(145) Topical_Love and Respect

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Valentines’ Day: Love and Respect

 Ephesians 5:21-33

February 13, 2011


Scripture reading: 1 cor 13:1-8a



Happy almost Valentine’s Day! Guys this is your last chance to get something together.

Between Valentine’s Day and a friend’s wedding, marriage is on my mind. My favorite have of doing weddings is the homily. It’s like a sermon, only shorter.

·         It is my one final chance to say impart some wisdom to them and everyone listening; I want to do that today.

As I preach, I know there are many different situations: Happily married, miserably married, engaged, single, and divorced.

I can’t possibly address each specific situation. But I’ll do my best to remind us of God’s ideal, not just to help us move towards that, but also because the ideal is supposed to be a reflection of God’s relationship with us.


At its best, marriage is picture of your love for us, and it is and example to us. Build the marriages in this church.

Happy or Holy

·         “Marriage is what bring us together...dream with in a dream.”

I’ve been to and preformed a lot of weddings, and I hear variations on that that message (without the speech impediment).

But marriage is hard. Here is my definition of marriage: At its best it’s two sinful, self-centered people learning to get along. Happy Valentines’ Day!

BTW: One of the profoundest things I have ever heard about marriage is that God didn’t give us marriage to make us happy, but to make us holy, like Jesus.

Now, when you are holy, you will be happy (because sin is that which...), but one of the quickest ways to get miserable is to pursue happiness.

·         The best, most enduring happiness comes as a result of doing what is right, not pursuing it. (That tidbit is for everyone.)

Submit to each other

Now, in marriage, God has created a picture his relationship with us, and how we are to function together. [Please turn...]. And it is within this that we can learn more about being holy.

I know this is a controversial passage; but I have learned that the parts of the Bible we like the least are frequently the ones we have the most to learn from.

·         Ironically, this was controversial when it was written, but for very different reason, beginning with v. 21:

Ephesians 5:21-33  21 ¶ Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

This is the foundation for everything that follows. All believers submit and serve all believers. We are equal before God. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

Inferiority complex

 22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 

Q   Why do we this dislike this?

We think submission implies inferiority.

Q   Doesn’t this spring from an ancient misconception of women as less intelligent then men, and in need of strong leadership?

Verse 23: “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church,” doesn’t that imply the husband is superior to his wife?

Keep your finger here, and turn to:

1 Corinthians 11:3   3 Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

Basic Christian doctrine: Jesus is not in any way inferior to God (John 1:1, Phil. 2:6). Submission and headship has nothing to do with relative value, worthy, or capabilities.

·         Submission is all about roles.

“Roles” means we all have a job to do, and when everyone does their job, everything works better.

Football is a great example of roles – there are offensive, defensive, and special teams. Each has an area they excel at. Sure they can improvise when needed, but do best in their area.

·         God has designed these roles in the marriage; it works best when the husband leads and bears the final responsibility.

Slacking husbands

Q   But what about when the husband isn’t a Christian, or he isn’t leading, or demanding ungodly things? 

Submission is not the same as “obey.” This is the same word used when the Bible says to submit to the government.

·         In the same way there are times we must respectfully disobey the government, there are times wives must disobey.

Obey whenever you can. But if you are told to violate God’s commands or harm yourself or your family, respectfully disobey, in a way that honors God.

Man up

·         Now at this point, some guys may be thinking “I am so glad you are preaching on this passage, my wife needs to hear it.”

It’s our turn; the only reason a guy would want a sermon on this passage is if he doesn’t understand it!

·         As I said, leading means we have the final responsibility, which is not necessarily something to be envied.

Speaking again of football, what is the first thing that happens when the season is over? We hear about all the coaches, not players, that are being fired.

·         Husbands must “man up” and take responsibility for their family; the buck stops you – this is a heavy responsibility. 

Here is an example of responsibility: (EG: Man asking for help for his family.)

Q   Do you have you wife do the embarrassing tasks?

When I went from being an assistant pastor to being the lead pastor, I quickly learned the meaning of that responsibility. My first day on the job.

Even though equality among the Elders, and we submit to each other, I bear the responsibility. I have a quote on my computer, “Never complain about what you tolerate,” it is my reminder of my responsibility.

·         In this same way, you husbands will stand responsible before God for how you lead for family.

loving leadership

Let’s see how God wants us to lead:

Ephesians 5:23-28  23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her  26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

I remember in High School at Mt. Vernon Christian, the guys quoting this passage and telling the women that they need to submit (didn’t work well, as you can imagine).

·         But I told them they needed to take a closer look – who served who? Who washed who’s feet?

In the Christ/church relationship, who got the killer deal? Jesus leaves his home in Heaven, born in a barn, puts up with the disciples, is tortured and murdered, and what does he get?

·         The church. The same church that is constantly unfaithful, constantly screwing up, and is generally one big mess.

Here is the Biblical model: To lead is to serve.

I’ve said before that swing dancing is wonderfully sexist, it delights in the roles – it is the males job to lead, and by leading to make the girl look good.

Q   What if you wife isn’t following? What if she is making you miserable?

Love her, give yourself up for her. Just as Christ’s love for us is unconditional, so your love for her must be unconditional.

