Respect and Love—A God Thing – Marriage Message #150

“Funny thing about God: Once we’re His, He often requires us to do what we think is impossible. For many women —and not just those married to unbelievers —respecting their husband’s falls into the impossibility category.

“‘I’d respect him if he wasn’t such a jerk,’ a woman named Christy told me. ‘He’s rude; he’s mean. He’s drunk every other night, and the rest of the time he’s on the couch watching trash on TV. Surely God doesn’t expect me to respect that?'” (Nancy Kennedy)

That’s a question that many people wonder about. So we’d like to add onto the message we shared last week from our experiences at the Love and Respect conference with Dr. Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs. This week we’d like to offer further thoughts on this issue, only this time they come from Nancy Kennedy as written in her book, When He Doesn’t Believe.

Her thoughts deal solely with the wives on the issue of respect. Don’t worry ladies; we’ll also give the husbands some thoughts on how God can help them at the end of this message. In the meantime, here’s what Nancy says:

“As wives, we’re not commanded to respect our husband’s actions and choices; we’re commanded to respect him. Maybe not what he does, but definitely who he is and the position he holds within the family. He’s a person whom God created in His own image, and he’s husband to his wife.

“In every Bible translation I could find, Ephesians 5:33 tells wives they must respect their husband. One version uses the word ‘honor,’ several say ‘reverence,’ and the Amplified Bible says wives are to respect and reverence, notice, regard, honor, prefer, venerate, and esteem, defer to, praise, love, and admire exceedingly—even if your husband acts like a jerk.

“In his book, Each for the Other: Marriage As It’s Meant to Be, Bryan Chapell writes, ‘Because we most deeply love what we regard most highly, a wife longs to think highly of her husband because intuitively she knows her capacity to love resides in that regard. What the Bible commands only harmonizes with what an unselfish and unwounded heart affirms.

“‘We want to respect the man we’ve married, but we don’t. We’re wounded, so we withhold our respect. He doesn’t deserve it. But respect is to be given, not based on his actions or personality, a wife must (not an option) give respect to her husband, based on relationship, not on feelings or merit.

“[As Gary Smalley says] ‘Admiring someone is a choice, a decision, a commitment, an act of our will. It’s telling ourselves, ‘God loves and values that person, and so can I.’

“What we think is who we become. In other words, our thoughts determine our attitudes, which determine our actions. If I think my husband is a jerk, I’ll treat him like a jerk. But if I think about how he’s made in God’s image, then I’ll treat him differently—respectfully. Men need to know they’re respected.

“Chapell writes, ‘The idea is that as a woman submits respect to her husband, she looks over his shoulder to see the Lord who is saying, ‘you’re ultimately doing this not for him but for Me.'”

So much of what Nancy had to say about respecting husbands has an application for the husbands as it relates to loving our wives. For instance, just as God requires our wives to show respect to us He also requires the husbands to show love to their wives.

Here’s a beautiful word picture of how that is to “look.” It comes from Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase called, The Message. This is Ephesians 5:1-2:

“Watch what God does, and then you do it. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with Him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”

I (Steve) can tell you husbands that if we were to spend the rest of our lives doing just 3 things outlined in these verses: (1) Watch what God does and learn how to love from Christ. (2) Not to be cautious but extravagant in loving our wives. (3) Give everything of ourselves and expect nothing in return — we would see a dramatic improvement in our marriages.

Let me take Nancy’s thoughts on how we become what we think and apply it to the husbands. She said, “What we think is who we become. In other words, our thoughts determine our attitudes, which determine our actions.” This is true for us men as much as it is for our wives.

If I start to think Cindy is trying to “make me miserable” or is trying to “sabotage the relationship,” it will have an effect on my attitude which in turn will have an effect on my actions towards her.

By the way, I know Cindy doesn’t do these things in our marriage, but isn’t it a trick of the devil sometimes to try and get us to think the worst of our spouse?

What I’ve found over the years is that when I start to think negatively about Cindy, if I take that thought captive and replace it with looking at her as made in God’s image, then I’ll realize that it’s me and not her who has the problem.

Just as we husbands need to know we are respected, our wives need to know they are loved.

Let’s pray together, asking the Lord to show us how we can apply Hebrews 10:25 to our marriages. “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love…”

Steve and Cindy Wright

— ALSO —

For more help on this issue, please click onto the Focus on the Family web site link, and then the web site link to read:



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3 responses to “Respect and Love—A God Thing – Marriage Message #150

  1. (SOUTH SFRICA)  Thank you. I found this article to be very intersting as I am faced with the same situation in my marriage. I really try to respect my husband as the Bible says but then I don’t think he even notices it. I’m really curiouse if anybody can help when the Bible says respect, what kind? What do you do to show him respect?

    Personally I feel that respect is a two way thing. It’s something that cannot be bought. It’s something has to be earned. I’m not going to question the Lord’s word as I am a very sound beliver.

    Just for clarity, I want to know from somebody. Is it only men that need to be respected? And what is a lady supposed to do if she gets no respect but keeps on giving and giving until her resources have run dry?

  2. (CANADA)  Thanks Cindy and Steve for a great focus: let ME be the one to initiate respect and love. JUST DO IT! Be the first to initiate goodness and watch God change the atmosphere… It has the effect of bringing dew to a parched ground.

    The verse in The Message Bible also deeply moves me; thank you! “Watch what God does, and then you do it. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with Him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of Himself to us. Love like that.” (The Message). Ephesians 5:1-2

    The article makes me think of a related concept in relationships that the Holy Spirit has impressed upon me: intentionally invest love and honor in one another, so that when it is necessary for a “withdrawal” there is something in the emotional/heart “bank account” that we can make a withdrawal from. We all have times where we need to approach the other with something that may have hurt us, and if we have invested in a lifestyle of love and honor, it will be much easier for the other person to allow us to make the “withdrawal” and deal with the issue without putting up a “wall” of defensiveness…

    Prayer: “Thank you Jesus that you make up for all of our shortcomings. When we give our lives to You we have the sweet privilege of the counsel of the Holy Spirit every day. He takes your Word and guides us and leads us into all truth. We just need to have a willing and teachable heart. Every day You present an aspect of Yourself to meet everyone of our needs… Every day you are making us more like You… Amen”

    God bless you and refresh you!

  3. (Africa) May the husbands KNOW they are respected and the wives that they are LOVED. Let’s keep our vows joyfully… yeah..! For with God All things are possible…!”