Several years ago when I first began my study on the dynamics of the Christian marriage, I was pleasantly surprised at the abundance of Biblical insight on creating a truly blessed and functional marriage. I was just as equally and unpleasantly surprised to notice the vast number of Christian marriages that were existing well below God’s design and intentions for this magnificent institution. I learned that there were many principles and precepts. There were a number of commands to both the wife and the Husband; however, there was one revelation that epitomized the foundational structure of the Christian marriage in its purest state. It seems that when this particular principle in practiced it creates the environment for a functional and efficacious marriage.

Paul warned that those that marry will face many troubles (1 Cor. 7:28). By implication, this scriptural passage suggests that there are troubles that are unique to the married life. Old Testament Scripture also predicts this as well (Gen. 3:16). When you question Christian and Secular psychologist, you find one common denominator in the development and perpetuation of marital distress; consistent and increasing conflict. This, at first, seems quite evident; however, just understanding that conflict is involved is not enough. We must determine the origin and cause for the conflict and this great and awesome revelation comes forth with unparalleled lucidity. I first discovered it when reading a book entitled: Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. The title seems straight forward, but it has so much more hidden within it.

What I discovered was there was something that I had been aware of for years, but I had never truly applied the knowledge to help me understand the enigmatic issues that seem to plague marriages at the very core. It is something that is discussed on a consistent basis, but rarely indulged in a manner that would produce any efficacious results. In his book Dr. Eggerichs uses his own marriage to paint a vivid picture of what happens in the typical marriage simply based on this one principle.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter One:

“I proposed to Sarah when we were both still in college, and she said yes. While still engaged we got a hint of how husbands and wives can get into arguments over practically nothing. That first Christmas Sarah made me a jean jacket. I opened the box, held up the jacket, and thanked her.

“You don’t like it,” she said.

I look at her with great perplexity and answered, “I do too like it.”

Adamant, she said, “No you don’t. You aren’t excited.” Taken back, I sternly repeated, “I do too like it.” She shot back, “No you don’t. If you liked it, you would be excited and thanking me a lot. In my family we say, “Oh my, just what I wanted!’ There is enthusiasm. Christmas is a huge time, and we show it.”

That was our introduction to how Sarah and Emerson respond to gifts. Sarah will thank people a dozen times with something touches her deeply. Because I did not profusely thank her, she assumed I was being polite but could hardly wait to drop off the jacket at the Salvation Army collection center…”

“…One night as we were driving home from a small group Bible Study, Sarah expressed some strong feelings that had been building up in her over several weeks.

‘You were boring in our Bible study tonight,’ she said, almost angrily. ‘You intimidate people with your silence. And when you talk, you sometimes say something insensitive. What you said to the new couple came across poorly…’ I didn’t respond for a few seconds because I was feeling put down, not only by what she said but by her demeanor and her tone. I replied, “Sarah, you can be right but wrong at the top of your voice.”

Sarah recalls that our conversation that night in the car was life-changing for her. She may have been accurate in her assessment of how I was acting around people, but her delivery was overkill. We both dealt with the things in our lives due to that conversation. (We still sometimes remind one another, ‘You know, you can be right but wrong at the top of your voice.’)…”

In sharing these stories, Dr. Eggerichs is revealing the foundation for a great deal of the conflict within a marriage; distinct differences in the make-up of men and woman and how it impacts the marriage. Men and women have distinctively different needs within the marriage. When this fact is ignored, it creates the fertile ground for the seeds of discontent and eventually malevolence to be planted and cultivated. Solomon called the conflicts that stem from this disregard of natural differences “the little foxes that ruin the vineyard (Song of Solomon 2:15). Tension in a marriage has the potential to erode self-image which is the opposite of the ultimate goal in marriage; to edify, that is build up your mate.

The world will teach you that your words have very little impact and that everything should be centered on action. In many ways this is true. Your actions say a great deal, but we should not devalue the power of words, especially when it comes to their ability to either edify or desolate your partner’s self-image.

The Secret Revealed in Ephesians 5:33

 

As a Bible student, teacher, and spiritual leader, I have spent countless hours in the Word of God, and a significant portion of those hours were spent anatomizing Ephesians chapter 5. This is probably the greatest treatise in the Bible on the responsibilities of the husband and wife in the marriage; however, it is often taken out of context. When this passage of scripture is given the proper gravity and the careful attention that it requires, we find substantially more than a syllabus on marital behavior. When we examine it closely we find a powerful revelation that better equips us to meet the needs of our mates.

As lot of focus is always given to verse 22; “22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do 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. (Eph. 5:22-24 NIV)

The Amplified version brings greater lucidity to this passage: 22Wives, be subject (be submissive and adapt yourselves) to your own husbands as [a service] to the Lord.

23For the husband is head of the wife as Christ is the Head of the church, Himself the Savior of [His] body.

24As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.

