Not all marital advice from pastors, counselors, and other professionals will apply perfectly for every couple across the board. Some are young and in love with no worries, while others are strong but struggling with life changes such as children or new jobs. Some may be empty nesters seeking to reinvigorate their relationship, others may be on the verge of divorce.
But no matter where a couple may currently be on the marital spectrum, God's Word is always relevant, particularly what many consider to be the most significant treatise on marriage in the New Testament—Ephesians 5. In verse 33, Paul concludes his statement on marriage with: "Each one of you also must [agape] love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."
At first reading, it seems curious that there is no command given here for a wife to agape-love her husband. Does God not expect a wife to love her own husband? Of course He does—but our glorious Creator designed the woman to love! Her entire approach in life is toward nurturing, loving, and having compassion. God is simply not into redundancy, hence the lack of the command for a wife to agape-love her husband.
However, in Titus 2:4, Paul does instruct the older women to encourage the younger women to phileo-love their husbands, which refers to the human, brotherly kind of love. If we use the same logic here, this command is given because women do not phileo-love their husbands naturally. Put simply, they don't always like them! And it is in these times when their husbands, while confident of their wives' love, do not feel well liked or respected by them.
Thus, Paul's command to wives to "respect her husband." Concerning the husband's command to agape-love his wife, yes, this means that such love does not come naturally to him. He was not designed with the same natural instinct for nurturing and having compassion. But his wife still needs this love just as she needs air to breathe. And when her husband comes home from work and is harsh and distant toward her because of problems at work, he is basically stepping on her air hose. As a result, she might snap at him, in effect saying, "Get off my air hose! I can't breathe!" He had previously been in a bad mood because of work, not his wife, but because he left her feeling unloved, now she is not phileo-loving him very much and he is feeling disrespected. As a result, he snaps back at her, in effect saying, "Get off my air hose! I can't breathe!"
Consequently, they find themselves smack dab in the middle of the Crazy Cycle: Without love, she reacts without respect. Without respect, he reacts without love. And the only thing that will stop it? Someone to step up and embrace God's command to love and respect.
Maybe you're not a couple that has conflicts like these. Praise God! But the commands to love and respect still take precedent, because God designed all women with a vulnerability to feeling loved, just as He designed all men with a vulnerability to feeling respected.
As well, because our Lord commands this of us in Ephesians 5:33, out of love and reverence for Him, we choose to be a loving and respectful person. We choose to trust and obey what He reveals in the Scriptures. We realize this is who He calls us to be regardless of our spouse's response.
Husbands, will you commit to agape-loving your wife, no matter what, because this is what she needs to feel from you at all times? Wives, will you commit to showing respect toward the spirit of your husband, no matter what, because this is what he needs to feel from you at all times?
Listen to Dr. Emerson Eggerichs on the daily broadcast.
Dr. Emerson Eggerichs highlights the importance of spouses valuing each other and clarifies some of the different dynamics between the sexes.
On this episode, you will hear the remainder of Dr. Emerson Eggerichs' insightful speech based on his best-selling book, Love and Respect. Dr. Eggerichs examines the different expectations men and women have in marriage and the dangerous cycle couples get caught in when love and respect are absent.
Learn More about the Writer
Dr. Emerson Eggerichs is the president of Love and Respect Ministries and author of the best-selling book, Love and Respect. Before launching his ministry, Dr. Eggerichs was the senior pastor of Trinity Church for nearly 20 years. He received his B.A. in Biblical Studies and M.A. in Communications from Wheaton College and Graduate School. He later completed a Master of Divinity degree from Dubuque Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Child and Family Ecology from Michigan State University. Emerson and his wife, Sarah, live in Grand Rapids, MI and have three adult children.