Respect – Not Just a Verb

Respect – To hold in esteem or honor; to show regard or consideration for; to refrain from intruding upon or interfering with; to relate or have reference to (

I do not usually consider myself to be someone who takes offense easily, but one theme that has been popular in our culture for many years now is the stereotype that men are not worthy of respect.  It is shown in commercials (Who can forget the Fiber One commercial where the man states, “Fiber just makes me sad,” and his wife pulls one over on him by feeding him a “candy bar” that is really a Fiber One bar?).  Sitcoms are not much better, even as far back as Home Improvement, where the husband, Tim, was portrayed as someone who repeatedly made stupid decisions while his wife, Jill, always ended up going to their neighbor, Wilson, for sound advice instead of her husband.  Lastly, don’t forget movies.  What about Forest Gump where he was made fun of his whole life?  At least with that storyline, (but it was released in 1994), at the end of the movie, even though he never demanded it, he earned the respect that he deserved?  I wonder if it had been released in 2010, if it would have a different ending and he would never get the respect he should have?

Having the privilege of being in a personal relationship with God, I choose to obey the Bible to the best of my ability, all of the Bible, as I know that obeying the One who loves me will bring peace even when life can be rough.  Having said that, I want to share a somewhat longer passage today and then explain why I feel led to talk about this particular subject.  I am showing separation of the two parts by using italics when God is speaking directly to us wives, and regular text when he is speaking to husbands.  I was going to talk just about the women’s role in marriage, but realized I cannot really talk about the one without mentioning the other.  That’s the great part about God.  He wants us to see the big picture and that is that each part (husbands and wives) have a distinct role to play if marriage is to be a great relationship between two imperfect people.

Ephesians 5:22-33:  “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church – for we are members of his body.  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.  This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

When I got married, pledging my life to my husband, I took the promise to respect (and honor) my husband very seriously.  Those were not just words that I said in order to “get the party started,” – I meant every word.  I am a very blessed woman, because my husband makes keeping that promise very easy as he is definitely a man worthy of respect.

However, regardless of our husband’s actions, as wives we are given a very clear blueprint of what God expects of us.  If you look at the above passage, despite the instructions that God gives us, He gives even more instructions of how our husbands are to respond to us.  It’s not an “either-or.”  It’s an “and.”  I am instructed to respect my husband, and he is instructed to love me.  Does that mean, though, that if he doesn’t love me, I am off the hook to respect him?  No…I think God wants us to fulfill our role as wives and then by showing that respect to our husbands, it makes it easier for them to fulfill their roles of us and vice versa.  That is a blanket statement and not all marriages are like that, I understand, but if both partners are truly in their own personal relationship with God, then both partners are going to be striving to obey all of God’s word, not just the fun parts.

Let me give a few examples of what I think God means by respecting our husbands.  It can be shown in the little things like consistently scheduling your fun time with friends, as much as your schedule allows, when your husband is also busy with activities or work so that when he is at home, there are plenty of opportunities for couple time or family time.  It could look like making the choice to make the more complicated favorite meal of your husband, including dessert,  (when your schedule allows) instead of popping a frozen pizza in the oven for the third time this week because it is more convenient.

It also, though, encompasses the bigger, sometimes harder choices.  For instance, it means going to your husband and asking his opinion of a personal choice for you; whether that is quitting your job to stay home full time with the kids, starting your own business or going from part-time to full-time employment.  It could also mean asking your husband’s opinion about an area in your life that you want to improve: whether that is diet and exercise, taking a college course one night a week, or inviting friends over for dinner.  In addition, then, once your husband expresses his opinion and tells you what he would prefer happen, you follow through with a cheerful attitude, accepting that he has your family’s best interest at heart.

Now, I have heard the argument many times that women think implementing this type of exchange in their marriage makes them doormats.  I completely disagree with this statement and the reason I do is because of the non-italicized words in the passage above.  Just because we are respecting our husbands’ decisions, opinions, and trusting that they have the best intentions for our family does not make us doormats.  It makes us a team.

I hope that a lot of consideration was given to the man chosen to marry in the first place.  If he was not considered worthy of respect while in the dating stage, then I pray you did not walk down the aisle with him, contemplating building a life together, and adding children to the mix.  Lastly, I pray that if you are someone who is striving to obey God’s principles, then your husband also is reading and obeying God’s Word too.

Therefore, when you look at it like that, even though you are respecting and honoring your husband, he should in turn be loving and protecting you.  You may take time out of your schedule to make him his favorite dinner, but he may encourage the kids (and sometimes roll up his sleeves too) to clean up the dishes so you can do something else.  He may encourage you to go out and have a fun Friday night with your friends while he stays home and keeps the house intact.  Lastly, he may see circumstances or situations with your prospective career change that, in your excitement, you didn’t consider…or better yet, he may become your biggest fan and encourage you to go for it.  The whole idea is that you are both a team and you are valuing and respecting your husband when you verbally and nonverbally express to him your trust in his choices, his decisions, and his leading your family.

The bottom line of this blog is this:  When you got married, it hopefully was to your best friend, someone that you knew very well but were excited to learn even more about.  Therefore, if you are on the lookout for big and little ways every day to respect and esteem the person you fell in love with, marriage will only get better.  Even if you are the only one doing it in the beginning, it is amazing what can happen when we obey God with a loving attitude.  If this has not been part of your marriage so far, change might not happen overnight, but don’t discount the miracles that can occur when we put God first, then our husbands, and then everything else.  Trust me on this one!

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