She gives and gives until exhausted at which time she readily declares, “I love my family but I don’t like anybody right now."
Say to the kids, “Does your mommy love you?”
“Oh, yeah, she loves us a lot.”
“Does she like you?”
“No, we’ve been bad.”
Say to the husband, “Does your wife love you?"
“Does she like you?”
“Nope, not today.”
Everyone knows mom loves them with agape-love but sometimes feel she doesn’t like them. She appears unfriendly, negative, and mad; thus she needs an older wise woman to encourage her to be friendlier.
GOD COMMANDS A WIFE TO RESPECT
In Ephesians 5:33 God commands a wife to put on respect. Why?
When feeling unloved, she naturally reacts in ways that feel disrespectful (and unfriendly) to her husband. The command protects her against this proclivity in her DNA, just as the command to love protects the husband against his tendency to be unloving when feeling disrespected.
Admittedly, most wives tell me that they have little idea what respect looks like. Such a notion escapes them. When they do come up with a definition, like admiring him or praising him, it seems contrived and unnatural, and even repulsive. They are not mean-spirited about it, they just feel the whole idea is counterintuitive and counter-cultural and therefore is marginal if not wrong.
When I ask, “Do you know how to be disrespectful?” most women answer, “Oh, yes. I can be disrespectful without much effort. After all, when he fails to be as loving as me, I feel no respect for him and feel free to be disrespectful to motivate him to be more loving.”
Here we have a clue. As a husband can be unloving by nature, a wife can be disrespectful by nature. God’s command in Ephesians 5:33 when obeyed protects them from this sinful reaction. Just as no wife is motivated by a husband’s unloving reaction, no husband is motivated by a wife’s disrespectful reaction.
GOD DOES NOT COMMAND A HUSBAND IN THE SAME WAY
Interestingly, God does not command a husband to apply this same Greek word for respect (phobeo). God won’t command him to do what He created the man to do. Most every man lives by the honor code. It is in his nature.
Men are lethal, so we guard against “dissing” another man. We know that if we “diss" a man in a certain part of a city on a street corner late at night, that fellow might slit your throat. Thus, we don’t violate the honor code. We do not dishonor another man unless we’re prepared to fight and die.
So then, it is very natural for me to be respectful but unloving when I feel disrespected and it’s very natural for Sarah to be loving but disrespectful when she feels unloved.
WHY ELSE THE COMMAND?
Sarah needs my love. She has this love tank connected by an air hose and she needs to breathe in my love like she breathes in air. When I stand on her air hose she deflates.
The issue is no longer the issue! The issue is I’m standing on her air hose. Like the time she swallowed my contact lens because I put it in a juice glass when I forgot my contact case. In the night, she took a pill and used that juice glass. Getting angry at her the next day for drinking my contact, she deflated because at a certain point she felt unloved.
On the other side of the equation, I have a respect tank. I need to breathe in respect from her. I don’t want her to respect bad behavior, but communicate respectfully toward my spirit when confronting my unrespectable actions.
No husband feels fond feelings of love and affection toward a wife he thinks despises who he is as a human being.
When Sarah stands on my air hose, I deflate. When I deflate, the issue is no longer the issue!
Like the time Sarah gifted me with a jean jacket she made by hand and I said “Thank you.” But she said I was not thankful because I did not repeat “Thank you” many times like she would. I felt like she was saying that I lied to her! I felt disrespected, and it was no longer about the jean jacket.
By the way, I didn’t call into question that she loved me. I knew she loved me.
Many wives exclaim, “But I tell him repeatedly that I love him so why does he feel disrespected?”
Because love and respect are different. Many husbands know their wives love them but do not feel their wives like or respect them.
Why does Ephesians 5:33 command husbands to love and wives to respect? A wife has a need for love and a husband has a need for respect. But, though a husband naturally respects, living by the honor code, he does not naturally love when feeling disrespected. And, though a wife naturally loves due to her nurturing nature, she does not naturally respect when feeling unloved.
God knew these things and thus commanded husbands to love and wives to respect to make sure we met the other’s need and did not act according to our sinful nature.
"Thank you Lord!"