Showing Love and Respect as a Husband
“Let each one of you individually so love his wife as he does himself.”—EPHESIANS 5:33.
1, 2. (a) To what extent is divorce a problem in the world today? (b) In contrast, what other situation exists?
IN THE mid-1980’s, Psychology Today reported: “More than a million couples a year [in the U.S.A.] now end their expectations of bliss in divorce; the average duration of a marriage in the United States is 9.4 years. . . . Indeed, it seems at times that no one out there is happily married.” (June 1985) Considering the adults as well as the children, that amounts to at least 3,000,000 people a year affected by a broken marriage in just one country. But divorce is a worldwide problem, which indicates that love and respect are lacking in millions of marriages.
2 On the other hand, there is “another group [that] tends to be overlooked: those couples who somehow manage to stay together, who allow nothing less than death itself to break them up.” (Psychology Today) Thus, there are also millions of couples who work hard at keeping their marriage together.
3. What questions might we ask ourselves?
3 How is your marriage? Is there a warm feeling of love and respect between husband and wife? Does such love exist between parents and children in your family? Or do you sometimes find yourselves walking a tightrope of resentment and distrust? Since none of us are perfect, difficult situations might arise in any household, even where all are trying to be Christian, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”—Romans 3:23.
4. How do Paul and Peter indicate who has the key role in a happy family?
4 In view of the fact that difficulties can arise in any household, who has the key role in keeping the family on a peaceful and harmonious track? The apostles Paul and Peter supply the answer in the direct counsel found in their letters. Paul wrote: “I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God.” He also stated: “Be in subjection to one another in fear of Christ. Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord, because a husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation.” (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:21-23) In a similar vein, Peter wrote: “In like manner [following the model of Christ], you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands.”—1 Peter 2:21–3:1.
Christ—The Refreshing Example
5, 6. How is Jesus Christ an example in the exercising of headship?
5 In accordance with the aforementioned counsel, the husband is the Scriptural head of the family. But in what sense is he the head? How should headship be exercised? Some husbands might find it easy to demand respect by insisting that they are ‘the head of the house, and the Bible says so.’ But how does that match Christ’s example? Did Christ proudly demand respect from his followers? Can we find any occasion when he haughtily said: “Who’s the Son of God around here? You have to respect me!” On the contrary, Jesus earned respect. How? By his good example in conduct, speech, and compassionate treatment of others.—Mark 6:30-34.
6 So the key to exercising headship properly as a husband and father is to follow the example of Jesus Christ. Even though Jesus was never married, the way he treated his disciples is the model for husbands. That certainly presents a challenge to any husband, for Jesus is a perfect model. (Hebrews 4:15; 12:1-3) Nevertheless, the closer a husband comes to Christ’s example, the deeper will be the love and respect he is shown. Therefore, let us look more closely at the kind of person Jesus was.—Ephesians 5:25-29; 1 Peter 2:21, 22.
7. What did Jesus offer to his followers, and from what source?
7 On one occasion, Jesus said to a crowd: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.” Now, what did Jesus offer his listeners? Spiritual refreshment! But from what source would the refreshment come? He had just said: “Neither does anyone fully know the Father but the Son and anyone to whom the Son is willing to reveal him.” This indicated that Jesus would offer spiritual refreshment by revealing his Father to his true followers. But Jesus’ remarks also implied that refreshment would come from association with him, since he was “mild-tempered and lowly in heart.”—Matthew 11:25-30.
How to Be Refreshing Husbands and Fathers
8. In what ways should a husband and father be refreshing?
8 Jesus’ words help us to see that a Christian husband should be refreshing to his family in both spiritual and personal ways. By his mild-tempered example and teaching, he should be helping his family to come to know the heavenly Father better. His conduct should reflect the mind and actions of God’s Son. (John 15:8-10; 1 Corinthians 2:16) It is refreshing for all in the family to associate with such a man because he is a loving husband, father, and friend. He must be approachable and never too busy for consultation. Indeed, he must know how to listen, not just hear.—James 1:19.
