Friday, December 1st, 1978
I am 3 years old and I am looking out the side door of our house into our massive garage. My dad and mom are pulling up in our red Pontiac sedan. It was built like a tank and it felt like riding in a boat. Sitting in the back seat when my dad mashed the gas, was like riding a wave or something. I think every car was like a muscle car back then.
So my dad parks the car in the garage and I am watching my mom gingerly get out of the passenger side. Soon, they are both huddled around the back seat looking at a pile of blankets. My dad carefully carries the pile of blankets up the steps in the garage that leads to the door where I am standing.
They seem excited as he gently places the blankets on the kitchen table and starts peeling the layers back. As I stretch to look at what was inside the blankets a stunning realization hit me. I am a proud big brother to little baby girl.
As it turns out, being a big brother is harder than it looks. We did everything together but fought a lot.
One year at Christmas there was a big gift under the Christmas tree. So looking at the tag, I realize that is for both of us. We both open it together and just like a big brother I am helping my little sister with her part. Inside, there’s this grey box that smells like new plastic. On the front in big letters, the words printed say, “NINTENDO”. It was the popular video game console of the 80s.
It came with a game called, “Super Mario Brothers”, and of course we fight about who would get to be player one. Only one person could play at a time, so you had to wait on player one to mess up! It is not like video games today where you hit the “save” button and come back later. You have three lives and when you died, you started from the beginning. So it would take a while for player one to finish sometimes. But I am a big brother, so I let her be player one because that is what big brothers do, they let their little sister go first.
Then one day, she meets this “guy”, and I am asking lots of questions because that’s what big brothers do, they protect their little sister. She starts spending time with him instead of me, but that’s OK because she was happy and that’s what big brothers do, they let their little sister be happy.
Before long, I am 24 years old and looking out the door of our church into our massive parking lot. And I am watching my little sister get into car in a wedding dress. She is leaving to live 4 hours away. That’s OK because that’s what big brothers do, they let their little sister go.
As it turns out, being a big brother isn’t about being a big brother at all. It’s about having a little sister and what being together means to you. It’s about the way you treat each other.
Being a big brother is like being a husband. Marriage is really not about being a husband or a wife at all; it’s how you treat each other inside your marriage. To be a husband, you have to treat your wife like a wife, and your wife has to treat you like a husband.
Marriage is all about treating each other with respect.
In 1965, recording artist Otis Redding released a song entitled Respect. It was about a man pleading for respect when he gets home from work every day. It became a major part of pop culture when soul singer Aretha Franklin released a new version of the same song that became a 1967 hit and signature song for her. She made it about a woman demanding respect.
But in marriage, you shouldn’t have to plead for respect or demand it. You shouldn’t even have to earn it. It should be lovingly given by a couple in love.
This is R-E-S-P-E-C-T, seven ways to spell respect in your marriage
For context read Ephesians 5:21-33
Remember Your Spouse’s Desires
Respect Is Something You Give
The way that you treat each other determines the level of respect in your relationship. Respect in marriage is something you do, not something that just happens. By speaking to my wife in a certain tone or manner, I am respecting her as a person and as my wife. And the same goes for her towards me.
Here are some practical ways to show respect:
- Choose your words carefully.- Once they are out, you just can’t get them back. Think before you speak.
- Don’t expect your spouse to do something that you are not willing to do yourself. If you wouldn’t do it, why would you expect them to?
- Treat your spouse the way you would want to be treated. Ask yourself a question like, would I want my husband to talk to me like that? Or would I want my wife to treat me that way?
- Listen to what your spouse has to say. Be listening, you are showing ultimate respect to them. It lets your spouse know that you care enough about what they think to listen to them.
Notice the Needs and Wants of Your Spouse
It’s easy to get caught up in all the things that you need or want and forget that your spouse has needs as wants a well. Respecting your spouse means that you are willing to be there for them and meet their needs and desires. When you are saying your vows you are giving yourselves to each other.
You have to respect their needs and desires. Sometimes my wife needs a hug or a little attention. I don’t just randomly feel like a need “a good hug”, but she does. So I respect that need for an emotional connection that she has. And guys have needs and too. So by respecting those needs and wants, you are respecting your spouse.
So take out a piece of paper and pen, or just your mind and imagine doing this. Write down a list of the things that you know that your spouse needs and wants. What are some ways that you can give them those desires?
Here is a personal example. I know that my wife sometimes needs “a good hug”. So when I get home from work I can go straight to her and give her that hug. As a stay-at-home mom, after being with our kids all day, she more than likely needs one. Maybe start with one need that you know your spouse has, and show respect to them by trying your best to meet it.
