Wives, Do You Respect Your Husband? Part 3: The Disobedient Husband – When He Doesn’t Love You

“But he does not love me!”

‘So how can I respect him? How can I be nice to him when he just doesn’t care about me?’

It is so sad when Christian wives are asking this. If they have Christian husbands, those husbands should be loving their wives. It sounds so simple, so easy. There could be a few reasons women feel unloved. One, some husbands don’t know how to show affection. They seem cold and distant, yet they may truly love their wives. Secondly, the unloving, disobedient husband may not be a Christian. He may not be born again, regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit. So wives, before you whine, stomp your feet and insist that ‘respect must be earned’, let’s ask George, husband of the ages, about this dilemma.

“Her obedience to her husband must proceed from conscience to God. It will not be a sufficient excuse for her to say, “He doth not love me, therefore I will not obey him!” — for not the husband’s affection to her, but her affection to God, must be the great motive to subjection. “If my husband fails in his duty, I suffer; but if I fail in my duty, I sin.” The former is a cross, but the latter is a curse. If the husband does not mind his duty but is wicked, the wife hath the more need to take her responsibility that she may win him (1Peter 3:1-2). Besides, it is God that commands this obedience, and He will reward it.”  — George Swinnock

Make note that your pleasant, willingly loving behavior may lead your unbelieving husband to Christ. John Brown states:

“The cheerful, affectionate, constant performance of all marital duties, especially when it is made quite plain that this is the result of Christian principle, is fitted to make the impression even on unthinking and insensible men.” –John Brown

And George Swinnock says:

“…your language to him and of him will not be rude but respectful. And your attitude will not be pouting and gloomy, frowning and fuming, but such as clothed with the garment of meekness.”

Husband-bashing sessions must stop. A virtuous woman will not gossip about her husband, slander or defame his character. Such behavior is completely disrespectful, or I should say it is irreverent.

William Jay, in Thoughts on Marriage, talks of the wife…

“…who can feel, but retain her composure; who can calmly remonstrate, but know not to insist; who can yield and accommodate; who is not ‘easily provoked,’ but ‘easily entreated;’ who is disposed rather to endure than complain, and to suffer in secret, rather than disturb others with her grief.”

This is definitely a hard thing, this meek and mild, cheerful attitude.

Maybe you’ve had enough of these idealistic Puritans. You want to hear a contemporary view. You want that disobedient husband to be berated as we ‘untamed heifers’ always seem to be. Well, God’s Word has not changed. In a sermon entitled ‘What! Me, Submit To Him?’, 21st century Pastor Steven J. Cole nails it. This is the best exposition I’ve heard on Ephesians 5:22-24 that addresses every question a husband or wife may have about marriage. And he socks it to that insensible, unthinking husband.

Hear this, disobedient husband:

“When a husband treats his wife poorly and puts her down, he is proclaiming heresy, that Christ abuses and puts down His bride. If he is a dictator over his wife, he tells the world that the gentle, loving Christ is a cruel tyrant. When a man abdicates his headship and lets his wife lead, he preaches that Christ does not lovingly shepherd His church and that the church is free to live out from under submission to Christ, again heretical lies. If a husband deserts his wife, either through unfaithfulness or indifference or by being married to his career or hobbies, he preaches that Christ abandons His church, another falsehood. So as married Christians, our witness to a watching world is very much entwined with how we relate as husbands and wives.” — Pastor Steven J. Cole


Maybe it seems like meekness means ‘doormat’. Like we need to be mousy and restrained. Just shut up and listen. But wait!

“Submission does not imply passivity. A submissive wife may actively try to influence her husband for God (as 1 Peter 3:1-6 implies). The wife whose husband is disobedient to the Lord is not told to be passive and not influence him. Rather, she is told how to influence him by her quiet and gentle spirit. The Proverbs 31 wife is hardly a model of passivity! A submissive wife needs lovingly and humbly to confront her husband if he is in sin. She needs to communicate her dissatisfaction with her husband’s insensitivity and aloofness. She may need forcefully to express her opinions, so that her husband knows exactly what she thinks. Without honest communication, a marriage cannot grow in intimacy.” — Pastor Steven J. Cole

I was in a Facebook Group whose theme was submissive, obedient wives. One wife asked what she should do in this situation: She was a member of a Christian church and attended regularly with her children and sometimes, her husband. She wasn’t sure of his salvation. Eventually, her husband decided to attend an Eastern Orthodox Church. This wife asked what she should do. Most women answered, ‘go attend the church your husband wants to attend. Be obedient.’ I commented that she should stay in her church where she felt the true Gospel is preached. She should gently explain the difference between Eastern orthodoxy and a true church (and maybe this wife did not know what that is). Christ is her head, she should not disobey Him and go to a false church. Well, I was the only one who advised that way. Every other ‘Christian’ wife said she should obey her husband and switch churches. They should worship together as a family. What???? So mere togetherness in a false religion would be God-glorifying?  Who does a Christian wife obey first, her husband or Jesus Christ, her divine Husband? Jesus overrules in the case of a disobedient husband.

Pastor Cole says:

Submission means that after a thorough, honest sharing of opinions and feelings, if there is still disagreement, the wife must go along with the husband’s decision, as long as it is not sinful. …If your husband asks you to do something that Scripture forbids, you must respectfully decline.

Cole goes on to say that if a husband is dumping his responsibilities, doing drugs or abusing you or the children, you should not passively tolerate his sin. If he is addicted to pornography, he needs to be confronted. Here’s where church membership is crucial. Pastors and elders are there to counsel and help you.

Witness to the world

“…Christian marriage is to be a powerful witness to a selfish world where everyone is fighting for his or her rights. The world should look at Christian marriages and instantly see the difference. They should see a Christian husband tenderly and selflessly loving his wife as Christ loved the Church. The world should see a Christian wife joyfully submitting to and respecting her husband, always seeking his good. …The difference between this picture and the garbage on TV should cause the world to marvel.” — Pastor Steven J. Cole

Consider our Lord Jesus Christ

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones sums up the reason for love (husbands) and respect (wives). This is what we need to drum into our minds and hearts:

…the supreme thing always is to consider our Lord Jesus Christ. If a husband and a wife are together considering Him, you need have no worry about their relationship to each other. Our human relationships and affections and loves are cemented by our common love to Him. If both are living to Him and His glory and His praise, if both have got uppermost in their minds the analogy of Christ and the church, and what He has done for the church that she might be redeemed, and that they, as individuals, might become the children of God — if they are overwhelmed by that thought and governed by it, there will be no danger of their personal relationship meeting with disaster. The headship of the husband will be the same kind of headship as the Headship of Christ over the church. He gave Himself for her, He intercedes for her, His concern is that she may be glorious and spotless and blameless — without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. That is the secret — that we are ever to be looking unto Him and realizing that marriage is but a pale reflection of the relationship between Christ and His church. So the principle of success in marriage is this: “Let this mind be in you which was also  in Christ Jesus.” Husbands, “let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Thank God we are brought into a new life, we are given a new power, and everything is changed — “old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2Cor. 5:17). All the relationships of life are transfigured and transformed, are elevated and uplifted, and we are enabled to live after the pattern and the example of the Son of God.