9. What problem sometimes affects elders in the congregation?
9 This brings to mind a problem that sometimes affects congregation elders and their families. An elder is usually kept busy attending to the spiritual needs of the congregation. He has to set a good example with regard to Christian meetings, the ministry, and shepherding work. (Hebrews 13:7, 17) However, some elders have, in effect, burned themselves out for the congregation. In the process they have neglected their families, at times with painful results. In one case an elder was too busy to study with his own son. He arranged for someone else to do it!
10. How can elders be balanced in their exercise of headship in the congregation and the home?
10 What does this example emphasize? The need for a man to maintain a balance between congregation duties and those toward his wife and family. For example, after meetings the elders are often busy with problems and discussions. If it is possible and practical, would it not be refreshing for such an elder to make arrangements for someone to take his wife and children home, rather than having them wait for hours in the Kingdom Hall? In accordance with Biblical requirements, it can be said that ‘shepherding begins at home.’ If an elder neglects his family, he could jeopardize his appointment. Therefore, elders, be considerate and take into account the emotional, spiritual, and other needs of your family.—1 Timothy 3:4, 5; Titus 1:5, 6.
11, 12. How can a Christian husband obtain the support of his family, and what questions might each husband ask himself?
11 A refreshing Christian husband also will not be despotic or tyrannical, making decisions without consulting his family. Perhaps a decision has to be made regarding a change of job or home location or even such a simple matter as family recreation. Since all members of the family will be affected, would it not be wise and kind to consult all of them? Their opinions may help him to arrive at a wiser, more considerate, decision. Then it will be easier for all in the family to support him.—Compare Proverbs 15:22.
12 From the foregoing, it is evident that a Christian husband and father is not just a disciplinary figure in the home. He must also be refreshing. Husbands and fathers, are you Christlike? Are you refreshing to your family?—Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21.
Dwelling According to Knowledge
13. Peter offers what fine counsel to husbands?
13 As already noted, both Peter and Paul offer fine counsel to married couples. Being a married man, Peter had a double advantage in his counsel—experience and the direction of the holy spirit. (Matthew 8:14) He directed pointed counsel to all husbands, saying: “You husbands, continue dwelling in like manner with them according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one.” The paraphrased translation by J. W. C. Wand reads: “Husbands in the same way must apply Christian principles with intelligence to their relationship with their wives.”—1 Peter 3:7.
14. What questions now arise?
14 Now, what does it mean to dwell with a wife “according to knowledge” or to “apply Christian principles with intelligence”? How can a husband assign honor to his wife? Indeed, how should a Christian husband understand Peter’s counsel?
15. (a) Why do some marriages fail? (b) What is the real challenge in a marriage?
15 Many marriages are based simply on physical factors and sexual attraction. Yet, a lasting marriage cannot be guaranteed on the basis of good looks alone, for these are not durable. Gray hair and wrinkles eventually catch up with those who have been married for many years. But remember that marriage is the uniting of two minds, two personalities, two backgrounds and sets of spiritual values, and two tongues. This presents quite a challenge! Yet, understanding this is essential to a happy marriage.—Proverbs 17:1; 21:9.
16. ‘Dwelling with her according to knowledge’ involves what?
16 Among other things, for a Christian husband to dwell with his wife “according to knowledge” means that he really has to understand her needs. These are not just her physical needs but, more importantly, her emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs. If he ‘dwells with her according to knowledge,’ he will understand his God-assigned role. It will also mean that he respects her feminine dignity. This is quite opposite to the view held by some Gnostics in Peter’s day, among whom “women were despised as lower, carnal, and unclean beings.” (The Anchor Bible) A modern Spanish translation renders Peter’s words: “Regarding husbands: have tact in your shared life, showing consideration for the woman, because of her being of a more delicate constitution.” (Nueva Biblia Española) This makes a fine point that husbands sometimes forget.
17. (a) Among other factors, what is involved in the “delicate constitution” of the ‘weaker feminine vessel’? (b) What is one way that a husband can show respect for his wife’s dignity?
