Love is Given, Respect is Earned

“Wives submit to your own husbands as unto the Lord”

Eph. 5:24

 

This is perhaps one of the most controversial verses in our society, as well as misused or misapplied. In a broad sense some like to used this verse and the others like it to teach that a woman must submit to any man that tells her to do something. But a woman does not have to submit to any man except her husband according to this verse. Husbands like this verse because it seems to give them the place of leadership – or kingship of the family structure, and requires that all their subjects bow to their will. Women, on the other hand, do not like this verse because it requires them to be submissive to their husband even when their husband is acting like a fool.

So, why designate such a controversial verse as a crossroads? Because whether he likes it or not, every man is the head of his household, and will answer for his congregation (family). Realistically, every man desires to be respected and admired by his wife and kids… That they would follow him, seek his counsel, and look to him to lead the way. Yet, we often forget to step back and truly consider where we are leading or if we are single, where we are preparing to lead. Think back to previous days – you will lead based on the foundation you have established. And you will only be respected and followed if your walking on the path that matches that foundation. Otherwise, you will be viewed by your spouse, children, and those around you as a hypocrite.

Remember: Love is given, respect is earned. Think about it: Jesus models the definition of love for us, which is expounded upon in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” This verse is most often quoted in weddings, as the husband and wife-to-be look star-gazed into each others eyes. Yet in Ephesians 5:25, 33, husbands are told to love their wives “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”, and wives are told to “respect their husbands.”

As men, we go to work and try to earn the respect of our coworkers, boss, and customers, not their love. We find fulfillment in this ‘give and take’ process in which we can gain substantial respect and honor from those around us.

When we finish the day at the office and step into our houses, we fail to continue in the process by strive to earn the respect of our wives. We can become self-centered and selfish, expecting our wife to wait on us, make dinner, keep the house clean, and raise the children… All while maintaining a submissiveness that can only be found in the old black and white sitcoms. She may do her best at fulfilling all these roles, out of love for her family, because love comes easier to her to express and respect is easier for the man to express. So instead of following the instructions of Ephesians 5, we swap the attribute we should be expressing towards each other for the one what we want the other to give us.

Even as Godly men who understand these concepts, we can often confuse the differences between love and respect, thinking that if we are respecting our wives, we are expressing love. Except respect is defined as: “the deference to a right, privilege, or privileged position; the condition of being esteemed or honored.” This is much different than the definition of love in Ephesians 5.

Stop for a minute and contemplate the two definition we have studied. One is love, one is respect. Men are called to love their wives. This means men are to be patient, love, kind, not envious, not boastful, not proud, not dishonoring, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeping no record of wrongs his wife does, not delighting in evil, rejoicing with the truth, always protecting, always trusting, always hoping, always persevering.

Wives are called to respect their husband’s. This means women are to defer to the right, privilege, or privileged position her husband that has been bestowed by God, the Creator of all; and esteem or honor him.

So how do we find ourselves married to the ‘submissive’ wife? It has got to begin in our own hearts, lives, and actions, being submissive and obedient to God as we are commanded. Then we must choose to fulfill the God-given roles of servant leaders, unselfishly serving our families, and loving our wives. And all this only comes from a strong foundation.

Crossroads:

Do you demand submissiveness or respect?

Do you come home to serve, love, and earn respect or do you stop when you leave the office because respect is easier to achieve at work?

Foundation check and challenge: continue to invest in and work on your foundation in Jesus Christ. Make sure you take the time to read, study and understand scripture, and pray. Consider Jesus washing the disciples feet, Paul and all the trials he went through to share the Good News… How can you improve your self-less conveyance of love towards your wife and kids? Apply it.

Who Do You Fear?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Proverbs 1:7

            It can become ingrained in men to fear nothing, and by no means is a man to display his emotions. While women are often afraid of mice, and children can be afraid of spiders, it is our job to step in to save the day by stepping on them, trapping them, or picking them up by their tails. Even in the middle of the night when our wives hear that noise downstairs that we slept through and thus never heard, it is our job to go investigate in the dark, even if we have to hide our own fear. We would rather step into the danger of the unknown, than lose respect or lose face by revealing our own fears.

Society cries from the rooftops that God is not to be feared, because He does not even exist. In fact, we are an accident of two molecules that just happened to collide billions of years ago. Enjoy life and make the most of it, because there is nothing to fear. Ironically, if that truly were the case, then there really is no such thing as moral law. And if there is no moral law the structure of society breaks down into chaos because everyone can do what is right in their own eyes. In such a society, there is no such thing as sin, and there is nothing wrong with the strong overpowering the weak.

Or those that cannot bring themselves to believe the fiction of evolution, allow God to exist, but then place themselves equal to or above God as a judge of His character and power.

In other words, we choose to lift ourselves above God to render a verdict utilizing our limited perspective and understanding as to whether God should really be allowed to create an eternal place of punishment (hell) or if He should be loving enough that He breaks His own laws to allow everyone to enter heaven. We lift ourselves up to God’s level to determine whether a sin is really a sin, or even when a baby is really a baby and when it is just an inconvenience.

The ultimate question that trumps all others that we will encounter and must answer throughout our lives is: whether we fear God, or worship man. You see, fearing God is not a matter of cowering before Him, it is the divine revelation that we are a created being and His wisdom and understanding far exceeds our own. Yet it’s more than a reverence and respect, even as the church has attempted to water it down and describe it as.

If God were pictured as a loving Father, His kids would know His love, but they would also understand that love in action by their also experiencing His discipline upon breaking His rules. Besides which, throughout scripture, anyone who came into the presence of God fell down as dead (John in Revelation), or immediately feared for their lives because they saw their own sin, His righteousness, and assumed they would die (such as Elijah).