This command calls for the wife to submit herself to her husband as to the Lord. The amplified version emphasizes that fact that this submission is a service to the Lord. This point leads to a powerful truth that must be apprehended in order to truly develop a powerful and efficacious marriage; it is not about you! The wife’s submission to her husband is actually submission to God. Now this is not a treatise on submission; there is actually more instruction given to the husband than the wife. The husband carries a greater responsibility and is actually called to greater sacrifice (even to the point of laying down his life for his wife).

I want to draw your attention to verse 33: 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (NIV)

33Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to (BN)love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she[r](BO)respects her husband. (NASB)

33However, let each man of you [without exception] love his wife as [being in a sense] his very own self; and let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband [[f]that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and [g]that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly].(AMP) [c.f. I Pet. 3:2.]

There are two words that stand out here and they are distinctively different and uniquely replied; LOVE and RESPECT. When I say distinctly different and uniquely replied, what I mean is the commands to love and respect are not given to both, the husband and the wife. The husband is called to love his wife as he loves himself. The wife is called to respect her husband. Does this mean that the husband does not have to respect his wife? Of course not, his love for her will generate respect. Does this mean that the wife does not have to love her husband? Not at all; her respect for him is a reflection of her love. What this passage does reveal is the specific needs of each party in the marriage. The woman’s greatest need within the relationship is to be loved. The wife searches every word and evaluates every action of her husband to find the evidence of his love for her. On the other hand, the man’s greatest concern is that he be respected, and he will read into every word and assess every action to determine whether he is respected by his wife.

Of course there is overlapping and there are individual variances; however, the basic premise here is that when you understand what your partner needs you are better equipped to meet their needs. In the earlier excerpts from the book, Love and Respect, the intense exchanges between Emerson and Sarah were coming from two places that create a vicious cycle. Sarah said something that Emerson took as a sign of disrespect and he instinctively responded in a way that made Sarah feel unloved and now the cycle has begun. If not checked Sarah will become more frustrated and her words will seem more and more disrespectful to Emerson and Emerson will become sharp in his responses convincing Sarah that he does not love her.

One of the most common mistakes that tends to conceal this issue is that most people feel that if they are treating a person the very way they want to be treated then everything should be fine. After all, we are taught to do unto others, right? When we are told to do unto others it actually means to treat them with the same regard for their needs and desires as you want others to have for yours. If you have a strong desire to be complimented, but your mate would rather be held, you complimenting them is not meeting their needs and they will see your failure to meet their needs as either a lack of respect (husband) or a failure to love (wife). Dr. Eggerichs says that the manner in which the need for love and the need for respect play off each other will have an immense impact on the type of marriage you will have.

One thing that I must quickly illuminate here is that these commands are not conditional. Meaning a husband is to obey the command to love his wife even if the wife does not obey the command to respect, and the wife is to obey the command to respect even if the husband does not obey the command to love. This is a very difficult concept for most because we have a tendency to base the way we treat others by the way they treat us. This is not the Christian way, however.

There is actually a synergism at work here when both the wife and husband obey their specific commands. Listen to what Dr. Eggerichs says on the matter:

“When a husband feels disrespected, he has natural tendency to react in a way that feels unloving to his wife. (Perhaps the command to love was given to him precisely for this reason!) When a wife feels unloved, she has a natural tendency to react in ways that feels disrespectful to her husband.”

Can you see the vicious cycle developing? Solomon referred to this crazy and destructive cycle as “the evil of folly and the foolishness of madness.” (Ecc. 7:25)’

Without love, the wife has a tendency to act without respect and without respect the husband reacts without love. Unchecked, this cycle will wreak immeasurable havoc on the marriage. The key to getting off of this cycle is for the husband and wife to look for ways to meet each other’s needs and to understand that certain behavior is not necessary because one person doesn’t respect the other or that the other person doesn’t love the one.

It is key to note that when Paul gives the command to the husband to love his wife, he does not use the Greek word “eros” which connotes passion and affection that would be normal between a man and his wife. Paul, instead, uses “agape” which connotes unconditional love and its foundation and origin are different from eros.  Agápe (ἀγάπη agápē[1]) means “love” (unconditional love) in modern day Greek, such as in the term s’agapo (Σ’αγαπώ), which means “I love you”. In Ancient Greek, it often refers to a general affection or deeper sense of “true love” rather than the attraction suggested by “eros“. Agape is used in the biblical passage known as the “love chapter”, 1 Corinthians 13, and is described there and throughout the New Testament as sacrificial love. It is also known as the God type of love. “Agape” is objective rather than subjective, meaning that it is based on the one doing the loving rather than the one being loved. It originates internally and is not dependent upon external influence.

Most people postulate that there has to be a certain feeling to execute a certain act. This is not the case when acting from within your own spiritually motivated Character. A wife does not have to feel respect for her husband in order to treat him with respect. Her motivation to honor God should motivate her to do so. Likewise, a husband doesn’t have to feel like being loving towards his wife in order to do it; his desire to please God should lead him to do so.

As we move further in developing this awesome doctrine we will begin to see that the power to transform your house into a home is readily available.

I look forward to revealing the next gem of truth. Until then, be blessed.

Bishop Rick Wallace

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