The Bible Principle
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.Ephesians 5:21
Submitting yourselves -This means that in love you submit yourself to the needs and desires of your spouse. This is how you really respect your spouse, by submitting to them. Sometimes when I hear the word submit, I think about wrestling, where one player in the match finally submits! This is not what the Bible means in this verse. It means yield to another’s control.
One to another- In marriage, you are giving yourselves to one another. So you are giving yourself to your spouse to meet their needs and desires to the extent that you can. Before you are married, your decisions are all made with your best interests in mind, but now you make decisions with your spouse’s best interest in mind.
In the fear of God- Your submission to one another is intimately tied to your faith. So if you are not submitted to God, you can’t really submit in the right way to your spouse. You always submit to God first because He is more important than anyone else in your life. If you are not submitted to God, you can try to use this principle but it will not work like God intended for it to work if you don’t have faith. We talked about this in the lesson title Why and How You Should Have a Me 1st Marriage.
Esteem Your Spouse Better Than Yourself
Give Yourself Away
Marriage is the ultimate gift because you are giving yourself to the person that you love. “I love you so much that I am giving me to you.” At the end of the day, “you” are the most valuable commodity that you could ever possess. The following are some practical ways to give yourself away in marriage:
- You give your heart to your spouse. By saying yes to loving Amber, I said no to everyone else in the world. I think that “no to everyone else” is the hangup for a lot of people concerning marriage. You are committing to not seek romantic love from anyone else. When you really love your spouse you don’t have wandering eyes! My mother used to say that about couples, that things would not work out if one of them still had wondering eyes.
- You give your plans to your spouse. I am not going ANYWHERE without my wife. Because I love her, she is now a part of any plans that I make. So you have to consider how any career or ministry choices are going to impact your spouse and your marriage. Even though you may want to do something, you have to have the support and consideration of your spouse. Although the husband is the head of the wife, it doesn’t mean he can just do whatever he wants. Instead, he has to prayerfully consider the impact that his decisions will have on his wife and his family. Your love for your spouse is more important than your ambitions. In fact, your first ambition should be to love your spouse.
- You give your body to your spouse. The thing that most people love and pamper the most, is one of the most important things that you give away to your spouse. When you get married your body no longer belongs to you, it belongs to your spouse. So I have no right to share my body with anyone else because it’s not mine to share. It’s not mine anymore.
I have no right to fill my eyes with pornographic images or use my hands to touch some else intimately. I have no right to develop a relationship with someone else or “push the envelope” with someone or something else. I don’t have the right to have a private relationship with anyone else. You shouldn’t have anything on your computer or phone that you wouldn’t want your spouse to see.
The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wifeI Corinthians 7:4
This is a Bible principle that too many people are missing today. Respecting your spouse means giving them your body.
Take Care of Your Spouse Like You would Take Care of Yourself
Showing respect to your spouse also means that you take care of your spouse like you would take care of yourself. This is the biblical principle that you love your spouse more than yourself.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:Ephesians 5:28 and 29
Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.Ephesians 5:33
Consider participating in the following relationship challenge:
Think about one thing that you really want for yourself, then add the monetary value of the item up. Buy something of similar value to your spouse that has no direct benefit to you instead. So give up something you want to give your spouse something that they want. For example, let’s suppose I am interested in fly fishing (I have no desire or idea how). I would determine how much money I would need to spend in order to get started. But I would save up that amount of money and spend it on something for my wife that she would like.
This is the kind of love that God wants you to have in marriage.
Esteem Your Spouse Better than You
If you are going to be a Christian, you will have to be Christian to your spouse first. This is how this principle works. In your mind, you place the other person as more important than you. This doesn’t mean that they are more important than you, but you are going to treat them that way because you are a Christian. The principle is described in the following Bible verse:
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.Philippians 2:3
So when the husband, who is the Biblical head of the wife, thinks about his wife, he considers her in his mind better than himself. And the wife considers her husband better than herself. The problem is that this kind of love makes you vulnerable to hurt, but you are giving yourself away in the act of loving your spouse.
What happens when the husband esteems his wife better than himself, and the wife esteems her husband better than herself? You paint the picture of Christ and the Church with your marriage!
Jesus thought so much of you that He literally gave his life and his body for you. And the kind of faith that you should have in Him causes you to give your life and your body away to him. A good Christian marriage will cause a husband and wife in love to make more disciples for Jesus. So once you give yourself away, you can now give the Gospel away to the people within your influence. Without giving yourself away, you can’t really relate to the Gospel that you give away.
