“Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33, NASB95)
Many years ago I was introduced to a couple that had begun a unique ministry to husbands and wives that was (and still is) having a dramatic impact on their marriages. This verse, Ephesians 5:33, serves as a banner over their ministry and its words were the insight that ignited it. They are the simple principles of “love” and “respect.” Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs and their Love and Respect program so impressed me that it became a standard part of my premarital and marriage counseling, and I continue to be amazed as to how these two simple principles put in practice can so powerfully turn things around in the home.
As Dr. Eggerichs explains, it is not that women don’t need respect and men don’t need to be loved, but that men tend to be weakest in loving their spouses and women tend to be weakest in respecting their husbands. What Paul does here is to speak not to an exclusive action, but to weakness and need. Women tend to be very relational and love oriented. Things are interconnected and an issue in one area has ties in others. Men, on the other hand, tend to be more singularly focused and work/success oriented. Men go to work to get things done and they go to battle to win.
Recognizing these general differences, women are instructed to respect their husbands for who they are to encourage in what they do. Men, on the other hand, are instructed to express and demonstrate their love for their wives in various and meaningful ways. As he moves through the multi-session seminar, Emerson unpacks many facets of these relational differences and shows couples how to move away from the crazy cycle where the husband may do or say an unloving thing toward his wife and the wife responds with a cutting or disrespectful word or act toward her husband. This is a cycle that can continue to spin unless it is stopped by one or the other, without regard to who started it. The answer, then, is to reverse the cycle and getting it spinning in a proper direction which can be built upon and the marriage strengthened. Moving from the crazy cycle, he shows couples how to reverse the direction to an energizing cycle and then advance it into one he calls the rewarded cycle.
At the core of this is how the couples view at treat one another. In this sense, while Paul may have been speaking about Christ and His church, Paul makes it clear that the principles apply to husband and wives. These truths are for married couples, and they are essential to a Christ-honoring and couple-enriched marriage.
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:22–24, NASB95) In Ephesians 5:22-24 Paul started off with the instruction that wives are to submit to their husbands as the heads of the home just as the church is to Christ. Coming to the end of the passage we can clearly see how this willing act of submission of the wife demonstrates respect for her husband. As the one given by God to have that role in the home and the one who is generally wired by God to function in a work-success world, the wife is to respect her husband just as she does Christ. It won’t always be easy, and the husband will even be wrong at times giving rise to question, but it is God’s way and the wife is to respectfully speak into and navigate their relationship such that she continually builds into her husband as the one given for that role.
“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” … “but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” (1 Peter 3:1-2, 4, NASB95)
Following this Paul instructs husbands to love their wives as Christ loved His church, giving Himself for her. He expands on this by instructing husbands to nourish and cherish them. This we read in Ephesians 5:25-29, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,” (Ephesians 5:25–29, NASB95)
This description of love is one in which the husband gives everything for the betterment of his wife. It is one where the husband recognizes the oneness that he has with his wife in marriage, and he treats her with all of the love that comes with it. He pays attention to her heart, and he tends to her needs. He cares about her best, and he does what he can to see her achieve it. It is not controlling her life, but working to help her flourish and grow. It is one that stays close when things are tough and even learns to hug. It is one that learns to listen and realize that not everything has to be fixed.
Going back to Emerson and Sarah’s seminar there are so many other examples of the energized and rewarded marriage. But all of them from the side of the husband point to the husband being one who treats his wife in loving ways for maximum benefit, and where the wife respects her husband letting him know that she is 100% by his side. Together as they love and respect one another, tending to their weaknesses and enjoying their strengths, they grow into the kind of relationship that Christ is working in His church and He will complete.
If you want to learn more of what Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs have for couples in learning to have the best marriage that God offers, go to their web page at http://loveandrespect.com/. They have seminar information as well as many helpful articles, audio clips, and even a blog and podcast. Many of your churches might even have the DVD’s for you to borrow. And, don’t ever forget; no counselor is better than the source of his material which in the fullness of truth is to be the living Word of God—the Bible.