17 Why is the wife “of a more delicate constitution”? Among other things, because of her gift of procreation. Her procreative life is subject to monthly cycles that include a period of several days when she might be feeling somewhat limited or under strain. If the husband fails to take this into account and makes the same demands on his wife every day of the month, he will fail to respect her dignity. In that case he will be showing that he lives with her in accordance with selfish ignorance, rather than with knowledge.—Leviticus 18:19; 1 Corinthians 7:5.
Assigning Honor to the Feminine Vessel
18. (a) Into what negative habit do some spouses fall? (b) How should a Christian husband act?
18 Another way in which a husband can show love and respect for his wife is by showing and expressing appreciation for her and her qualities. A husband may fall into the habit of making derogatory remarks about his wife or may make her the butt of his jokes. Maybe such a husband thinks that this helps to cast him in a more favorable light. In fact, however, the effect is to the contrary, for if he constantly makes his wife look foolish, the obvious question is: Why did he marry such a foolish woman? Really, it would seem that only an insecure husband would resort to such tactics. A loving husband respects his wife.—Proverbs 12:18; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
19. Why would it not be proper for a husband to demean his wife?
19 In some countries, men even have the custom of demeaning their wives as a form of seeming modesty. For example, a Japanese husband will introduce his wife with the word “Gusai,” which means ‘stupid or foolish wife.’ The intent of this is that the other person should balance the situation with a complimentary remark about the woman. If a Christian husband makes this type of presentation, is he really ‘assigning honor’ to his wife as Peter counseled? Looking at matters from another angle, is he really speaking truth to his neighbor? Does he truly believe that his wife is foolish?—Ephesians 4:15, 25; 5:28, 29.
20. (a) What contradictory situation may develop between a husband and wife? (b) How can it be avoided?
20 Sometimes a husband will show a lack of love and respect simply by forgetting that his wife is also his Christian sister, not just in the Kingdom Hall but at home and on every occasion. How easy it is to be kind and polite at the hall and rude and brusque at home! So how appropriate Paul’s counsel is! He wrote: “Let us pursue the things making for peace and the things that are upbuilding to one another.” “Let each of us please his neighbor in what is good for his upbuilding.” (Romans 14:19; 15:2) There is no closer neighbor than a husband or a wife.
21. What can husbands do to encourage their wives?
21 Therefore, a loving Christian husband will manifest appreciation for his wife by words and deeds. As an anonymous poet expressed it:
“Amid the cares of married strife
In spite of toil and business life
If you value your dear wife—
Tell her so! . . .
You are hers and hers alone;
Well you know she’s all your own;
Don’t wait to carve it on a stone—
Tell her so!”
These sentiments are clearly supported by ancient King Lemuel’s mother. In part, she described the ideal wife in these words: “Her sons with one accord call her happy; her husband too, and he sings her praises: ‘Many a woman shows how capable she is; but you excel them all.’” (Proverbs 31:1, 28, 29, The New English Bible) Husbands, do you regularly praise your wives, or was that only for courtship?
22, 23. On what is a successful marriage based?
22 From this brief consideration, it is evident that for a husband to show love and respect in his marriage, it is not enough just to bring home the wages. A successful marriage is based on a loving, loyal, and considerate relationship. (1 Peter 3:8, 9) As the years pass by, this relationship should deepen as husband and wife appreciate each other’s virtues and strengths and learn to overlook and forgive each other’s weaknesses.—Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12-14.
23 If the husband takes the lead in showing love and respect, the whole family will be blessed. But what role should the Christian wife play in a happy family? The following article will discuss that and related questions.
Do You Recall?
□ Who has the key role in a happy marriage, and why?
□ How can husbands imitate Christ’s refreshing example?
□ What balance is needed between congregation and family responsibilities?
□ How can a husband ‘dwell with his wife according to knowledge’?
□ What does it mean to ‘assign one’s wife honor as the weaker vessel’?
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A balanced elder knows that shepherding begins at home