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Some Things are Unconditional – Some Are Not

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(It has been a busy week at our house –  a new kitten on Friday, last day of summer break yesterday, first day of school today, and my schedule is quite full the next few days. I am not sure how available I can be right now for comments. Y’all are welcome to comment as much as you would like to. I will comment when I am able to. Ladies, please help me out and encourage, bless, pray for and support one another! I know you will! That is one of the things I love best about this group! Much love!)

I think that it is possible for us to get a bit confused at times with the various commands God gives us as believing women in Christ. So, let’s break a few things down together and have a discussion. 🙂 I am not saying I have a perfect handle on all of this or that I know what each wife should do in every situation. I know I do not have that kind of wisdom myself! But I do believe that God is completely able to give us the wisdom each of us needs as we seek Him, trust Him and ask Him for wisdom and direction. (James 1)

LOVE

  • Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
  • Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. I Corinthians 13:4-8

God commands us all as believers to love other people. All other people. This is an unconditional “agape” love. It is the love with which God loves people. It is a perfect love that is completely fueled by the love and character of God not by what a person does or does not do. It does what is best for the other person. It is selfless. It is the kind of love that loves its enemies and prays for those who persecute it. It is the kind of love found in Romans 12.

  • Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 14:14-21

If I am a believing wife, submitted to Christ, God always desires me to love my husband with His love. Without exception. No matter what my husband is doing or not doing.

  • Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Titus 2:4-5

The word for “love” in this passage is the word “phileo” which means “to affectionately love.” So, not only are we commanded to love our husbands with God’s agape, unconditional love, God also wants us to love our husbands with a friendly, affectionate love.

RESPECT

If I am a believing wife, God commands me to respect and honor my husband unconditionally. This is because of God’s Spirit living in me and my desire to submit to and reverence Christ. It has nothing to do with what my husband is or is not doing.

  • Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:33 (emphasis added)

Notice that the command to husbands and the command to wives are unconditional. It is not, “husbands love your wives IF they respect you or you feel they deserve it.” And it is not “Wives, respect your husbands IF you feel loved or if you think they deserve it.”

It is just very simple. Husbands are commanded by God to love their wives. Period. And wives are commanded by God to respect their husbands. Period. My job is to obey the command God gave me.

Why????

Because God knows that wives need love and husbands need respect. His commands help to correct our sinful tendencies as husbands and wives and help to restore the intimacy and oneness that God designed marriage to have before sin entered the picture. Husbands and wives BOTH need love and respect. But husbands tend to need respect the most, and that tends to be where we as wives are weak in our sinful nature. And wives tend to need love the most, and that tends to be where husbands are weak in their sinful nature.

We have many definitions for the English word, “respect,” today. But the command God gives us to respect our  husbands is a much more narrow definition. At this link (www.biblehub.com) you can find a link to a page that shows a number of translations of Ephesians 5:33 that may be helpful. The word “respect” may also be translated “reverence” or “fear.” This verse is about a wife showing honor to her husband’s God-given position as head of the marriage (I Corinthians 11:3). She is commanded in Ephesians 5:22 to submit to her husband. This passage about a wife understanding and honoring her husband’s headship.

We are NOT commanded to respect or honor sin. We respect our husbands because we respect Jesus. Just like we respect the president no matter if we agree with him or not because he is in the office of president and God commands us as believers to honor those in positions of God-given authority over us. Romans 11.

SUBMISSION

God commands believing wives to submit to their husbands:

  • Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. Ephesians 5:22
  • Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Colossians 3:18
  • so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. Titus 2:4-5
  • But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. I Corinthians 11:3

This word “submission” is a military term that describes how a military officer places himself under the authority of those higher in the chain of command. It has nothing to do with a person’s value! The one who submits to the one in authority has equal value as a person as the one in authority. We are all image bearers of God (Genesis 2) and we are all equal in the eyes of God (Galatians 3:28).

Honestly, for a believer, submission always begins with Christ. Jesus submitted to His Father, though He was God and was equal to God the Father. He submitted to the Father’s authority over Him because He loved God the Father. As believers, first we submit f
ully to Christ. We cannot skip this! Then, out of reverence and submission to Jesus, we as believing wives submit to our husbands in order to bring glory to God and to display the power of the relationship between Christ and His church through our marriage (in our families and to a watching world).

