Beyond Love and Respect – Growing in Selflessness

By Sarah Logan, Contributing Writer

Recently a lot of attention has come to the Biblical injunction for husbands to love their wives and for their wives to respect their husbands.  We can all agree that this has been a much needed call to all of us who need constant reminders of how to live with our spouses with circumspect grace and understanding.  However, I’d love to see a deeper, richer call as we pursue Christ-likeness in marriage.  Scripture certainly teaches about love and respect.  But if we look deeper and closer we can also see WHY love and respect are so crucial in a marriage.

“Be imitators of God therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…”  Ephesians 5:1


Perhaps you think it is natural to love your wife.  Perhaps it comes easy for you to respect your husband.  But for those of us who want to grow even further, might I suggest a greater calling?  Because if you decide to love with your will when it isn’t coming naturally you are already doing what I suggest.  Because if you give honor and respect to your husband when you most feel like belittling or undermining his authority, you are already doing it.

In loving, respecting and doing what doesn’t come naturally, you are becoming SELFLESS.  A key passage for all marriages should be Philippians 2:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”

We all come into the world with one thing on our minds: ME.  And that doesn’t change much, though with a few parental tweaks here and there we sometimes seem to become just a little aware of those around us.  But ultimately, many of us live our lives to the utter fulfillment of our OWN desires, OWN wishes, OWN dreams.  Self tends to absorb all we do think and live for even up through adulthood.

So coming into marriage it is most natural to carry on the way we have always been.  Entering marriage we tend to think: “This person is wonderful!  He/She makes me feel GREAT!  I can’t wait to be together forever!”  And off we sail into the sunset.  Until we discover that our spouse struggles with the same selfishness that has encumbered us from day one.

marriage pic

All marriage materials out there – whether spiritually based or not – tend to give us steps towards growth in selflessness – without explicitly saying so.  So let’s just simplify all those resources into one short article here and sum it all up into one word.  The bulk of marriage issues stem from SELFISHNESS.  We are selfish when we resist growth and change.  When we make our needs, wishes, desires primary and push our spouse to fulfill them.

Loving when it’s unnatural is SELFLESS.

Respecting when it’s unnatural is SELFLESS.

Choosing to put another first is the measure of love and respect.  There is no way around it.

Now that we’ve identified the problem and solution we can all go home, right?  Wrong.  How do we grow in these areas?  It is easy to have the ‘want-to’ without the ‘commitment-to’ when it comes to change.  And I’m as guilty as anyone!  I wish I could wave a wand over myself and wake up one morning and voila! poof! I will live that day all to the glory of God and the pleasing of my husband.  Sadly, it just doesn’t work that way.

I can’t in a few short paragraphs sum up what it takes to change – perhaps that’s what all we write about at A Biblical Marriage is geared towards – change and growth in God’s call on us as husbands and wives.  But this is just a little reminder that when SELF reigns supreme, pain, distress, conflict and lack-luster marriages are sure to follow.

How might you bless your spouse today?  What could you do to show that he/she comes first?  How does he/she know that you are FOR him/her?  What selfishness has taken root in your life that is squeezing out the potential for a flourishing love and oneness?

In future articles I’d like to address change, but for now, be aware that walking in Jesus’ steps means laying down your life for each other.  This includes how you spend your time, how you manage your physical, spiritual, social, and emotional life.  Marriage is a high calling and often asks of us more than we think we’re capable of.  Without the Holy Spirit indwelling and changing us there is little hope.  We need to rely on Him at every turn.  No amount of following steps, rules, ideals, reading materials, spiritual disciplines, checklists, or seminars will effect any change unless we recognize it is HIS work in us to bring about change.


 “Remain in me and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:4