Monday, November 6, 2017

Have a Better Marriage than Your Parents

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.– Ephesians 5:33

Last week, I read a blog written by a woman who had nothing but bad memories of her parents’ marriage. She wrote, “My parents hated each other, and I mean that as in plates flying, cops turning up and thousands of memories as a child of their fighting.” She shared memories of punches, drunkenness, and a repeated cycle of breakups and failed reunions.

Even more sadly, she went on to say, “I can not help [but] feel that some of their bad habits [in] their marriage not only are still with me but will affect my marriage.” And her concern is valid. Experts tell us that most couples, without even realizing it, model their own marriage after their parents’ marriage—for better or for worse.

You may not have grown up in a household with flying plates, but if you’re like me, you had parents whose marriage wasn’t bad … but it wasn’t great either. We don’t want to make the same mistakes they made. And God’s word has the answers. It offers a major tune-up for any broken-down marriage.

In Ephesians 5:22-24, Paul offers an implied command to husbands to “lead” their wives under the authority of Jesus Christ. And wives are commanded to submit to that God-given leadership. Now, in this fallen world of ours, there is no shortage of selfish, arrogant husbands. We’ve heard husbands get onto a high horse and demand that their wives submit to them. And these husbands were—for the most part—lousy husbands.

But in the context of a godly marriage, both husband and wife are following Ephesians 5:21, which says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” And just a few verses later, Paul gives this instruction: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). In that context, a wife’s submission comes much easier.

Now, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the commands given to husbands and wives in verse 33: “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” For years I’ve found this verse to be so interesting. Notice that wives are not commanded here to “love” their husbands. And husbands are not commanded to “respect” their wives. Why not?

First, I believe it’s because it’s easy for most wives to love their husbands, and it’s easy for most husbands to respect their wives. Now, there are exceptions to the rule. But as a rule of thumb, even when a marriage is falling apart, a wife still loves her husband. And similarly, as a rule of thumb, even when a marriage is falling apart, a husband still respects his wife. But when a marriage is falling apart, more times than not the wife does not respect her husband, and the husband does not love his wife.

Second, by the same token, wives have a deeper need to be loved, and husbands have a deeper need to be respected. Even though so-called “experts” in gender studies keep on trying to deny it, the fact is, God has wired men and women differently. When conflict happens in a marriage, it’s common for husbands and wives to say things in anger that they later regret having said. When those harsh words are being spoken, a wife usually interprets her husband’s harsh words as unloving. And a husband usually interprets his wife’s harsh words as disrespectful.

And what can easily happen is this: If a wife feels unloved, she will withhold respect from her husband. And if a husband feels disrespected, he will withhold love from his wife. His unloving words feed off of her disrespect. And her disrespect feeds off of his unloving words. And thus begins a vicious cycle of withholding love and respect within the marriage. Now, here’s some good news: It takes two spouses to START this crazy cycle, but it only takes one spouse to STOP it. And the healing begins with one spouse drawing a line in the sand and refusing to pretend that God’s unconditional command is conditional.

Remember, we don’t follow the wisdom of this world. We follow Jesus Christ. Men, aren’t your grateful that Jesus loved you when you were completely unlovable? Women, aren’t you grateful that Jesus showed you enough respect to die on the cross for you even when you said and did plenty of things that were completely disrespectful?

We need to follow in his footsteps. Husbands are commanded to love their wives even their wives are disrespectful. And wives are commanded to respect their husbands even when their husbands are unloving. You and I are commanded to love and respect our spouses UNCONDITIONALLY. And when we do, living out Ephesians 5:33, your marriage could be the very best marriage your family has ever seen.

Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information, visit  and join us for worship Sundays at 10 a.m.

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