We submit unconditionally to Christ as Lord. All believers do this. We submit to our husbands in obedience to Jesus.

There can be exceptions when we cannot submit to our husbands if they are asking us to clearly disobey God’s Word. Submission to our husbands is not unconditional. We submit “as to the Lord.” If they ask us to have an abortion, to steal, to commit murder, to commit idolatry, to renounce Christ, to actually hurt our children, etc… then we must respectfully refuse to submit. But for a wife to refuse to submit to her husband, she must be sure she is honoring Christ in that decision. We will answer to Him for our submission to our husbands. It is a very serious thing to disobey God’s Word. Again, for more on this topic, please check out Spiritual Authority. If a husband is not in his right mind, addicted to drugs/alcohol, involved in unrepentant infidelity, physically abusive, etc… there may be times a wife must seek godly counsel and may not be able to submit to her husband in a way that would be fitting in the Lord. She will need God’s wisdom for such a situation and great sensitivity to His Word and His Spirit. But, most of the time, the right thing to do is to cooperate with our husbands’ leadership. This is obedience to God’s Word and it brings glory to Him. The exceptions are, hopefully, very rare.

FORGIVENESS

Jesus commands all believers to forgive others their sins against us in all circumstances. Forgiveness is unconditional. Forgiveness is about our heart being right with God. It is not about the person who sinned against us.

  • “This, then, is how you should pray:

“ ‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one. ’

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:9-15

No matter what sin my husband (or anyone) may commit against me, God commands me to forgive him.

  • And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25

Forgiveness means that I don’t hold something against that person anymore. It means that I know they hurt me. They owe me. They did wrong against me. But I choose to cover that offense with the same grace that God uses to cover my sins. I choose to apply the blood of Christ to that person’s sins in my life and not demand revenge. I choose to trust God with that person and to pray for him/her to be made right with God. I choose to love that person with God’s love instead of desiring to hurt that person. I choose not to resent. I choose not to become bitter. I can only do this through the power of God’s Spirit working in me.

If I forgive someone, that does not mean he has no earthly consequences for his sin. It also does not mean I must trust them if trust has been broken.

TRUST

This is where I believe sometimes we get confused. We think that if we must love, honor, respect and forgive our husbands, that we must trust them even if they continue in unrepentant sin against us.

God commands us over and over again in scripture to trust Him alone. He admonishes us NOT to trust in man many times.

I wish we could all trust our husbands all the time. But husbands are sinners, just like wives. I long for us to have relationships where we trust our husbands. Now, I do trust Greg very much. But ultimately, my trust needs to be in Christ alone, not in Greg.

  • But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. Psalm 52:8

Here is an interesting word study to do this week in your quiet time if you want to. Look up the word “trust” or “trust in God” in a concordance or at www.biblegateway.com or www.biblehub.com and look up the phrase “trust in man.” See how MANY times we are commanded to trust God and how many times we are commanded NOT to trust in man.

If a husband is involved in unrepentant infidelity, active addictions, is mentally unstable, is physically abusive or not in his right mind – there may be times we cannot trust our husbands even though we may want to be able to trust them. If you are in such a serious situation, please seek godly, wise, biblical counsel. But most of all, seek Jesus and His Word and truth with all your heart! Don’t take advice that does not square up with sound scriptural teaching.

If we cannot currently trust our husbands, hopefully, we can at least communicate that we WANT to learn to be able to trust them again and to work together to rebuild the trust. If trust has been severely violated, you may need help to rebuild it. And your husband will have to be willing to help rebuild the broken trust, too. You cannot do that part completely on your own.

But we must also be careful, because sometimes we don’t trust our husbands because of our own lack of faith in God. Sometimes we could and should trust our husbands but we don’t (that was me for many years in our marriage). And sometimes we really and truly shouldn’t trust our husbands if they are living in unrepentant sin. In some cases, it would be foolish to trust them. I have a video that goes into a lot more detail about that on my Youtube channel here.