Sense How You Are Making Your Spouse Feel
Compare Your Marriage to the Bible
There are a lot of people who are trying to have the best marriage. They want to have a better marriage than anyone they know. I suppose that is honorable, and could be a good thing, but I don’t think it is necessarily Biblical. You should compare your marriage to the standards of Ephesians 5:21-33.
To be honest, there are times when I feel like my marriage is so dysfunctional when I look at other people. We have things we are always working on, and just when it seems like we have something down, there is something else we discover that we have to work on. And to be totally, unabashedly honest, sometimes we feel like failures compared to other people.
But when I look at the Bible standards, even though it seems hard at first, I see something I can attain too. Can I be a leader to my wife? (vs 23) yes. Can I give my life to my wife? (vs 25) yes. Can I love her more than myself? (vs 28) yes. Maybe having the perfect marriage is not as important as loving each other and following the Bible model! I am just saying that maybe the thing we are aiming for is not what God wants us to aim for.
Instead of trying to be perfect, how about just love each other unreservedly and serve God together. It seems like this may free you up to advance the Gospel, which is what will really matter in eternity. I don’t think at the Bema Seat(the time in the future where all Christian will answer to Jesus for their lives) that there will be a “perfect marriage” crown. There may be one for treating your spouse like a Christian would and doing your best to do your part in the Church though.
The Bible Model for Marriage Is Focused on How You Make Your Spouse Feel
Let me list them out to illustrate who this works:
- Submitting to one another (vs 21) The focus of the submitting is on the other.
- Wife submitting to her husband (vs 22 and 24) The focus of the submitting is to the husband.
- The husband as head of his wife (vs 23-24) The focus is on the wife as the object.
- The husband to love his wife (vs 25- 33) The focus is on the wife being loved.
- The wife showing reverence to her husband (vs 33)
Treating your spouse with respect is sensing how you are making them feel. Respect is something you give, but it is also something that is experienced by the recipient. So respect in marriage is tied to how you are making your spouse feel.
Practice Believing in Each Other
Have Confidence in Each Other
In the arms of your lover, your world shrinks to just two. Love is this amazing experience that isolates two people from a crowded world. My wife is my whole world. If she can believe in me, that is all that really matters. Marriage is about believing in each other. That’s why you fell in love, got engaged, and tied the knot!
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;Ephesians 5:23-25
The Bible paints this picture of marriage that seems impossible. The formula is for the wife to respect her husband like the Church respects Jesus. And for the husband to treat is his wife the way that Jesus treats the Church. Love makes it possible to treat your spouse this way. Love is the mechanism that God created to allow you to respect each other in unimaginable ways.
For the wife to reverence her husband in this way requires her to exercise love and understanding that cannot be found anywhere else in this world. For a husband to treat his wife with this kind of love is unprecedented in this world, that a man would give his entire life for a woman. This is the love that a Christian marriage demands.
Don’t Give Up on Your Love
Respect is you giving your spouse a chance even when it seems undeserving. This makes me think about how the Lord gives me chance after chance in our relationship. Also, to be completely honest, there are times when I don’t understand what His doing, so I have to give Him a chance even when it seems impossible!
Marriage is the one relationship in this world that is worth risking everything to keep and restore. When your spouse is struggling, it gives you a chance to love and respect them. I think this is one of the greatest things about love and marriage. When one of you fails, the other is there to pick you up. The Bible illustrates this principle.
Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
When your spouse makes a mistake, you have the opportunity to show your spouse what it means to be loved by a Christian. Because Christians in love believe in each other. This is the kind of respect that can change your life and cause your marriage to thrive.
Although sometimes you may have to have a firm hand of love in your relationship. For example, if your spouse is physically abusing you, demand that they get help for their temper. Or if your spouse is unfaithful, demand that they stop. You don’t tolerate sin and failure, but you believe in your spouse when they make the effort to change. And it may take that kind of firm love to push them to change, knowing that same Christian love will be there to take them back in.
Respect Each Other after Failures
Give respect to your spouse even when they have violated that respect. Just like God restores you after you make mistakes. After all, you never know when the shoe will be on the other foot. You never know when you will need to receive grace instead of giving it.
Expect Your Marriage to Succeed
Take Ownership of Your Relationship
I love being in love. It’s that feeling of losing yourself and being madly in love with someone else. It’s a friendship, but it’s more than that. It’s family, but it’s more than that. When you fall in love, you lose yourself in the life of the person you love. But cultivating that love and keeping it thriving is up to you. So You have to own your relationship and do your part to keep your love strong.
