I’m continuing to address FAQs I get on this blog and on www.peacefulwife.com. This post is about the mindset I believe a woman must have toward her husband once she is married.
Before you are married is the time to decide if a man “deserves” your respect. Once you commit to marriage and he is your husband – this is God’s command for you. It is not optional if you are a believer in Christ. This is why it is SO CRITICAL that you only marry a godly man who puts Christ first. It is going to be infinitely easier to respect a man who puts Christ first and seeks to honor Him with his life. Don’t just marry a man who SAYS he is a Christian. Examine his life carefully BEFORE you are married. Have a godly counselor help you. If you have godly parents, get their insights. If you don’t have godly parents, hopefully you have a godly pastor who can help you or a godly older mentoring wife who can help you. That is the time to evaluate a man’s character – not after you are married to him. Once you are married, you are in a covenant relationship which God intends and commands is to last until one of you dies.
He Doesn’t Deserve My Respect
The world says, “Respect must be earned.”
There is a lot of truth to that statement. In business, at school, in the neighborhood and in the world, men and women do have to earn the respect of others.
But what about in marriage? Here are some things to carefully and prayerfully consider before entering into a marriage covenant.
God gives specific commands to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:22-33.
- He commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for it.
- He commands wives to respect their husbands and to submit to their husbands as to the Lord.
These commands to husbands and to wives are unconditional and completely independent of each other.
- God does not say, “Husbands, love your wives IF they are respectful or IF you think they deserve love.” It is just, “Husbands, each of you must love his wife as he loves himself…”
- God does not say, “Wives, respect your husbands IF they deserve respect in your opinion.” or “Respect your husbands when they are respectable.” It is simply, “the wife must respect her husband.”
This doesn’t mean we must respect sin or condone sin or follow our husbands into sin.
(Check out this post about Spiritual Authority, Biblical Submission Does Not = the Husband is Always Right and When My Spouse is Wrong for more on these topics.)
GOD COMMANDS US TO RESPECT OUR HUSBANDS NOT BECAUSE OUR HUSBANDS “DESERVE” OUR RESPECT EVERY MOMENT BUT BECAUSE:
- God deserves our respect, obedience, submission and reverence. He is our LORD. He is God. He is deity.
- People in positions of God-given authority need respect from those they lead in order for them to be able to lead. (God commands all believers to submit to and respect those in God-given authority over us in the government, at work, in church and in the home.)
- God has wisdom. He designed marriage. He knows what makes it work.
- The same God who said wives need their husbands’ love also said husbands need their wives’ respect. I know we don’t want to throw out God’s commands for our husbands to love us! God understands what men and women need in marriage.
- Our husbands NEED our respect if they are ever going to be able to become the men God desires them to be. Our respect and willingness to follow their leadership are necessary ingredients for them to hear God’s voice and become godly men.
- Our disrespect and control could easily crush our husbands’ souls, paralyze them spiritually and stunt their spiritual growth. My disrespect and control certainly deeply wounded my husband in these ways.
- Our disrespect and control make it very difficult for our husbands to hear and obey the voice of God themselves.
- Our respect for our husbands and our willingness to honor their leadership are necessary for a healthy marriage according to God’s wisdom and His design.
- Our respect for our husbands and biblical submission to them (unless they ask us to clearly sin) demonstrates to our children and the world what our relationship with Christ should look like, it is a witness for the gospel of Christ.
- Our disrespect of our husbands and our usurping their control maligns the gospel of Christ (Titus 2:5).
- God wants our children to respect their fathers and mothers and all of those in God-given authority over them. If we don’t respect their dad, they won’t respect him either – or anyone else in authority over them.
- God wants our children to have an accurate picture of God. Children receive their first understanding and primary experience of who God is through their fathers. If we as mothers destroy our children’s respect for their fathers, we also easily destroy their reverence for and respect for and understanding of God.
- God gives us people in positions of spiritual authority over us to bless us, protect us, provide for us and guide us into His will.
WHAT IF THE HUSBAND SINS?
God does not call us to respect our husband’s pornography addiction, alcoholism, gambling, flirting with other women, greed, idolatry, unloving behavior, lust, affairs or sin.
I have seen wives attempt to respect their husbands bringing home women off of the street and respect him taking a stranger to their bedroom while she was home. No! No! That is taking “respecting our husbands” WAY TOO FAR.
A wife in that position needs to do a lot of praying and to say something like, “This is not ok at all. You are breaking our marriage covenant. Adultery is wrong. I can’t stay here if you are going to do this.” She doesn’t have to scream and cuss at him to do this. And then she probably needs to leave or ask him to leave and they should be separated until the husband clearly repents, is willing to rebuild trust, be accountable and transparent and receive godly counsel. I personally vote to have him tested for STDs as well before a wife would even consider being intimate with him again. (Keep in mind that it takes 6 months after the last sexual encounter before HIV/AIDS would show up in a test – but he could be contagious way before the test would show positive.)
Now – let’s talk about less severe situations…
- We can respect our husbands for their position in the marriage even when their behavior is wrong.
This is similar to the way that people in the military are taught to “respect the uniform.” And it is similar to the way we as believers are to respect those in authority over us in the government and the church whether we agree with them or not and whether we voted for them or not. It is not right for us as believers to slander or disrespect our leaders. God commands us to show them proper respect.
- Then there is also the aspect that we purposely look for the good in our husbands that we can genuinely respect.
- We may have to respectfully, carefully, gently, prayerfully confront our husbands’ sin – just like members of a church may have to gently, prayerfully, respectfully confront a pastor who has fallen into sin. We may have to say how much his sin hurts us. We may have to give boundaries and consequences for serious issues – always with an eye toward praying for eventual reconciliation for our husband with Christ and for our marriage if at all possible and for God’s will and His glory. (Some passages that deal with confronting a fellow believer’s sin are found in Matthew 7:1-5 and Matthew 18:14-16)
We will be called upon often in marriage to give overwhelming and undeserved grace, forgiveness and mercy. If trust has been broken – it must be rebuilt. There may need to be boundaries and consequences for certain sins – with prayer for our husbands to be reconciled to Christ and for healing so our marriage will glorify God.
Our husbands are still sinners – just like we are. None of us are “better than” anyone else. We are all on level ground at the foot of the cross. They need Jesus’ grace, mercy, blood and forgiveness just as much as all of us do. We can approach them as if we are on their team and to face and tackle the sin together with the power of God.
They WILL sin against God and against us at times – and we will sin against them and against God, too, at times. God can give us the power and strength of His Spirit for us not to respond to their sin with sin of our own. He may use us to gently restore our husbands into right relationship with Himself and with us.
There are times when separation may be necessary in marriage if our husbands refuse to repent or get the godly counsel they need. Sometimes that is the only thing that might wake them up. Sometimes we may have to remove ourselves and our children from dangerous or very ungodly situations.
If you are not married – you are not in a covenant relationship.
If you cannot respect your man now – either you have a lot of work to do to learn to be a godly woman, or there are big flags that this man is not a godly man and is not someone you ought to consider marrying. You have GOT to be able to respect your man AS IS even if he never changed. Going into marriage without respecting a man is unwise. Something is wrong. Ask God to show you the sin in your own heart. Ask God to give you clear vision of your man. There can be times when the best thing to do is to break off a destructive, ungodly, toxic relationship.