The Marriage Triangle: Love and Respect

Please visit TRC to read more of the great articles in this issue!

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The Marriage Triangle:
Love and Respect

by Anna Popescu

A vital aspect of a mutually happy marriage is when a couple treats each other as God intended. God created men and women with different talents, desires and relationship needs. Husbands and wives need to honor each other by assuming the marital roles as God designed them.

Women crave love from their husbands.

Men need to feel respected by their wives.

Add “no matter what” to both of those statements!

A key element in this is the dreaded word, “submission.” I’m sure all Christian married couples have read Paul’s lessons on this, and let’s just say that many of us cringe when the Ephesians passage about this comes up in a sermon. It never fails to cause many husbands to elbow their wives when the words “submission” and “respect” surface.

So let’s review what Paul has to say on this subject in Ephesians 5:21-33, below (all emphasis is mine). This is where we learn about submission as it relates to marriage. Ladies, bear with me as I uncover several parts of this important topic. It isn’t only about us needing to submit to our husbands!

 

21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

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This love and respect aspect of the marriage relationship is a huge part of biblical submission in marriage, and not just for the wives. Husbands and wives are to love and respect each other as partners in the covenant union they share with Jesus Christ.

That is what the Marriage Triangle is all about, and this is clearly shown in verse 21. Husbands and wives are to be subject to (submit to) each other.

Note that the command of verse 21 (submit to one another) actually applies to every member of the body of Christ. Paul is saying there is a mutual submission in the body of Christ that carries over into the family relationships. The husband shows his submission to the wife by his sacrificial love for her. His role is like that of Christ in John 13, where He girded Himself and washed the disciples’ feet, accepting the lowest task it was possible for Him to perform on their behalf.1

Though not submitting to his wife as a leader, a believing husband must submit to the loving duty of being sensitive to the needs, fears, and feelings of his wife. In other words, a Christian husband needs to subordinate his needs to hers, whether she is a Christian or not.2

Now we move on to how wives are to be subject to (submit to) their husbands. Don’t stop reading yet, Ladies!

 

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.

24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

Did you get that?

We wives are to be subject to our husbands as the head of our marriage, just as we are to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church (His bride). If we are believers in the saving grace of Jesus Christ, we are a part of that Church. As such, we are all to submit to Jesus out of reverence and respect for Him and His position as head of the Church.

The wife shows her submission to her husband by following his leadership, “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church” (v. 23).

The marital relationship is more intimate, personal, and inward than that of a master and slave. That is indicated in Ephesians 5:22 by the phrase “your own husbands.” The husband-wife relationship is built on an intimate possessiveness.3

I love this next part:

The verse seems to imply that it is assumed the wife would willingly respond in submission to one whom she possesses.3

Wives, you possess your husband as much as he possesses you! Have you ever thought of it that way before? Not as in a material possession. It is more in the manner of belonging completely to each other.

By the same token, husbands are instructed to love their wives.

I know; you’re probably wondering why Paul needed to tell husbands what they already know and feel: that they love their wives. But read on to see exactly how husbands are supposed to love their wives.

 

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,

26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;

29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,

30 because we are members of His body.

31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

The husband is to love his wife “just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (verse 25). Yes, a husband loves his wife, but this is a different facet of that love, deeper and more a part of that covenant marriage relationship we share with Jesus.

A husband is to love his wife with the same selfless love that Jesus had for His bride when He willingly died for our sins. This kind of love means the husband is to cherish his wife, treating her with tenderness, treasuring her and desiring to nurture her.

First, the loving husband gives of himself. In his leadership role as head, he seeks to lead by giving of himself to his wife in ways analogous to how Christ gave Himself to His bride. Christ’s giving of Himself was personal and sacrificial. This great principle of self-giving sets the tone and points toward the many ways in which this love can be manifested and realized.

Second, Christ’s giving of Himself was for the benefit of His bride—He gave Himself up “for her.” Just so, the husband’s self-giving should be for his wife’s benefit. In short, we may speak of this love as a giving of oneself for the benefit of the other.4

 

And the wife is to “see to it that she respects her husband” (verse 33).

All of us who are believers in and followers of Jesus Christ should respect Jesus’ role as the Head of His bride, the Church. But in this verse, Paul is particularly speaking to the wives and encouraging us to respect our husbands and esteem them as the head of our marriage—just as we respect and esteem Jesus Christ as the Head of His Church.

33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

The respect asked of a wife recognizes the God-given character of the headship of her husband and thus treats him with dutiful regard and deference. Just as husbands have been asked to display their headship through likeness to Christ’s headship over His church, that is, through a love that cherishes and nourishes (verse 25, 28, 29), so now wives are asked to render their submission in a way that is most like that of the submission of the church to Christ, that is, a truly respectful submission because it is rendered voluntarily from the heart.

