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“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10 NIV).
There was a hit song in 1967 by Aretha Franklin titled “Respect.” Respect is important for both husbands and wives, and Scripture calls each partner to respect the other. Husbands are specifically called in 1 Peter 3:7 to respect their wife and are given reasons. “Husbands, also live with your wife the way you know is right. Respect her because she is a woman. She is not as strong as a man. Also respect her because God has given her, as well as you, the blessing of life. In this way, you will not stop God from doing what you ask him to do.”
Husbands and wives both need respect and love. I think the most important thing a wife can show her husband is respect, and the most important thing a husband can show his wife is love. Ephesians 5:33 reads, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” This is the final verse of a section of Scripture dedicated to instructions for Christian households. This verse is also the basis for the best-selling book, “Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires, the Respect He Desperately Needs” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.
Many wives feel that they cannot respect their husbands because their husbands are not worthy of respect. This is a terrible situation for any wife. Peter wrote to first-century Christian wives, and wives today, “even if your husband does not obey the Word they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wife when they behold your respectful behavior…” (1 Pet. 3:1-2, emphasis added). It should be emphasized that in the book “Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires, the Respect He Desperately Needs,” husbands are encouraged to give unconditional love and wives are encouraged to give unconditional respect. So, even if you feel that your spouse does not deserve or has not earned your love or respect, you should give it anyway. Remember, we have done nothing to deserve our salvation, but Christ gave that to us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).
Now, let’s return to our song about respect. Aretha Franklin spelled out R-E-S-P-E-C-T and then sang out, “find out what it means to me.” Rev. Larry Stockstill is a distinguished pastor and author from Bethany Church in Baton Rouge, La. He once wrote, “Respect for a husband, according to that verse, is based not upon his “performance” but his “position.” God made him to be head and leader of his family whether he knows it or not. Treat him that way, regardless of his faults, flaws, and failures, and you have a real chance of winning him to Christ.” I don’t think any woman can do this on her own. However, I know that a wife of noble character as described in Proverbs 31 can partner with the Holy Spirit and do this and much more.
Some women read Proverbs 31:23, “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land,” and wonder was the Proverbs 31 woman’s husband a man worthy of respect when they got married or did he change into a well-respected man during their marriage? Hillary Bernstein, Christian author and blogger, suggests, “Instead of wondering what comes first – a husband or a well-respected man –we need to be more concerned about how we are helping our husbands and treating them with respect.”
Dr. Gary Chapman wrote THE book on Christian marriages, “The Five Love Languages: The Secret To Love That Lasts.” Dr. Chapman identifies the five love languages as words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and receiving gifts. Many wives assume that the preferred love language for their husband is physical touch, and this may be true, but some wives may fail to recognize the importance of words of affirmation for their husbands if they focus on physical touch.
If a wife demeans or disrespects her husband, he will likely feel either anger or despair. He may quit on the marriage, look for opportunities to leave or stay gone for extended periods of time, use drugs or alcohol as a means of escape, or look for another woman that makes him “happy” and gives him the respect that he is desperately, although foolishly, seeking.
A better option for women is to encourage their husbands. His efforts may fall short of your expectations, but they will never measure up if you don’t notice his effort. Find out what is important to him and try to respect those things. Hint: His job, hobbies, and mother are likely very important to him. Make a mental picture in your mind of the type of husband that you want him to be and pray boldly, confidently, and with thanksgiving for God to transform him into that man. As you wait for God, continue to model good behavior for him according to 1 Peter 3:1-2 and praise him for his progress rather than complain about his shortcomings.
Everybody has heard the old expression that a dog is man’s best friend. The attribute that men love in dogs, and in their spouse, is loyalty. A loyal wife supports and encourages her husband and does not speak negatively about him to others or allow others to speak negatively to her about her husband. A loyal wife is showing respect.
We live in a visual society and temptation and graphic images are everywhere. The temptation for wives is to focus on outer appearances. However, a wife respects her husband, and herself, when she shows him her inner beauty. 1 Peter 3:3-4 teaches, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” I don’t think 1 Peter 3:3-4 is meant to discourage women from wanting to look nice but rather to remind women that true beauty is what is inside of you and God, and a godly husband, will recognize and honor true beauty.
If any husband has read this blog, and thinks he has the right to intentionally be unloving to his wife and then demand respect from her, he has misread this blog and is sadly mistaken. Wives should respectfully and clearly decline to follow their husband into anything that is against Scripture, illegal, or immoral. If either party is violent, immoral, unstable, or addicted, then then by all means the other must protect themself and the family. The Proverbs 31 woman will love, honor, and pray for her husband even as he faces the consequences of poor choices.
The right next step is for wives to show their husbands unconditional respect, and for husbands to show their wives unconditional love. If one party is not reciprocating, then continue to do what you can do and leave the rest to God.
Prayer: Dear God, Thank you for the blessing of marriage. Help us to model your love and grace to each other, especially our spouses. Amen.
Meet the Author
Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He currently serves as the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is a Board Member for Gulf South Men and serves on the Action Team for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
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