Thanks to Dr. Eggerichs’ phenomenal book, Love and Respect, we in the church community are increasingly hearing about the necessity for men to be given unconditional respect (this is no April Fool’s joke!). For decades, the unconditional love movement has been going strong. Men everywhere are told to love their wives unconditionally and to treat them like crystal because they are the beautiful, delicate vessel. Men needing to display unconditional love is also well and good, but it is not the full picture – the church has missed the mark considerably on what men need in the home.
In our American culture, we have turned respect into something that has to be earned. Many women don’t automatically think, “That man deserves respect because he is a dad;” rather, we women look for qualifying fatherly attributes that please us before determining if he deserves our respect. If in our minds we deem a man unworthy of respect, we feel justified in believing that his wife and kids should not have to show him respect.
Well, here’s the difficult truth for both sexes: Ladies, we don’t deserve love. Men, you don’t deserve respect. Because of our willful disobedience to God, all we deserve is eternal punishment. However, thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, believers are extended grace and husbands and wives are to extend a similar grace to their spouse.
Men: loving your wife is not about what your wife deserves. God said to do it… end of story. She might have qualities that make you fantasize about living in the corner of your rooftop (Proverbs 21:9), but you’ve been commanded to love her as Christ loves the church. Ladies: we have to get off of our high horse too. He may come in late to dinner every night and he might not give us the time, words, or physical touch that we need, but that does not qualify us to disrespect him. Our respect for our husbands is not about them, it’s about God. It isn’t easy respecting a man who speaks unlovingly and tramples our hearts; but, when we know that our respect for him is honoring to God, the One who sacrificed His only Son so that we might be saved, respecting our flawed husbands becomes much easier. Marriage is much less about fulfilling a need to be loved and much more about remaining faithful to the covenant that you entered upon marriage.
Men, showing love to a screaming porcupine is a challenge to say the least, but your reward is in Heaven. Love your flawed wife to the glory of God anyway! Women, his lack of ambition or selfishness may drive you up a wall… respect your imperfect husband to the glory of God anyway! Your spouse doesn’t intrinsically deserve such treatment, but it is what each sex has been called to do.
Women, for men to love women, it sounds easy enough, right? Love is such a common word and concept. It can’t be hard to love a woman, right…? Wrong. On his All About Love album, Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song called “How Do I Love Her?” (video below) where he is asking God to show him how to love his wife. I’ve heard my own husband ask God for wisdom on how to love me (which I greatly appreciated <smile>). If it were a no-brainer, these Godly men wouldn’t have to ask, “How do I love her?” Yet, in this day and age within our culture, I think learning to respect our husbands may be a much bigger challenge than our husbands learning to love us.
What is respect? A few definitions include: “To regard highly; to think much of; to take notice of; to regard with special attention; to consider worthy of esteem; to regard with honor.” When you are angry with your husband for lying on the couch covered in potato chip crumbs while you struggle to get the kids into bed, it’s hard to say, “I will regard him with honor.” When he speaks harshly to you in front of your kids, family or friends, it is not natural to sincerely think, “I regard you so highly, dear… you are so worth of esteem.”
Again, respecting him is not based on his performance; it is based on the fact of where God has positioned him… as your husband. If unconditionally respecting your (future) husband (or father, if still single) is difficult for you, pray and ask God to help you in doing so – even, or especially, when it’s against your nature to do so. Alternately… men, make sure to love your wife unconditionally (if you’re still single, practice on your mother and sisters). Everyone has difficult days and it is especially on those days where women need to feel more love, not less. Focus on pleasing God in this unconditional love and unconditional respect and, in return, He will be pleased with you for doing so.
Our churches and culture has taught that men should unconditionally love their wives. Where is the message that women should unconditionally respect their husbands?