A wife’s respecting her husband and his headship therefore implies that her submission involves not only what she does but also her attitude in doing it. As with the husband, so with the wife, it is the heart’s attitude of grateful acceptance of the role God assigns to each and the determination to fulfill the particular role with all the graciousness God gives that Paul is urging on both wives and husbands in this last verse of his instruction.4

This is admittedly a hard lesson to learn when all around us society is eroding the concept of Biblical marriage as created by God.

Rick and I were talking about this recently, about how the media (especially TV) loves to portray the husband as a doofus who has no control over his household, and the wife, as the one who is in charge of the family because she always knows what is best. These are dangerous role models for men and women to follow because they are the exact opposite of what God has ordained for husbands and wives.

StLoveEachOtherCoupleEmbracingrive to stay strong in your marriage. Love each other with the kind of love Jesus has for His bride, the Church.

Husbands, love your wife as Jesus loves His Church. Wives, respect your husband just like you respect Jesus as the Head of the Church.

Here’s verse 33 once again, but I’ve emphasized certain parts to make a point:

33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

The point? Husbands and wives each have God-mandated responsibilities in marriage so that they will get along better and resolve disagreements in a God-honoring way.

Sure, there will be times when it will not be easy to remember how we are to Biblically treat or respond to our spouse. Those are the times to take our focus off of ourselves and the difficulty we’re going through, and instead, place that focus on Jesus Christ, the head of our marriage.


1Grace to You, “The Role of Women”

2Grace to You, “What Does it Mean to Dwell With Your Wife With Understanding?”

3GraceToYou.org, “Answering the Key Questions About the Family”

4Bible.org, “Husbands and Wives as Analogues of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:21 and Colossians 3:18-19)”

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Living in Deep Darkness

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I will give you the treasures of darkness. —Isaiah 45:3

In the famous lace shops of Brussels, there are special rooms devoted to the spinning of the world’s finest lace, all with the most delicate patterns. The rooms are kept completely dark, except for the light that falls on the developing pattern, from one very small window. Only one person sits in each small room, where the narrow rays of light fall upon the threads he is weaving, for lace is always more beautifully and delicately woven when the weaver himself is in the dark, with only his work in the light.

Sometimes the darkness in our lives is worse, because we cannot even see the web we are weaving or understand what we are doing. Therefore we are unable to see any beauty of any possible good arising from our experience. Yet if we are faithful to forge ahead and “if we do not give up” (Galations 6:9), someday we will know that the most exquisite work of our lives was done during those days when it was the darkest.

If you seem to be living in deep darkness because God is working in strange and mysterious ways, do not be afraid. Simply go forward in faith and in love, never doubting Him. He is watching and will bring goodness and beauty from all of your pain and tears. –J. R. Miller (from Streams in the Desert Devotional)

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God is Love

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God Is Love

by Joni Eareckson Tada

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.” 
—I John 4:16

The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are fellowshiping in a waterfall of love and joy. It is nothing short of amazing that the Trinity is driven to share that joy with us. It was the Savior’s mission: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you.” (John 15:11). What joy the Trinity enjoys! Misery may love company, but joy craves a crowd, and so the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’s plan to rescue humans is not only for man’s sake. It is for God’s sake. The Father is gathering a crowd–an inheritance, pure and blameless–to worship His Son in the joy of the Holy Spirit. “God is love” and the wish of love is to drench with delight those for whom God has suffered.

Soon believers will step into the waterfall of joy and pleasure that is the Trinity. Better yet, we will become part of a Niagara Falls of thunderous delight as “God is all and in all.” In heaven, we will not only know God, we willknow Him in that deep, personal union, that utter euphoria of experiencing Him. There in heaven we will“eat of the tree of life” and be filled to overflowing with more joy and pleasure than we can contain (Revelation 22:2).

Amazing grace, how can it be, that God would share His joy for eternity with me? Remember, God shares His joy on His terms; and those terms call for us to, in some measure, suffer as His beloved Son did while on earth (I Peter 2:21). If you and I experience hardship, it is paving the way for a deeper joy for all of eternity!

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thank You for inviting me into the fellowship of Your joy. Thank You for preparing me for heaven’s joy as I trust You in the fellowship of Your sufferings while on earth.