31 thoughts on “Some Things are Unconditional – Some Are Not

  1. Thank you so much for breaking this down. Understanding the difference between respect, submission and trust is very difficult for me and something that I am actively seeking God about. Thank you God for this blog! Keep the posts coming 🙂

    1. Kate,

      I think a book could be written about each of these important topics! It is easy to confuse these qualities and to assume that we have to trust someone who is untrustworthy – but that is really not the case at all – THANKFULLY! I think it is also important for us to understand what to do when submitting to God and submitting to our husbands conflict. That is one reason why the post “Spiritual Authority” is so important, in my view!

      I’m so glad this was helpful. Thanks for letting me know!
      Much love!
      April

  2. You mentioned that we have more broad definitions for the English word “respect” and I think you’re so right! I think respect is such a lost art and sounds so vague and pithy that I guess I always assumed I “respected” my husband. When I asked him the other day, even my husband said he thought I always respected him. But how blind we both were to what respect really is!! God always has a higher standard, and let’s just say I certainly was not “fearing” or “reverencing” my husband!

    Just now out of curiosity I looked up today’s English definition of “respect” in the Webster dictionary. The first definition says “to feel admiration for (someone or something) : to regard (someone or something) as being worthy of admiration because of good qualities.” Wow, doesn’t that just say it all. The world tells us to first base our respect on FEELINGS, and then to make it totally conditional!

    1. Oooh, I like the next definitions of respect too: “to act in a way which shows that you are aware of (someone’s rights, wishes, etc.)” Why yes, I am aware that my husband has the right to vote for the politician of his choice and hold a U.S. passport. Gosh, sounds so cold.

      And this one: “to treat or deal with (something that is good or valuable) in a proper way”…Huh? Very vague indeed. Does that mean I only have to respect him if he is “good”?

      Thankfully we have Scripture and godly women such as the awesome ladies on this site to go to for a bit more clarity than the world provides!

    2. Daisy,

      Yes, we can definitely get into trouble with our definitions of words. I sure did! I read the passages about wives respecting their husbands countless times earlier in our marriage and always thought, “check! I do that!” I mean, I didn’t throw stuff at him (except for that one time I threw a pair of panties at him. But they were clean. And I didn’t hit him. And they couldn’t have hurt him. So, no big deal, right?) I didn’t threaten divorce. I cooperated with his decisions IF he really insisted on something and didn’t change his mind after I constantly argued with him, told him my way was more biblical and tried to prove I was so right and he was so wrong. Of course, I pouted and sulked and let him know how much I hated the idea and had no trust in his decisions that I didn’t agree with. I didn’t cuss at him. I didn’t cheat on him – except for the infatuation I had with another guy earlier in our marriage. 🙁 wasn’t I just so respectful?

      Turned out, I had no clue what respect for my husband was supposed to be. My definition and God’s did not match up at all. Really, my definition for love didn’t either.

      It helps a lot to clarify what God’s Word really says!

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Can I ask a question as a husband, feeling a bit lost at the moment but its related to this. Ive been married 28 years mostly its been good but my wife has had to put up with a lot of strain through my inattention to money – I’m super focused on fixing that now to a Dave Ramsey kind of intensity because it was really lame of me to not think how my own action would affect my wife. She’s lost a ton of respect, i don’t blame her, she’s hurting, angry and doesn’t believe I love her but I do more and more – I know what i have to do to restore trust but what I really want to do is help her stop hurting but she is hurting so much its making it super hard for her to be able meet the values you have talked about here- . Not looking for counseling just trying to hear other perspectives???

    1. Gary, In time your wife will heal–trusting in God for strength and his help–and may grow to trust you IF you provide her with a long record of responsible management of your mutual assets. When someone is married to a mate who isn’t responsible about money it feels as if that person doesn’t care about what happens to them. It feels like living constantly on very thin, slippery ice. Women want to know that their husbands care about them enough to take care of them. Right now your wife does NOT know that. If you start repairing the situation and keep going in a responsible direction day after day and don’t ever stop, then she can begin to trust you. Until then, she is bound by God’s law to respect the position you hold as her husband and demonstrate her respect for that reason, but it may take some time before she can respect you for the way you live and take care of your household. I wish you all the best. God is able to forgive, heal, and strengthen anyone who earnestly seeks him in prayer, and strengthen your marriage as well.

