“Each husband also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” – Ephesians 5:33
Although I had a few minor scuffles in grade school, it wasn’t until junior high that I found myself in an actual “fight.” I was in eighth grade, and Anthony—the most popular kid in my class—had been pushing my buttons for several months. His teasing had become a daily nuisance, and one day in the locker room I decided that I had had enough. After one of his wisecracks, I gave him a hearty push. I expected that to be the end of it, but clearly Anthony had other intentions. Before I knew it, his right fist was getting up close and personal with my upper lip.
I tried to explain to Anthony that I wasn’t interested in fighting him, but his fists had already found a new home. And besides, Anthony’s buddies were all watching and liked what they saw. Well, a guy can only take so many blows to the chops. My adrenaline kicked in, and before I knew it Anthony was on the ground and the fight was over. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how he got on the ground, but regardless—it provided a great opportunity for me to make a quick exit without too much embarrassment.
As a thirteen-year-old teenage boy, I could only stomach a certain amount of disrespect. And the same is true of me today (although I have learned to respond without my fists.) I’m convinced that it’s the way that God made me, the way that He wired me as a man. Just as a diesel engine will severely malfunction when fueled by a tank full of unleaded, a man will always malfunction when fueled by a steady flow of disrespect. Conversely, boys will pour countless hours into a sport or school project in order to receive their father’s praise. Young men will sacrifice multiple evenings and weekends in order to garner their boss’s approval. And a husband will climb any mountain or cross any river to hear his damsel in distress speak the two words of heartfelt admiration: “My hero.”
How much stronger and healthier marriages would be if wives grasped and responded to this critical truth: Men feed off of respect. God knew this full well when He gave this command to wives in Ephesians 5:33: “The wife must respect her husband.” As the Creator of men, women and marriage, the Lord understands better than anyone that when a wife withholds respect from her husband, bad things happen in a marriage. When certain husbands feel disrespected, they withdraw. Others react in anger. Still others become passive-aggressive, and the husband withholds love from his wife that is as critical to her well-being as respect is to his.
God has called each Christian wife to demonstrate a healthy respect for her husband as a natural expression of her respect for God. Before urging wives to respect their husbands’ authority, God’s word first gives us all (both men and women) this general command in Ephesians 5:21: “Submit to one another out of respect for Christ.” Therefore, a wife is told to respect her husband as a natural expression of her respect for Jesus Christ.
Long story short: when a wife refuses to respect her husband, she is—at a deeper level—refusing to respect Jesus Christ. Just as it is impossible to demonstrate love for God while demonstrating hate for people, it is similarly impossible for a woman to exhibit respect for Christ while exhibiting perpetual disrespect for her husband. Once again: Respect for one is a natural expression of respect for the other.
Oh, I can hear the “buts” coming. “But, Dane you don’t understand; my husband doesn’t do anything that’s respectable!” Or, “But my husband doesn’t deserve my respect!” Or, “But my husband disrespects me!” While it may be true that your husband disrespects you and does plenty of things that are not respectable, if you look carefully, I guarantee you that you will discover certain things that your husband says and does that are worthy of respect. And when you discover them, you should draw attention to them—not by saying, “Well, it’s about time you did something right, you big moron!”—but by saying something like, “Great job! You hit that one out of the park. You’re really good at that.”
I guarantee you that your husband will respond much more positively to your praise and encouragement than he will to your nagging, complaining or criticism. You will discover that as you praise your husband for what he does “right,” he will look for more opportunities to do what’s right. Many a Christian wife can testify that when she’s made the conscious decision to show respect for her husband’s position in the family while also targeting his respectable words and actions with praise and encouragement, he stepped up to the plate and became the respectable husband for which she had prayed.
Believe me: Respecting one’s husband is a critical expression of one’s respect for Christ while at the same time being a key building block of a healthy and happy marriage. Just as I could only stomach so much disrespect from Anthony, I would only be able to stomach so much disrespect from my wife. As a man, I am—to a large extent—fueled by respect. The same is true of every husband. So wives, give your husband the fuel that he needs to function properly in your marriage relationship. And don’t be surprised if, in time, he becomes the loving husband you’ve always known he could be.
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. To hear Pastor Dane’s messages or for more information about the church, visit www.fccvv.com .