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Is Respect Optional for a Godly Woman?

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Many women, even in the church, think that the concept of “respect for husbands” is archaic, old fashioned and backwards and that their husbands “don’t deserve respect.”   We are not about to show any respect for our men until we believe our men “deserve” it – by our own definition.  That is, after all, what our culture teaches – “Respect must be earned.”  I actually believe that is true, to a point – in the secular work place.  But does it apply in marriage?  Does it apply to believers in Christ?  Is it appropriate for disciples of Christ to treat people without respect in any setting?
If someone (anyone) sins against me or is living in unrepentant sin – does that give me a free pass as a Christian to treat him/her with disdain, disgust, self-righteousness, rudeness, unkindness, hatred, angry words, resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, gossip and a judgmental spirit?
(Galatians 5:22-23, I Corinthians 13:4-8 and Romans 12 do a very good job of explaining how Jesus commands us to treat others with love – respect is part of that!.)

In our culture today, we often treat our husbands (as I did for many years) with disrespect, contempt, resentment and condemnation.   Sometimes we don’t even realize we are doing this.  Sometimes we are just reacting to feeling very unloved ourselves and unintentionally disrespect our men – not realizing how very deeply we are wounding them.  And then we don’t realize that when our husbands feel very disrespected, they react to their pain by responding in ways that feel unloving to us (Dr. Emerson Eggerichs – Love and Respect).  When husbands feel disrespected – they feel unloved.  I know that is not how we want our men to feel!

But whether we are intentionally disrespectful or it is entirely unintentional, our disrespect wounds our men.  They NEED our respect and our Lord commands that we respect our husbands.  They may not “deserve” respect in our minds.  But the same God who commands us to respect our husbands and honor their leadership also commands husbands to love their wives.  I know I personally don’t want to EVER get rid of the “love your wife as Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for her” command for our husbands!  God definitely knew what he was talking about there!  I have learned that He knows exactly what He is talking about when it comes to what husbands and marriages need, too.
We need our husbands’ love even when we REALLY don’t deserve it – exactly the same way that our husbands need our respect even when they REALLY don’t deserve it.  (God does not command us to respect sin or ignore sin – just like He does not command our husbands to love our sin either – but we are to respect our men because they are our husbands, just like our husbands are to love us because we are their wives.)
My respect for my husband is not optional.  Not if I am a disciple of Christ.   It is a command of God:
  • “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”  Ephesians 5:33
  •  Jesus says “Anyone who loves Me will obey My commands…. Anyone who does not obey My commands does not love Me.” (John 14:23))
Many women also believe that biblical submission is oppressive and that it is equal to slavery.  That is NOT at all God’s design, either. (Ephesians 5:22-33, Titus 2:2-5)  Real biblical submission is a blessing from God to wives, husbands, children and everyone who knows that family.  It can only be accomplished when we are completely submitted to Christ and filled with His Spirit, seeking His glory alone.
Here is the world’s way – this is what I did for almost 15 years in our marriage.
I tried to carry all the weight and responsibility for the marriage and family and was stressed, worried, afraid and upset most of the time.  I felt like the only adult in the family.  I thought I had to do everything while my husband avoided responsibility and became increasingly emotionally distant. I worked full time until we had children, then worked 20 hours/week and also did almost all of the housework, all of the finances, all of the discipline for the children and all of the child care every moment that I was home while my husband sat in front of the tv, the computer or worked on renovations.  I was overloaded, overworked, stressed out and seething with resentment.
This, my friends, is a recipe for disaster in marriage.  As Bob Grant says, “There is no relationship resentment can’t kill.”
Husbands primarily need respect.
Wives primarily need love. (Dr. Emerson Eggerichs Love and Respect and Ephesians 5:22-33)
When both spouses get their needs met, marriage can be GLORIOUS and God-honoring.
Men and women are not the same.  Men do not need love the exact same way that we do.  The sooner we understand this and how different they are from us, the sooner we can learn what their needs truly are and how to meet them.  We often try to give more and more love – but it doesn’t work and we don’t understand why.  We must understand what our husbands need and give them what they need, not what we need.
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE WORLD’S WAYS:
  • The truth is that trying to carry a burden you were not designed by God to carry is oppressive.
  • The truth is that being consumed by worry and anxiety and fear every waking moment is oppressive.
  • The truth is that living by the power of the sinful nature instead of by the power of the Spirit of God is being a slave to sin instead of being a slave to Christ.  That is true slavery!!!  I will be a slave to one or the other – sin, or Christ.  For a little check of what it is like to have your sinful nature in control, please read Galatians 5:19-21.  When God’s Spirit controls me, I have all of the fruit of the Spirit in increasing measure every day: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.  That is FREEDOM!  That is blessing!  That is POWER!  (Galatians 5:22-23)
  • The truth is that putting anything before Christ in my heart is a certain path to discontentment, disillusionment, loneliness, disappointment, fear, worry and distress.  God will not allow me to find contentment and His peace in idols.  The ONLY place where contentment can be found is in Christ!
  • The truth is that living in obedience to God brings great freedom and joy that rises far above any circumstances.
Learning respect and biblical submission is a process and a journey.  It is a LONG, cross-country journey.  Not a sprint.  This is the process of “sanctification” – God uses this process to make me more holy and to make me more and more like Jesus.  It takes TIME.  He will use it to make me holy and mature, ready for His purposes.
(If you have SERIOUS problems in your marriage – drug/alcohol addiction, mental health disorders, infidelity, major sin, physical abuse – please talk to a godly, trusted pastor or Christian counselor ASAP!)
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Don’t compare your story to mine or to anyone else’s!  God is writing your own story.  He will decide the timing and the outcomes.  Your job is to love and trust Him and to yield yourself totally to Him every moment of every day.  I can’t wait to see what He wants to do for His glory in your life!

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