This previous Saturday Doug Wilson posted a wedding sermon he had given recently. I hadn't gotten around to reading it until yesterday but, having read it, I couldn't help but share some of it with you all here! The following paragraphs conclude the sermon. In them Wilson encapsulates the ever increasing nature of love and respect in marriage:
[Groom], in that passage (Ephesians 5) you have been given the charge to imitate the Lord Jesus in laying down your life for [Bride]. This is not the love of mere affection. It is a love that bleeds. You must of course be prepared to do this in the great things, but you must also be prepared to do it in the daily things, the mundane things, the ordinary things. Note that the text does not say that you are to love her if, or love her because . . . You are to love her, period. Now the Bible also teaches that this kind of love is efficacious. The Bible teaches that this kind of love bestows loveliness. After ten years of living with you, she is to be lovelier than today. After twenty years, more so. That’s your job. This is the kind of love you are committing yourself to, and you can only do it because the Spirit of God will be with you as you keep this vow.
[Bride], you have been given the charge of imitating the Church of Jesus Christ in how she honors the Lord Jesus. Just as the love [the Groom] has for you will result in loveliness in you, so also your respect for him will bestow respectability. When a woman respects her husband, this creates in him a desire to stand up taller. It creates in him a desire to be worthy of what she is giving to him by grace. This is yet another biblical pattern. God gives us His grace, and then we walk worthy of it. You render honor to your husband, and then he walks worthy of it. As he does so, rendering respect becomes more fluid and natural for you, and you honor him more. He then walks worthy of that.
What this means, [Groom], is that as you love her, and she grows increasingly lovely, she respects you more. What this means, [Laura], is that as you respect him, and he grows increasingly respectable, he loves you more. This is a glorious mystery, but God has laid it all out for us. He has explained how it all works. And it all comes back to one grace that divides into two verbs—love and respect.
This truly is a "glorious mystery". The calling of the gospel in marriage is like the calling of the gospel in every other area of life. Lay yourself down in faith that the Lord will raise you up in glory. As a husband and a wife learn to lay themselves down in marriage they begin to see the glory of God's grace at work in their marriage. This glory is much greater than the individual glory either the husband or wife could ever attain on their own in guarding their lives.
Biblical love and respect are efficacious. When a husband loves his wife as Christ loves the church, the love has a way of rendering his wife more lovely. In the same way, when a wife respects her husband in the same way that the church ought to respect Christ, the respect has a way of rendering the husband more respectful. Put more simply, when a husband truly loves his wife she becomes more lovely; when a wife truly respects her husband he becomes more respectable.
Food for thought.