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Love and Respect…and a Pair of Boxer Shorts!

Gavin Peacock

Paul’s instruction in Ephesians 5

In Ephesians 5:33, Paul calls husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands. My wife needs my love, through my protection and provision. I need her respect through her willing disposition to receive my leadership and follow it. Now of course I need her to love me and tell me so and she needs my respect. But Paul brings out the primacy of these things in masculinity and femininity. Husbands, in their sin, tend towards unloving harshness or negligence in their leadership. Wives, in their sin, tend towards disrespectful manipulation and rebellion against that leadership. But the complementary picture is of a husband who loves his wife through sacrificial leadership for her flourishing, and a wife who submits to and gladly, intelligently encourages that leadership. They fit together in a Christ-Church, gospel picture and they function together as one flesh, harmoniously unified on God’s mission.

Where the rubber meets the road 

But what does love and respect look like on the ground…where the rubber meets the road? Here’s a fallible example. Say I come home and the house is a mess, the kids’ toys are everywhere and the dinner is not even on the go. Maybe it’s clear in this particular instance that my wife has been lazy and negligent. Now, I’ve had a hard day at work and my selfish, self-pitying heart tells me, “You deserve better than this. Look at this mess. Rebuke your wife.” Husbands, hear me clearly. You are called to die. Go down and start picking up the kids’ toys. Ask your wife how her day was. Show empathy. You will win her heart and her respect by your sacrificial, loving leadership.

Now consider a slightly different scenario. I come into the bedroom and throw my boxer shorts on the floor next to, not in, the wash basket (somehow they always manage to get back into the wash basket and back into my drawer washed and clean!) The sin issue is the same - laziness and negligence; but it works out differently in this scenario. I don’t think my wife is called to pick up after me. Better that she respectfully asks me to pick up my underwear and put them in the basket. “Honey, when you do that it makes so much more work for me. Do you think you could place them in the basket?” Wives, you will draw out the loving leader in your man by your respectful attitude and manner of speech. 

The more the Word of God transforms our minds, the more it will transform our lives and relationships. The more we practice godliness, these kinds of actions will become natural reflexes.

The illustration is humorous; the point I’m trying to make is serious. And it’s in every day circumstances like these where biblical masculinity and femininity is worked out in marriage. The Ephesians 5 primacy of love and respect can be shown in the small details of married life together … even though Paul probably never had boxer shorts in mind when he wrote it!