Love and Respect

Let’s skip to verse 33, perhaps the most profound and underutilized secret to marriage in the Bible:

 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Q   Why are the husbands commanded to love and wives commanded to respect?

Q   Is he saying that husbands don’t need to respect and wives don’t need to love?

He is speaking towards natural tendencies: Men naturally respect and need to be reminded to be loving. Women naturally love and need to be reminded to respect.

Furthermore, these are also the things each gender tends to feel the most need for. Both need to be loved and both need to be respected, but there is something specific about the way women need to be loved and cherished and men need to feel respected.

·         The most devastating thing one man can say to another isn’t “I don’t love you,” it’s “I don’t respect you.”

A lot of this comes from a book called “Love and Respect.” The author (Emerson Eggerichs) has done a lot of research on how men and women relate, and their specific needs and it has validated what the Bible says.

·         I don’t agree with everything he says, but he has a lot of good material that is worth reading.

The Crazy Cycle

He talks about the “The Crazy Cycle,” see if this sounds familiar:

Your wife needs to feel cherished and loved, just like she needs air to breathe. How do react if you can’t breathe? You react violently, and that is what she will do. And it is not pretty.

·         Without love, she reacts without respect.

Let’s say you forget to get a Valentines’ Day card...

Now, if she could put the words to it, she might say, “I put hours into finding the perfect card because I love you, and when you forget, it makes me feel like you don’t even care about me.”

The problem what comes out is “You are lazy, you are a thoughtless husband.”

·         Without love, she reacts without respect.

And these words wound far deeper than the wife can imagine. Your husband may look big and strong, but he needs your respect more than anyone’s. When you are don’t respect him, he will react.

·         Without respect, he reacts without love.

Now, if he could words to it, he would say “Your opinion means more to me than anyone else’s. When you belittle me, it makes me feel worthless, it hurts worse than you can imagine.”

·         It is like having your hand in boiling water

What would you do if that was your hand? You’d pull it out, get to safety. When men are hurt, they tend to withdraw to safety, they become less and less likely to emotionally vulnerable.

Q   And how do you wives view that? As unloving!

You see the cycle here? It is not good!

Getting off the crazy cycle

So how do we get off this downward spiral? I recommend you read the book, but the short answer is we do that the Bible says:

33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

·         Husbands, love your wife unconditionally, even if she is not acting lovable.

unconditional love & respect

Let’s talk about “unconditional” for a bit. When I went to “Family Life Marriage Conference,” they said:

·         Marriage is not a 50-50 proposition, it is 100/100.

What does that mean? 50/50 means that you do your part so long as your spouse does theirs. In other words, it is conditional.

·         Once you start respecting me, I will start acting loving.

·         Once you forgive me for my failures, then I will forgive you.

There are two problems with that:

1. It isn’t Biblical, it is “Love your enemy...”

2. It doesn’t work – you’re waiting for the other to go first, and you may be waiting all the wait to divorce court.

So instead, we practice an unconditional model, 100/100: I will be loving towards you, regardless of whether or not you are loving towards me.

Don’t confuse “unconditional” with “enabling.” This doesn’t mean that you ignore or approve of sinful and destructive attitudes and behaviors.

·         You may need outside help knowing how to tell the difference.

So you husbands must unconditionally love your wife. And you wives – can you see where I am going with this? Are your hackles up? – wives must unconditionally respect your husband.

I can hear you thinking, “Are you crazy? That can’t be right!”

Q   Why can we expect unconditional love, but not unconditional respect?

That’s different! He isn’t respectable! Maybe you aren’t lovable, yet he still should love you.

·         Our culture doesn’t think this way: Greeting cards vs. Portrayal of fathers.

God’s children

Here is how we have to think: Neither love nor respect are based on the worthiness of the other, they are based on their value as a child of God.

1. Your wife (girlfriend, fiancé) is God’s daughter, which makes God your father-in-law.

Q   Is that how you would want your son-in-law to treat your daughter, regardless of how she has been acting?

She is worthy of love for that reason alone, that does not mean everything she does is good or worthy of love, but she is.

2. And your husband is God’s son, and God your father-in-law.

Q   Is that how you would want your daughter-in-law to treat your son, regardless of how he has been acting?

He is worthy of respect for that reason alone, even if he does very unrespectable things.

The basis of the Gospel is that God loves us even though we do not deserve it, and marriage how we are called to mirror that love and acceptance.

A better way

The only way to break the crazy cycle is for you to go first, without promise return. But when you do, it will almost certainly change how your spouse responds to you.

·         As your wife knows she is loved, she’ll act more respectful.

·         As your husband knows he is respected, he’ll act more loving.

So here is where we go from here: You lack the power to do this. I cannot live up to this, so you must start by coming to God and receiving his grace.

1. Like all sin (failing to love our spouse as God calls us to is sin), start with repentance. Ask for forgiveness for how you have treated his child. (Even if you are divorced.)

2. Ask for God’s help to love and respect your spouse.

3. Spend time studying Ephesians 5:21-33.

4. Talk to them for ideas on how do that better.

5. Keep learning and praying (go to “Laugh Your Way”).

Q & A

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