      1. Hey Thanks Elizabeth, you covered a lot in that answer particularly well. I am so totally opposite in personality to my wife that sometimes i just have to know what I need to do and then just step it out letting time give me the understanding…..thanks for taking the time to answer so well…..

    2. Gary, I would suggest lots of words along with actions. Women respond well to reassurance. Reassurance that you will do what you say you will do. Reassurance that you love her, find her attraction, enjoy spending time with her, etc. Bring her gifts. They don’t have to be expensive. It can be a flower that you picked in the yard or her favorite candy bar. It might be healthy to take the Love Language test together and find out how she feels loved. http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/

      1. If I may chime in, before you get too wordy, I’d make sure Words is one of her love languages. I think it’s my very last language. I don’t like words at all. I see them as empty and often annoying.

        Your wife may very well love words of affirmation, we are all different. I’d just make sure because words would only aggravate me.

        It’s great that you’re trying to change and reassure your wife. Keep up the great work!

        1. Thanks Becca – words used to be great but now like you say they just annoy her…and actually you’re right about them being the last language….and she married someone who loves writing??!

      2. Hey Daisymae – thankyou so much – the words were great but she feels she has relied on them too much and feels they create too much confusion so – I guess that’s where I have to get to – a point where my words and my actions line up – I guess that’s what the trust is really so it sounds like you have a great husband where he says he’ll be home at 3 he will be home at 3!

        1. Gary,

          I believe that as you show her that you are being responsible, she will come around and heal in time. There is no magic quick fixes when a spouse has been deeply wounded over a long period of time. I know that it took 3.5 YEARS from the time I repented for my disrespect/pride/self-righteousness/rebellion against my husband’s God-given leadership before all of Greg’s walls came down and he felt safe with me again.

          This is where we just continue to live out I Corinthians 13:4-8, Philippians 4:4-8, Ephesians 5:22-33, I Peter 3:1-7 in the power of God’s Spirit on a daily basis just to please God no matter what our spouse’s current response is. We seek to love and obey Christ and to bless and love our spouse and we trust God to bring the healing as we desire to walk in daily obedience to Christ.

          It may be a long road. That is going to have to be ok. I am praying for healing for you both and for God’s greatest glory in your marriage! 🙂

          1. Thank you April – that 3.5 years is important for me to remember and remember I will. For whatever reason I just don’t get all that caught up in peoples pasts, their mistakes, whether they apologize because we all have some baggage. That can really put fuel on the fire for my wife because it looks like I don’t care which is completely the opposite.

            If I got anything from the Bible its that this forgiveness of Gods is constant, renewing, unchanging and that it it is in this forgiveness and love that we are able to change – It has been my wifes belief in me over many years that gave me the ability to believe in myself and now I do….but it is like I left a legacy of distrust for her now so it will take time to see if i really do listen, if i really do care. It was the main reason I found your blog but now it just seems super helpful to read other peoples realities. I’m more and more aware that my personality is pretty weird, not weird but mighty unusual which makes it hard for her when things are difficult – so I really rely on being able to hear what other people say, think and do to get a better sense of reality so thanks for all your work, it really is appreciated!!!

          2. Gary,

            My husband tends to be quite forgiving. I was generally not and held on to grudges, resentment and bitterness for years. But I had been disrespectful and controlling for about 15 years before God opened my eyes to my sin. And I didn’t understand disrespect and respect very well even though I was trying to research it for hours per day and prayed about it daily for about 2.5 years into my journey. So, I was still coming across disrespectfully and as being controlling without realizing what I was doing during that time. Even though I had stopped some of the behaviors that were hurtful.

            I felt like I was trying to walk through a mine field blindfolded. I had no clue what I was doing! I felt like I was trying to learn Chinese without a book and without a teacher.

            So, it was difficult for Greg to feel safe with me again and to open his heart to me. There was a long time that he didn’t. I do believe he forgave me on day one. But he couldn’t articulate to me what disrespect and respect were and what he needed. And I had to read over 30 books on godly marriage and being a godly wife before I began to understand. It was a LONG, LONG process.