It is the difference in how we measure something. When we are constructing a building or addition to a building, carpenters will always reach for a solid, unchanging, always accurate tape measure or yardstick. No one wants to use a yardstick made of rubber that can be stretched to make the measurement read whatever number the carpenter wishes. That would be foolish, and would either result in the building falling down, or the building not being constructed to the specifications of the owner.

Yet, society does not want to believe that there is an Absolute Truth that is beyond their scope of understanding or control. If we have to admit that there is a standard and Absolute Truth that can never change, then we have to admit that there is someone who established this Truth: God. Then we must choose if we are going to bend our knee and submit to this Creator of all, or rebel. Ironically, we ultimately fool ourselves because even if we choose to pretend that God doesn’t exist, or choose to rebel, it doesn’t mean we are any more in charge than if we had submitted to Him and His Truth. You see, refusing to submit to gravity doesn’t mean you will fly when you jump off a tall building. The Truth of gravity will still result in your free fall.

No, instead, as Godly men, we must choose to fear God by understanding and realizing that everything is in His control. Submitting to Him and His Will actually gives meaning and purpose to life so that we do not have to despair and spend our lives chasing after the wind. Through a deeper understanding of His Word, we are able to find fulfillment and rest, obediently laboring in His work appointed for us, to one day hear Him say, “well done good and faithful servant.”

Jesus teaches in Luke 12:4,5: “My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has the power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” Understand that God’s desire is for us to trust Him, and that no one has the ability to harm us eternally – we choose whether to fear God or not. Thus we must choose, as Godly men, to invest wholeheartedly into His kingdom, knowing life here is temporary anyways, and no longer fear what man, or Satan tries to do to compel us to either deny our faith, or hide it.

 

Crossroads:

Whom do you fear?

What type of yardstick do you use? Do you expect others to use an Absolute Truth around you or a truth relative to themselves?

By your words and actions are you teaching/modeling for your children, wife, or others around you the fear of God?

Challenge:

Choose whom you will fear, and who you will no longer fear. Set your heart and mind to stay the course even in the midst of turmoil – choosing to be the salt and light to the world that Jesus described in Matthew.

Our Decisions

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and receives favor from God.”

Proverbs 18:22

It seems like a stark contrast in scripture; how there’s praises and blessings given for being married, and then descriptions such as Paul’s “it is better to remain singles as I am (unless you cannot control your flesh and sexual desires)” (1Cor. 7:8). Maybe this is due to the associated blessings and difficulties with becoming and maintaining a healthy marriage. Or maybe it is because your choice of marriage partner will largely determine whether you are living in the dream life of Song of Songs, or finding the furtherest corner of your roof to live on.

While there are many scripture passages that address a woman’s conduct, as well as others that can be applied to both men and women, there are many many more addressing how men are to act while fulfilling the roles of husband and father. One of the most pointed to and probably quoted scripture in the church on the conduct and quality of a woman is, you’ve guessed it, Proverbs 31. Dubbed the Proverbs 31 woman, it is overlooked that this section of scripture is actually written specifically to a man. Proverbs 31 verse 1 & 2 says: “The sayings of King Lemuel – an inspired utterance his mother taught him. Listen my son!”

In other words, a loving caring mother was providing future instruction to her son, so that he knows the types of qualities to look for in a future wife. While she provided him with examples of these qualities, that does not mean the perfect woman would be or do all these things all the time. Instead, the diligent cultivation of his personal garden, and their marriage garden would grow these attributes into rich qualities.

Why is it, as men, we fail to cultivate our garden, and choose instead to peer over the fence at another man’s garden? Ultimately, to compare the woman you made a life-long covenant before God with (to forsake all others for), to other women. Why? To selfishly determine in your heart whether your covenant should hold up against what you visually are seeing now. In other words, it’s like asking: “if I had both my wife and this woman (whom I might know nothing about) standing side by side, which would I choose to vow a lifetime to now?”

Obviously, this is a ridiculous question, if you are a God-worshiping, man of integrity, because you already made a permanent commitment to your wife, whom you know deeply, while you can only be superficially infatuated and lusting after the other woman. Yes, you have most likely learned more about the woman you married than when you first met her (if you haven’t that is a different serious discussion as to why not) and she has also learned more about you.

What we expect from each other is perfection. To never be hurt by her, to never be sinned against, and, of course, for her to be forgiving when you sin against her. So realistically, as time progresses in marriage, we often expect our spouse to be perfectly understanding of our personal failings and sins against her, but for her to never or rarely sin against us.

But what the truth is that we need to embrace and move forward from is: that the people closest to us are the ones that will sin against us the most and we will sin against the most. They are also the ones that we should forgive the most and seek forgiveness from (repent to) the most. After all, if the most important person in our life is Jesus, we never stop sinning against Him, and He never stops forgiving us as we ask. If His relationship with His bride, the church, is mirrored by the relationship between a husband and wife (Eph. 5), then the pattern of sinning, repenting, and forgiveness should be the same (other than Jesus does not sin against His bride, while we as men, do).

 

Crossroads:

What is your opinion and attitude towards marriage in general and yours specifically?

Do you expect perfection from your spouse?

What does Jesus expect of you in your walk with Him?

Challenge:

Make it a point to “not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26), or sin against your spouse. Humbly and honestly talk it through, repent, and seek forgiveness. Do not become defensive when or if she is hurt in her response, since the sin was against her. Pray together daily.