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Respect, Love, and Marriage (Part II of III)

No one plans to have an unhappy marriage. Yet marital conflict exists everywhere. Even those who appear to have a fulfilling marriage often live with anger, mistrust, and disharmony. Many wives say they have no one to talk to, they are neglected, and they despair of finding help even after years of struggle. Husbands in turn complain that they are weary of being nagged, tired of being compared to Robert Redford, and frustrated when their wives accuse them of being demanding. Ephesians 5:22, 28 & 33, Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord ... husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself ... each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Looking closely at these verses, the wife is commanded to submit to and respect her husband. While love may be implied in this command to the wife, the direct use of the word love is applied clearly and obviously to the command of the husband. Submitting was nothing new to the women of the ancient world; what was new was a husband loving his wife as he loved himself. In first century Jewish, Greek and Roman culture, women, and therefore wives, were generally held in low-esteem. In his morning prayer, there was a sentence in which a Jewish man gave thanks that God had not made him “...a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.” In Jewish law, a woman was not a person, but a thing. She had no legal rights whatsover; she was absolutely her husband’s possession to do with as he willed. Jewish men were divorcing their wives so frequently and easily that at the time of Christ the marriage bond was in peril of disintegrating, even among the Jews. Jewish girls were refusing to marry because their position as a wife was so uncertain. Furthermore, the destruction of the marriage institution was even more pronounced, more intolerable, in the Greek and Roman cultures. It is against this background that Paul writes these important passages in Ephesians. Obviously, Paul’s view was radical for his day and, unfortunately, ignored by so many today. Nevertheless, this Apostle from God was calling men and women to a new purity and a new fellowship in the married life. Next time: The importance of a loving husband, considered, in the conclusion to “Respect, Love, and ...

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