            Every couple is different. For some, healing takes even longer.

            But I love your heart for God and your wife and your understanding of God’s forgiveness.

            You are most welcome, my brother! I can’t wait to see all that God has in store for you!

  4. Love this post and Daisy’s addition of today’s world definition of respect. Thank you! According to those definitions, I was doing quite well. But we don’t belong to this world. I can easily look at my life and see much foolishness, ignorance and disrespect that to this day, l must work very hard to snuff out.

    I continue to find, however, that seeking to respect my spouse biblically has made it easier to identify our real problems as it tends to take my own issues out of the equation. Doing this over and over certainly allows my husband to trust me more with his real thoughts and struggles since I make a new habit of not attacking him out of fear but seeking to love him, approve and admire what is good. On my end, as I pray through my own issues and wait, I have more understanding about him than anxiety or confusion which gives me more confidence with our relationship. I now know that when my spouse retreats, he’s overwhelmed and gets very private-for long periods of time-to recover. He’s not necessarily escaping into something horrendous. Knowing things like this makes it much easier to learn to work through loneliness, to rebuild trust and cope with our differences.

    I must share ladies, that since my first experience of letting go of the idol of my husband’s love, I’ve felt so covered and light. (I say first because I have no idea how many times I will have to put that one down.) That feeling of peace has continued and I am so enjoying this moment. I am taking deep breaths and holding God’s hand as I continue to move forward on the journey.

    1. Refined,
      LOVE this! Thank you so much for sharing your story!!!!! What God is doing in your heart is so beautiful. 🙂
      I love the way He is changing your thinking and giving you so much more grace, agape love and understanding. What miracles!

  5. I blew it Saturday. I was given test and failed miserably! But some good did come out of it. I was able to see clearly after my emotional tirade and I apologized to my husband specifically. I didn’t say but you shouldn’t have done x y and z. I just apologized for my actions. My husband has been very sweet since. I could see that my apology with no blame came across as respectful to him. I let God deal with his behavior that caused me to be upset.

    Now I just wish I could see the tests when they are right there in my face and not after I fail.

    I was glad to see that even when I mess up if I follow God and confess, He can make good come of it.

    1. Daisymae,

      I am actually really proud of you! Thankfully, many times, the realization of our messing up gets faster, and the repenting happens sooner and the reconciliation happens quicker, too, in time. So, that is a blessing!

      I’m so glad you didn’t try to justify yourself. I love your respectful apology.

      Eventually, God’s Spirit will help you catch yourself before you say the things. And, in time, He can change your heart and mind to where you won’t even think these things as much. But it is a LONG process!

      Thank you for sharing! And isn’t it awesome that God can even bring good from our sin. That is what He does with me every day – uses my years of sin to bring many people to Himself.

      Wow!

      Much love!
      April

      1. April, could it also be in a relationship to…Always trust until someone gives you a reason not to. And if they are repentant and you choose to forgive them then you have to …Always trust again. ??

        1. Daisymae,
          I agree with this! I think we can seek to trust others whenever possible – but – ultimately – our trust will be in Christ, not in people. I hope that makes sense. 🙂

  6. Thank you so much, April. This was exactly what I needed to read. I wasn’t understanding why it’s so hard for me to trust my husband again if I manage (with some obvious difficulty) to do all the others (love, respect, submit, forgive) after an emotional infidelity issue. And this reminded me why I hit rock-bottom so hard – I was trusting man too much instead of trusting more in God.

    It’s just not easy to explain to him that shattered trust takes time to build up again because he says that if I love and forgive him I have to completely trust him too. He says that knowing I don’t completely trust him makes him feel weak and very sad. I feel stuck.

    1. G,

      Ugh! Yes, I am sure your husband does feel disrespected when you don’t trust him. And I am sure that it does make him feel like a failure, weak and sad.

      But – it is a process to rebuild the trust.

      What are y’all doing to work on that together?

      And how is your walk with Christ going?

My grandmother is on hospice and won't be with us much longer (11-30-16). I will get to comments when I am able to but I need to be with family right now. Thanks for understanding.

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