Love is Like a Houseplant
My wife loves houseplants. She has a green thumb and treats them like pets. She makes sure they are watered, have good drainage, and plenty of sunlight. When she has one, and she usually does, she takes good care of it. But for the plant to look nice and grow she has to put in the work to take care of it.
Love is the same way. You have to keep it up if it is going to thrive. You can’t neglect it and expect it to magically stay the same. You have to trim the dead leaves off, you have to water it, and you have to make sure it has plenty of sunlight. Falling in love is easy, but it takes work to stay in love.
Respect means that you have a certain expectation that your love will succeed.
Cherish Your Love Relationship
According to the Oxford dictionary Cherish means to protect and care for someone lovingly.
Adore Your Lover
Treat your spouse like a treasure. You are mine and I will love and respect you. The language of Ephesians 5 makes this principle clear.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:Ephesians 5:28-29
Your spouse is the most valuable thing in this world that you will ever have. So treat them like they are. Love is such an intense emotion that it sometimes causes you to fight. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong in your relationship. So just try to recover quickly and makeup. Making up is part of adoring your lover! And it’s also kinda fun to makeup- just saying!
Protect Your Love
When I am tempted to break my marriage vows, I don’t because I love my wife too much. And that love is something I want to protect. When I think about all the traps in the world that are designed to destroy my love for my wife it makes me angry because I want to protect that love. It is easier today than ever to keep secrets from your spouse. So you must be more diligent than ever to protect that love.
- When you are dealing with the opposite sex for whatever reason be aware that you have a love to protect with your spouse first and foremost. So I am not going to do or say something that could lead to harm to my love for my spouse.
- When you are on the computer or your phone, be aware that the internet and social media are wrought with traps that could damage your marriage. So I am not going to do or say something online that I wouldn’t want my spouse to see.
You have to cherish and protect your love. That is how you can respect your spouse.
Talk About How You Are Treating Each Other
This is one of the hardest things to do in marriage, but one of the most important, talking about your relationship. The way you learn how to respect each other is to talk about it.
Confrontation Is the Spark of Love
When you first meet it is like a confrontation, but a confrontation that leads to eventually falling in love. That moment when I first met Amber was truly a confrontation for me. I had to confront my fears, doubts, and insecurities. But I somehow overcame all of that and talked to her that first time, not knowing how far things would go. After a while, we fell hopelessly in love! Without that initial confrontation, that love would have never happened.
Sometimes, or most of the time, the best thing you can do for your love is to have a confrontation about how you feel and to find out how your spouse feels. You may discover some things about your relationship that you did not even realize. Have you ever thought your spouse meant something only to find out that they never meant that at all? You can only find these things out by talking about how you feel and listening to how your spouse feels.
The truth is that your spouse can’t know how to respect you if you don’t tell them how! That is hard to do but worth it. If your spouse is doing something you don’t like, tell them! How else are they supposed to know? Sometimes men seem obvious because we don’t always see the world in color. We see in black and white and keep things simple. But women, on the other hand, can have much more complicated emotions and feelings. So there can be a disconnect that can only be fixed by talking about it.
A confrontation could be the very thing that turns your love and your marriage around.
Communication Is the Fuel of Love
Love without communication is like a car without an engine, it’s not going ANYWHERE. Find a way and a time to talk about things you are unhappy about in your marriage. I have read about couples who schedule a time to critique each other in the marriage, maybe that would work for you or maybe not. Regardless, find a time that works for you both and be deliberate about it. I am one of those people who get “hangry”, it means when I am hungry, I am also grumpy. So talking to me about something that I could get defensive about while I am “hangry” is not a good idea! Ok, here is a really good tip: never talk about how you feel in a text message! Talk in person, please!
It is better to talk about how you feel now than to be unhappy for a few years and finally get separated or divorced. What a shame when all you had to do was to communicate your feelings and your spouse could know how to respect you. I think that sometimes women, in general, make the mistake of expecting their man to read their minds. No, mean can’t read your mind and intuitively know what you want, you have to talk about. There are also a lot of men who just put up with not getting what they want until they finally give up and look for whatever they want somewhere else. It would be a lot easier to just talk about it!
Respect is about knowing how to respect each other as the individual person you each are. It is the process of learning how to love each other over the course of your life together.
Remember Your Spouse’s Desires
Esteem Your Spouse Better Than Yourself
Sense How You Are Making Your Spouse Feel
Practice Believing in Each Other
Expect Your Marriage to Succeed
Cherish Your Love Relationship
Talk about How You Are Treating Each Other