Love and Respect: A Two-Way Street

good teaching

In the last of my Bad Teaching series, I did a number on the fallacious idea that tells husbands that they MUST love their wives with unconditional love, just because…, erm, well,… just because! And I enjoyed playing Devil’s Advocate, twitting those same teachers for their hypocrisy in not teaching that wives MUST respect their husbands with unconditional respect, for the same reason. (My eldest daughter says that I get too much satisfaction in being an internet troll, but what does she know? 🙂 )

But at the end of that post, I did say that I would write a post that would give my views on the proper Christian view of love and respect, and so, here I go.

The Basics

Rather than go through a drawn-out parsing of Eph. 5, followed by an breast-heaving appeal to “The Love Chapter” of 1 Corinthians, I’m going to go straight to Paul’s summation of the matter, Eph. 5:31

Husbands, love your wives and wives, respect your husbands.

That is Paul’s teaching in one succinct line. It’s Bible, it’s all-inclusive, and it’s short enough to wear as a tattoo, should you be so inclined. To get the basics out of the way, let me go to this first: Does the Bible say that husbands are to love their wives? Yes:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25)

My series on LYWACLTC was not about whether this verse said that husbands should love their wives or not, but the bad teaching that came from the way in which this verse was twisted. Yes, husbands, we are commanded by God to love our wives.

Does the Bible tells wives that they are to respect their husbands? Yes:

let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Eph. 5:31b)

I pointed this out in my last post, and to any Christian wife who wants to take offense with that statement, let me just say that your fight is not with me, but with the Bible. (And I will let you know that if you don’t think the Bible is binding on your life, then you aren’t a Christian, but a heathen. Jus sayin’.)

But here’s the twist: husbands are told to respect their wives, and wives are told to love their husbands. As the title to the article says, “It’s a two-way street.” Husbands are to love their wives and respect them; wives are to respect their husbands, and love them, as well.

Husbands, Respect Your Wives

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Pet. 3:7)

“It doesn’t say ‘respect’! It only says showing ‘honor’!” – Son, you don’t even want to go down that road, okay? That word translated “honor” is the same word that is used in several other places:

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Tim. 1:7)

Who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. (1 Tim. 6:16)

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Heb. 2:9)

So, Christian husband, don’t even think that you don’t have to show respect for your wife, when Peter applies the same honor that is shown to God and Jesus Christ to your wife. Face it, there is no way that you can show honor to God while at the same time disrespecting Him. You can’t do it.

Oh, by the way, don’t think that you can weasel out of this by trying to say that Peter was just saying that women need protection because they are physically weaker than men, that he wasn’t really saying anything about real respect.

*BUZZER* Aint gonna fly. Read that verse again. “Live in an understanding way”; fellow-”heirs”; “prayers not be hindered”. Yes, Peter is writing about ‘protecting’ women, but protecting them from disrespect and being seen as second-class citizens in the the kingdom. Paul said “give honor to whom honor is due”, and wasn’t talking about protection. Peter says that your wife is someone to whom honor is due, and it is due from you.

Wives, Love Your Husbands

Older women …. are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, (Titus 2:4)

The greek word for “love” is philandros and apparently, when used of a woman, the greek had but one meaning: a woman who loves her husband. Isn’t it interesting that the greeks had a special word for a wife who loved her husband? (Maybe that was to differentiate them from wives who didn’t love their husbands?) Who knows, but be that as it may, Paul wanted the older women to teach the younger women how to be wives who loved their husbands.

“Wait a minute, CSL, that’s not the same word that’s used for ‘love’ in Eph. 5:25. That’s agape love, not phileo love, so it’s not the same.”

Okay, let’s try some of the same casuistry here that gets used when people want to minimize Paul’s directive for “submission”. After all, we are told, that when Paul told wives to ‘submit’ to their husbands, it is a ‘mutual submission’ because Paul said that all Christians should “submit to each other,” in Eph. 5:21. In that case, wives, you are commanded to love your husbands, based on the words of Jesus Christ.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn. 13:34-35)

There you have it. Three times in two verses, Jesus said, “Love one another.” And He says it’s HIS commandment. And this time, it’s agape love, not phileo love. And what seals the deal on this is that Jesus said we are to love just has He loved.

My, my, my. “Love one another, just as I have love you.” Kinda has a familiar ring to it, doesn’t it? It’s sounds a little reminiscent of “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church”, doesn’t it? And not only that, Jesus said that this “agape” love would be the measure of whether or not you are even one of His disciples.

There you have it, folks. Mutual submission AND mutual love.

It’s simple, but it’s hard.

Recently, Wife and I watched one of those “inspirational” movies on Netflix, entitled What If?. (By “inspirational”, I mean those Christian movies that have good intentions but really bad budgets.) This starred Kevin Sorbo (Hercules) and John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin, of Cheers), two veteran Hollywood actors who have decided to be openly Christian in the business. The movie was yet another reworking of the “It’s A Wonderful Life” tale, and was pretty decently done. The one true take-away I got from the film was the line that Mike the Angel (Ratzenberger) said about doing the right thing:

It’s Simple. But it’s Hard.