Blessings,

Joni and Friends 
www.joniandfriends.org

Copyright © 2006. Pearls of Great Price by Joni Eareckson Tada. Published in print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

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Happy Father’s Day to the “Really” Fathers

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Father’s Day can be joyful and full of love and happy memories. You probably had a father who showed his love for you in many ways, every single day. These are the fathers who selflessly spent time with us and encouraged us.

Some of us may have grown up without a father, or a series of events took our father away from us. Possibly we had a father who caused us harm or didn’t love us.

And then there are those of us who were adopted by “really” fathers. That’s what this sweet Father’s Day video is about. In it Levi and Lia tell the story of their journey from fatherless to fatherfull.

Beloved, there is a Father who cares for and loves each one of us with a love that cannot be understood. This is so difficult for us to believe, and yet it is true. God loves us with an unending love that never fades. Hold onto that when you’re tempted to feel “less than” or down about your upbringing.

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Your Marriage is Not a Hollywood Romance

I’ve been writing a column titled “The Marriage Triangle” for The Relevant Christian Magazine (TRC). I like to share articles I find about marriage in between publication of The Marriage Triangle articles. This is a good one from The Intentional Life

Your Marriage is Not a Hollywood Romance

It may seem a paradox, but marriage is more important than love. Why? Because marriage is the normal situation out of which true and abiding love arises. The popular notion, championed by fiction and motion pictures, is that love is primary, and marriage is nothing more than a dull anticlimax. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve found that real love hardly exists outside the context of marriage. How could it? Real love is a slow growth coming from unity of life and purpose. Love is a product. It is the thing to be created by mutual service and sacrifice.

Read more here.

Please check out the The Marriage Triangle tab here to read more articles about marriage.

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Happy Mother’s Day

I’ve written before about how my Mom loved red geraniums and grew them in a large planter that was on the front porch of one of our homes. I bought some red geranium plants last year in memory of Mom and displayed one of them in an old corn planter that we have in our backyard. I loved the look of the vibrant red against the true vintage look of this planter, but as usual our ever-present breeze (aka strong winds) blew most of the flowers off, so I moved the plant to our front porch. At least I took a picture of it before all the flowers were gone! The Lord took Mom home in 2007 and I miss her more with each year that passes. This is for all the Moms out there: those who are still with us and the ones we can no longer hug but whose face and memory we carry in our hearts. Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother’s Day

Miss you, Mom …
red geraniums always remind me of you.

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The Marriage Triangle: Friendship

The Marriage Triangle: Friendship

by Anna Popescu

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In my first article in the last edition of TRC, I wrote about how marriage is a covenant with these seven elements:

  1. Two lives become one.
  2. There is a sign to remember which serves as a witness and a memorial.
  3. There is a change in name.
  4. There is a meal shared.
  5. There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
  6. There are witnesses to testify.
  7. There is a covenant partner to defend.

For this edition, I am going to focus on number five concerning friendship.

A Friend Who Sticks Closer Than a Brother

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One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. —Proverbs 18:24

Let’s start by defining the word friend:

  • a patron
  • a supporter
  • an advocate
  • an ally
  • a person attached to another by feeling of affection or personal regard
  • a person who gives assistance

Jesus Christ, the friend referred to in Proverbs 18:24, is all the above. He is the best friend we could or will ever have!

Friend is a covenant term and is beautifully seen in God’s covenant with Abraham. In 2 Chronicles 20, there is a marvelous account of God’s deliverance of Judah’s king, Jehoshaphat. Upon hearing of the enemy’s advance against him, King Jehoshaphat cried out to God, appealing to His covenant relationship with Israel and reminding Him of who He is and of His great power. 1

In contrast, here are some antonyms (opposites):

  • an antagonist
  • an enemy
  • a foe
  • an opponent
  • a detractor

If you are married, your best friend here on earth should be your spouse. So who would you rather have for a spouse?

Someone who supports you or someone who is your enemy?

We all start out in marriage believing we will always support each other. At that moment, when we utter those two special words, I do, we love each other so much that we truly believe nothing will ever change between us. We are absolutely sure that our love will overcome any obstacle that comes our way.

Reality steps in: Jobs, our family and friends, financial problems, a new baby, and health problems.

What then?

These are the times when you need your best friend by your side so you can support each other. But if your relationship doesn’t start out as a friendship, it may be difficult to work through the tough times.

In my first article, I wrote that Rick and I met online. We lived about 600 miles apart so the bulk of our courtship was conducted online. We met in person four months after we started emailing each other, and two months after that, we became engaged. Five months later, we were married in a covenant ceremony. How could we possibly become best friends in such a short time and living so far apart?

