I Want to Do This Love and Respect Thing But Can’t!
Over the years, I have heard spouses complain, “I cannot do this love and respect thing.”
They refer to God’s command in Ephesians 5:33. Husbands are to love and wives respect.
My heart goes out to them. Sarah and I fall short as well.
I ask them to explain and I hear one main reason:
“My spouse is too unlovable and unrespectable.”
I agree. There is no perfect spouse.
They quickly jump in, “But Emerson this is not about squeezing the wrong end of the toothpaste tube. My spouse has issues. They make me mad and miserable. To be honest, they make me react in unloving and disrespectful ways. I am not the person I used to be.”
Softly I say, ”A husband can love an unlovable wife who disrespects him and a wife can put on respect toward an unrespectable husband who does not love her.”
They look at me as though I’m insane.
They retort, “I have tried. Being nice doesn’t work.”
I comment, “Apparently you do not know about your past greatness, present freedom, and future reward.”
Thinking I am still insane, they curiously ask, “What are you talking about?”
1. Your Past Greatness
Did you know that when you were unloving and disrespectful toward your spouse, you were greatly unloving and irreverent toward Jesus Christ?
When I use the word “greatness” I mean the enormity and significance of your sinful attitudes and actions on the heart of Christ.
On a positive note, the same holds true when you put on love and respect toward someone who in no way earned it. Jesus teaches, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).”
This isn’t about your spouse and you, this is about Jesus and you.
Paul applies this to marriage with the “as to the Lord” teaching (Ephesians 5:22).
Putting on love and respect does not mean I turn a blind eye to my spouse’s bad behavior nor does it mean I am unaffected by their bad behavior.
What it means is that if I’m saying I can’t do this love and respect thing, I have not caught the vision that marriage is a tool and a test to deepen and demonstrate my love and my reverence for Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ stands beyond the shoulder of our spouse. When we love a wife, we love Christ. When we respect a husband, we reverence Christ.
We enter greatness.
But when we spew out venomous words, we greatly affect the heart of Christ. We sin greatly. We must confess our wrongdoing, not our spouse’s.
Jesus is present and is affected.
For example, in Scripture when Saul of Tarsus persecuted Christians, Paul hears a voice, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” As Paul persecuted believers, he persecuted Jesus.
“But Emerson, I am not persecuting my spouse.”
But what you do affects the heart of Christ. When you sin against your spouse, you sin against God.
This is not about who your spouse fails to be; this is about who God calls you to be.
You can become great in the eyes of Christ. Your love and respect in marriage greatly affects Him. Your spouse is a mere bystander.
2. Your Present Freedom
Did you know that God has given you total freedom to be a loving and respectful person independent of your irrelevant spouse?
In Ephesians 5:33 God commands the husband to love his wife and the wife to respect her husband.
In other words, there is nothing that one’s wife can do to get him to hate her or a husband can do to get her to show disdain.
We are free to love and respect and we are free to hate and disdain.
We are 100% free to trust and obey God’s command and we are 100% free to distrust and disobey God’s command.
Our spouse is irrelevant in that sense.
Am I dismissing the incredible hurts from the past like a spouse’s adultery? No. Adultery is betrayal, the worst of behaviors at the level of intimacy. A spouse can divorce and desert, leaving one alone.
But when I claim that a spouse is irrelevant, I mean a spouse has nothing to do with my decision to have a loving and respectful demeanor no matter what.
The truth is my response is my responsibility.
My spouse does not cause me to be the way I am. My spouse reveals the way I am. Therefore when I am unloving and disrespectful it reveals my inner choice.
Yes, we all want to blame our spouses. “I am unloving because of my wife” or “I am disrespectful because of my husband.”
However, if that is true than your spouse is in control of who you are. Her disrespect forces you to be harsh, angry, and unloving. His unloving ways forces you to be rude, angry, and disrespectful.
You have no say in the matter. You are a puppet.
But is that what you believe?
I don’t think so.
3. Your Future Reward
Did you know that the weirder your spouse is the more they afford you the opportunity to receive Christ’s reward in heaven?
Though I use the word “weirder” I do so not to put your spouse down but to capture your unpleasant experiences. You do not have a normal marriage according to your expectations.
I will not minimize the fact that your spouse is unlovable or unrespectable. Your spouse could have serious issues.
But you can do marriage God’s way even if your spouse never changes.
What you do leads to Christ’s eternal reward.
Paul declares the axiom: “you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do” (Ephesians 6:8 NIV).
Nothing is wasted. Everything counts (Philippians 4:14; Luke 14:14).
A spouse cannot stop Jesus from saying to us on the Last Day, “Well done.” No one can block the reward Jesus intends to give.
Do people get it?
A husband writes, “There are many times when I have felt like a “doormat” when I showed her love when I didn’t feel she deserved it. (I’m sure many times she felt the same way.) I am now certain that Christ is watching my reaction and stands ready to reward me eternally for a submissive response.”
One person wrote, “I have it hanging on our refrigerator as a reminder. ‘My greatest reward comes from doing this unto You, God.’”
Your New Resolve
Will you commit to the following?
- Because I want to greatly touch Christ’s heart, I will put on love and respect out of love and reverence toward His person and presence.
- Because I am free, I will put on love and respect out of trust and obedience toward God’s command in Eph 5:33.
- Because I yearn for Christ’s Reward, I will put on love and respect out of a desire to hear His well-done and receive His recompense.
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