Some years ago, there was a very popular reading entitled “Everything I Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarten.” It was popular, and had a lot of truth in it. Learning about love and respect does not take a college degree, followed by years of residency.

Let me re-state that: it DOES take years of residency, but that residency is called Life. We learned in kindergarten, Sunday School, and even in our homes; be nice and treat people with respect. And, for the most part, we follow that dictum, don’t we? Normal people don’t go out of their way to make others miserable. I don’t think that there is even a significant minority, much less a majority, of people who consider the day a loss if they haven’t made someone rue ever being born.

But somehow, we come to the place where we don’t accord our spouses the same courtesies that we believe necessary conduct toward everyone else. Paul Byerly, of Generous Husband, recently wrote about the Spouse Exemption Rule that Jesus put in the Bible. “What’s the Spouse Exemption Rule,” you ask? Oh, that’s where Jesus said, when giving the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you; except your spouse. They don’t deserve it.” Surely you know that one, right? After all, we have so many marriages where it is in operation, it HAS to be Bible!

Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but we don’t get such a pass. Which kind of begs the question, “Why is it so much easier to be nice, kind and respectful to others than it is to our own spouses?” I know the old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” but I’m pretty sure that most would say, “Oh, that’s too harsh; I’m not being contemptuous!”

Well, if familiarity doesn’t breed contempt, it certainly seems to breed indifference. The story is told of a preacher who was doing visitation at the home of a family that had two boys, ages 5 and 2. In the course of his visit, he asked the five-year-old if he loved his brother. The boy answered the minister with a shrug of his shoulders and said, “Nah, but I’m used to him.” All too often, we just seem to be used to our spouses.

In my post on Grudges, I wrote about the need to let God’s grace teach us how to react in situations that present themselves:

In any situation in which I have the opportunity to retaliate, whether it be emotionally, verbally, physically, etc., I have the choice to go with my ‘natural’ response, or to act (with the help of God’s grace) ‘supernaturally.’ By the Holy Spirit, God’s grace is offered to us in every situation, to enable us to overcome our ‘natural’ self. We are  told “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life” (Eph. 4:22). It’s our choice; God doesn’t promise to take our old self from us. It’s our choice how to react, whether naturally or supernaturally, with God’s grace.

It is God’s grace that will help us to live with our spouses in our marriage, and help us to grow in love and respect. It doesn’t take a Master’s in Theology to understand that God’s will is for us to extend love and respect to our spouses.

It’s hard. But it’s simple. Your choice.



Filed under Marriage & Sexuality

8 responses to “Love and Respect: A Two-Way Street

  1. sandi

    Excellent post! I just love it that you use words like casuistry. I had never heard this word before. My Dad used to use words like that and he would make us look them up in the dictionary. Thanks for opportunity to recall a fond memory. I am pleased to see your feelings for your wife are not uxorious. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I once seriously injured my back trying to lift a particularly large casuistry.

    I think I might look up that word today 😉


  3. Object of Contempt

    So, I see the scriptures that tell about honoring our wives. Then you refer to mutual submission and mutual love. I see mutual love, respect, and honor, but not submission.

    Also, as I am writing this, I’m becoming aware that, in this context, the word “mutual” is slightly bothering me. It is technically accurate, but doesn’t capture the whole scenario. It is as if the argument, for so long, has been, “if I have to, why doesn’t he have to? That’s not fair!” So that all the “answers” highlight only the desire to have both husband and wife be obligated in identical (or at least equivalent) ways. I think the strong cultural value of desiring equality in every part of life, including marriage, has impacted the way we think about marriage in manifold subtle ways.

    I think Jesus explained to us clearly that our spirits can still be quite sinful even if there hasn’t been any outward action to carry out our lusts. In the same way, the love, submission, honor and worship due to God (or to spouses (minus the worship)) should be true from our spirits. However, christian culture seems uninclined to examine marriages by the truth and sincerity in our honor, love, and submission, preferring to ensure equal obligation on both sides. That approach may avoid offense for some, but… I don’t really want to receive respect or love only because my wife feels obligated.

    I know that the focus here is on knowing that God is pleased when both spouses love and respect each other. But what often happens is we respond to our own obligations as burdensome, despite them being part of God’s design. Then, feel slighted if it appears someone else might not have the same “burden”. It isn’t fair if it isn’t mutual!

    I don’t feel slighted because I have loved my wife, but she skipped it and I had to do the whole “job” alone. I feel hurt because her love and respect are precious to me, and my spirit feels depleted and despised. Mutuality matters, but in the end it isn’t the point.


  4. Great thoughts, great post.

    I’ve always wanted to write a Bible version that said what we want it to say. I think it would be a real eye opener.


  5. Pingback: Traditional Vows, part 1 | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

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