*Disclaimer, this blog is not meant to suggest nor encourage anyone to remain in an abusive or threatening relationship.
Have you ever been held captive by a verse of Scripture? Like when you hear the silent voice in your head rehearse a verse that instantly locks you in, forces your eyes to circle back, and will not let you leave until you unearth its deeper chambers of meaning. A verse or verses that hold you prisoner to the truth.
I have always been fascinated with Ephesians 5:22-33. But not for the reasons you might expect. These are the verses about husbands and wives and how they will treat each other when they are in Christ.
Now, do I have your attention?
While chapters and subtitles were not part of the original biblical text, here are some of the helpful “titles” for Ephesians 5:22-33: Wives and Husbands (ESV), Instructions for Christian Households (NIV), Relationships (MSG), and my personal favorite, Spirit-Guided Relationships: Wives and Husbands (NLT).
Now for the unexpected part.
I have been held captive at times by these verses because I have rarely seen them work in the world of relationships. Sadly, I have watched countless marriages fall apart and almost sabotaged my own because I did not heed Paul’s written instructions, penned through the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit.
Becoming a prisoner to the truth is the only way to be set free.
For many years when it came to relationships, I was a naïve prisoner. Yet, as a child of divorce and a wife for 20 years, time, knowledge, grace, and mercy have joined forces to provide me with a deep well of wisdom.
Not that I have arrived, I have simply realized.
Allow me to break it down for you mathematically first. Ephesians 5:22-33 has twelve verses, 3 1/2 directed toward wives, and 8 1/2 directed toward husbands. That’s 29% instructions for wives and 71% for husbands. The things that make you go hmmm. 🧐
However, for the sake of part one of this blog, I want to focus on wives and I want to focus on one word.
Paul summarizes the entire passage in verse 33, “So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33 NLT)
A wife must respect. Not should, not just on Sundays, not just when he does the grocery shopping, but a wife must respect her husband.
When it comes to “Spirit-Guided Relationships”, respect is imperative.
Notice how Paul does not have to tell wives to love their husbands. Women tend to love instinctively. Instead, he instructs a wife to respect her husband, because respect is the universal love language for a man.
The surface definition of respect is to admire someone or something deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements. Yet if we dig deeper, the word respect has a Latin origin broken down as such:
Specere- look at
Respicere- look back at, regard
Since unearthing truth often requires digging up the roots of original meaning and context, then it is safe to say that Paul is instructing a wife to respect, or look back at and regard, the path down which God brought her husband to her.
In other words, wives must respicere the places in which their husbands became men.
Let’s face it, we all leave childhood with some sort of baggage. Perhaps the fate of our future family depends on what is in our suitcase.
My husband and I have unpacked quite a bit of baggage between the two of us. Baggage which only God, by His grace, has redeemed.
What I have learned during 20 years of holy matrimony about our collective baggage is that intentionally regarding or considering our past trials and hurts helps us both do what does not necessarily come naturally. Looking back helps him love me and regarding his path to me helps me respect him.
Wives, I can promise you that respect for your husband is the gift that keeps giving.
In my marriage, looking back and sharing about our lives before we were together blesses us both with understanding and perspective. Everything changes in the heat of a disagreement when I see the child within my spouse.
Regarding the effects of our previous trials and prior pain provides space for grace and compassion. Sometimes understanding why someone acts or speaks the way they do helps you deflect the arrows from your own heart and absorb them with a shield of kindness.
Offering respect allows me to in turn develop a greater respect for what and who my husband has overcome. Respect means I admire my husband deeply because of his abilities, qualities, and achievements, despite his inadequacies, flaws, and failures. Looking back actually brings the current landscape of our relationship into focus.
Lastly, showing respect teaches me to submit to Christ’s will in my husband’s life, even when it means sacrificing my feelings. Perhaps the highest form of respect is getting out of the way of what God is doing in your husband’s life.
Dear wives, will you allow God to use you in order to teach your husband how to love you in Christ?
For us wives, it begins and ends with respect. There may only be 29% of content in these verses for wives, but Paul intentionally bookends the passage with wives sacrificially offering respect.
Wives must respect because it is the one quality that secures a man’s vulnerability to love his wife.
More on this in Part Two…