RESPECT: It’s a word that comes up often in counseling rooms. It’s tossed out in the midst of arguments. Some demand it and can make you pay if you don’t give it. We all want it, but most of us have trouble giving it.
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Marriage: Made in Heaven? Part 11 “RESPECT”
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: It’s hard to see the word with out thinking about the old Aretha Franklin song (although I may just be showing my age). Aretha sang, “All I’m askin’ is for a little respect … just a little bit.”
I’ve heard that same plea across the counseling desk many times, especially, when husbands don’t keep their eyes where they belong, when they flirt with other women, or when a wife doesn’t feel her husband is showing her the proper honor in some other way.
We all know what it’s like to feel disrespected.
Those are real concerns. A husband should honor his wife in the way he interacts with her and with others.
But, wives are not the only ones who are disrespected. In fact, if we’re honest, there is a lack of disrespect toward husbands and fathers, in general, today. Maybe it started during the women’s movement. You know, “I am woman, hear me roar.” Often, the implication was, I can handle things. Get out of my way. I don’t need a man.
Think about the typical family show in the 50s and 60s: Father Knows Best, The Donna Reed Show, Leave It to Beaver, The Andy Griffith Show. Fathers held a place of honor. They were wise. Their wives and children showed them respect.
Now think about the typical family sitcom today. Often, the father is the bumbling idiot and the butt of the jokes. Wives are out conquering the world or rolling their eyes over their husbands’ actions. Children are anything but respectful.
While husbands, wives, and children should all show respect for one another, God has specifically commanded wives to respect their husbands and children to honor their fathers and mothers.
Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Eph. 5.33).
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth” (Eph. 6.1-3).
I’ve been doing a series on God’s design for marriage. If you haven’t read the previous posts in this series, you can read them here. Today we’re going to focus on the importance of respect in the wife’s attitude toward her husband.
I’ll Respect My Husband When He Deserves It!
Someone is thinking. You don’t know my husband. He doesn’t deserve my respect. You don’t know what he has done. He’s not a believer. He’s a drunk … a womanizer … lazy … you pick the adjective. He doesn’t care about me. He never shows me respect. I’ll show him respect when he deserves it and he shows me respect.
I get that. Not every husband is worthy of respect. But God didn’t include any qualifiers in Ephesians 5.33, “… let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
But one is not dependent on the other. The husband doesn’t get to quit loving his wife because she’s disrespectful and the wife doesn’t get to quit showing respect if the husband isn’t loving her the way he should. Each of us is accountable to God for doing our part no matter what.
Peter addressed this subject head on:
¹ Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.
7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
Notice that little word “likewise” in verses 1 and 7. “Likewise” … to what is Peter referring? We have to look back at chapter 2 to answer that question. It’s a long passage, but we need to get the overall picture.
11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.
13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. 19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
22 “Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;
23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.
Notice this is about God’s glory (v. 12). And notice submission was, “not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh” those who didn’t deserve it.
Husbands and wives are “likewise” to submit to, love, and respect one another in the same way. And, like Christ, to leave the results in God’s hands, the One who judges righteously.
Love & Respect
But why single out husbands in the area of loving their wives and why single out wives in the area of respect?
God, who made us male and female, make us in such a way that we women crave to be loved and cherished. We want our husbands to remember our birthdays and anniversaries. We want them to know what we like, how we take our coffee, what is meaningful to us.
He made our husbands to crave respect, because they were designed to be leaders in the home. They would rather be respected than loved, as we would define it.
But while God made us with a strong desire to be loved and He made our husbands with a strong desire to be respected, we must stop short of calling them “needs.” A need implies that I can’t survive without something.
Many teach that we can’t be what or who God has called us to be without being properly loved or respected. But that contradicts other passages of Scripture.
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (1 Cor. 10.13).
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8.28-29).
So, while these are very important principles, each of us is accountable to God to do our part and to allow God to deal with our spouses.
It took me a long time to understand the ways that I was disrespectful to Mike. In fact, if you had asked me, I would have told you I was respectful. But I did know there were times when I thought we were have a normal conversation until something I said didn’t sit right with him. Honestly, I was clueless about the cause.
But God, finally, helped me understand there were subtle (and not so subtle) ways I questioned his decisions and shot down his ideas, times when I failed to look to and honor him as the leader in our home.
If you’d like to understand more about this, I recommend a book by Shaunti Feldhahn called For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men. Shaunti does a great job of explaining how God made our husbands, why this is so important, and how we undermine our relationships with our disrespect.
I hope you’ll share your thoughts about this subject or marriage, in general, in the comments section below. What has God taught you about respect? How has He helped you in your marriage?
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