One of the things Rick tells people about those months leading to our wedding is that, because we talked on the phone and emailed each other so often, we learned a lot about each other. It would probably have taken even longer if we had been able to see each other on a frequent basis. We shared our beliefs, ideas and thoughts through those phone calls and emails, and we were able to get to know each other well without all the physical “stuff” that often gets in the way.

Real life happened for us as we started to live together as a married couple.

The Honeymoon is Over

It doesn’t matter if you are in your 20’s, 30’s or older when you get married. You both bring to the marriage your pasts, beliefs, behaviors, hurts and emotions. Things happen to all of us as we grow up that color our thinking and actions, good and bad. In a perfect world, we are all brought up with wonderfully nurturing families. We treat our family members with utter love and respect. There is never an angry word passed among us, and all is right in our world.

Seriously?

Beloved, we are humans who do not always get the kind of family we would love to have. That “right” world?

Heaven.

Our earthly lives are filled with frustrations, anger, jealousy and a whole bunch of other not-so-nice emotions. We carry this baggage around with us until we meet that certain someone who is perfect for us. And because we are perfect for each other, we will never have any arguments or differences of opinion.

Reality Check

Oh, if it was only that easy! On this side of heaven, there will always be conflict. It is how we handle those conflicts that makes all the difference.

A marriage is made up of two imperfect people, each with their own idea of how things get done. You may be a very neat person who cannot abide clutter while your spouse is fine with the house being a bit untidy but does not do well with an unbalanced checkbook. You could waste time and emotion arguing or nagging about these things or you could find ways together to compromise so that neither of you is giving up anything.

If you are the one who can’t stand clutter, you might agree on an area in your house that is okay if it is a bit of a mess—such as  laundry room, one of the bedrooms or the garage. On the other hand, if you feel a sense of panic when the checkbook does not balance, you could consider letting your spouse take over that task. These are only suggestions for compromise because there are many other scenarios that you could work out together.

So What is a Best Friend?

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“My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.” —Author Unknown

Didn’t each of us have a best friend when we were growing up? You know, that person who completely understood you and all your quirks but loved you anyway. The one who let you rant when things were unfair at home. The one who might disagree with you about something but never let that get in the way of your friendship.

Why can’t spouses be that for each other? We live together so why shouldn’t we be best friends?

Awhile back, I was listening to a talk show about marriage. I don’t remember the names of the husband and wife who were being interviewed, but the subject really interested me: how to have a good marriage in spite of the little things that irritate you about your spouse.

I was alone while listening to this interview, but I laughed out loud as the husband said something about how the cute and endearing little things that you love about your spouse while you were courting begin to grate on you after you’ve been married awhile. Two other things this couple said affected me:

  • They compared marriage to being in a canoe. When you’re single and in a canoe by yourself, it’s easy to control your canoe. But when there are two of you in that canoe, every single movement from each person can easily cause the canoe to flip if both people do not work together.
  • We too often grant a full cup of grace to friends and family who do not live with us, while offering only a partial cup of grace to our spouse.

If we consider our spouse to be our best earthly friend, why aren’t we treating them better than anyone else? We can get through sticky situations by talking things out and being open to compromise. If you love each other, it shouldn’t be very difficult to keep in mind what makes your spouse feel more comfortable about a situation.

Here’s an example from Rick and me. When we first got married, I used those air fresheners that you plug into the wall. I placed them in several rooms of our home. Some were not as visible as others, but the one in our bedroom was right under the window and easily seen. Every morning for about a week, I would find that air freshener plug on the floor under the outlet, so I would plug it back in. The first couple of times I thought Rick had unplugged it so he could vacuum in there, but after the fourth day, I began to stew about it. Why did he have to be so mean about something so simple? Maybe he didn’t like the fragrance I chose, so why didn’t he just tell me?

I calmed myself before I asked him these questions because I didn’t want it to be a confrontation. I just needed to know why. It turned out that Rick was worried about those being a fire hazard. When I asked him why he hadn’t just told me that, he shrugged and said he thought I’d take the hint after the first couple of days, and didn’t think it was worth talking about.

After I thought about that, I realized the reasons why he thought the air fresheners could be a fire hazard did not count. What did is that he believed it was a fire hazard, and that was enough for me. So we never used those plug-ins again.

My point here is that even though something might seem irrational or unreasonable to you, your spouse might have a perfectly realistic explanation.  We just need to take the time to find out the reasons before we begin to accuse.

Beloved, marriage can be wonderful… or not so much–depending on how loved and cherished spouses make each other feel. Try to keep in mind that marriage triangle where Jesus is at the top and each of you are at the bottom looking up to Jesus to lead you together.

1 PreceptAustin.org: The Covenant of Marriage

 

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