Respect yourself and others will respect you.
--Confucius (551 BC to 479 BC)
Respect a man, he will do the more.
Ephesians 5: 33 says, “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” This verse brought up one of life’s big questions in Sunday school yesterday. How does a wife obey this command and respect a husband who does not fulfill his duties and makes decisions that hurt his family? This question inspired my blog today.
Respect is something everyone wants, not many have, and few want to give. Most husbands would appreciate receiving a little bit of respect from their wives, and most wives should make efforts to show some more respect. For the most part respect is not clearly understood. What does the word reverence mean here? To know what something means in the New Testament we have to look up the word and see what it is in Greek. For reverence the Greek word is phobeo—to frighten, to be alarmed; by analogy to be in awe of, i.e. revere. You probably recognize this is where we get our word “phobia” from, which means an irrational or excessive fear of something. This is where the meaning of reverence gets confusing—this combination of fear and awe. The Webster’s definition of reverence is: a feeling or attitude of deep respect; love, and awe, as for something sacred; veneration. The Webster’s definition of respect is: a) to feel or show honor or esteem for; hold in high regard b) to consider or treat with deference or dutiful regard.
Jesus died for husbands and wives; this makes husbands and wives sacred. And since reverence is a feeling and an attitude, we should start by loving the way Christ loves us—unconditionally. And for ways to show honor and esteem for our husbands requires wisdom. If we lack wisdom, God promises in James 1:5-6 to give it to us if we ask without doubting.
But before we can figure out ways to obey God’s command to respect our husbands, the definition of submission needs to be cleared up, too. Submission has nothing to do with the order of authority, but rather governs the operation of authority. When Jesus washed the disciples feet, he taught them that the greatest is the person who uses his authority to build up people and not, like the Pharisees, to build up his authority and make himself important. We are to esteem others above ourselves (Phil. 2:1-4). By nature, we want to promote ourselves, but the Holy Spirit enables us to submit ourselves. The root of most marital problems is sin, and the root of all sin is selfishness. Submission to Christ and to one another is the only way to overcome selfishness, for when we submit, the Holy Spirit can fill us and enable us to love one another in a sacrificial, sanctifying, satisfying way—the way Christ loves the church. (from Warren Wiersbe's Be Rich)
I say we should K.I.S.S. the challenge of showing reverence to our husbands (Keep It Simple Sister). And since reverence has to do mostly with feelings and attitudes, we can start by changing our mindset. Changing the way we think will naturally move us into Christ honoring action. We also need to remember that husbands can read us like a book, even when we don’t say a word. Here are a few questions we can prayerfully ask ourselves to begin improving our feelings and attitudes towards reverencing our husbands (inspiration from 1 Corinthians 13:4-13):
What kind thing can I do for my husband today?
How can I lay aside my pride today?
How can I communicate without nagging?
Can I be a help with running our household without a reward or requiring something in return?
Can I point out a good quality in him and praise him for it, while keeping no record of wrongs?
How can I use my Christ given authority to build him up?
Can I think of ways to act selfless and actually do them?
How can I protect my marriage?
Do I trust God in my marriage, always hoping and persevering?
Have I submitted to Christ by spending time alone listening through prayer and Bible Study so he can guide me in my marriage (true listening requires obeying what you learn during study)?
Marriage problems do not improve overnight, but God is great at cleaning up our messes. He needs our cooperative obedience, however, to work his miracles. If we do our part, he will bless us and take care of us even if our husbands refuse to obey God. It is interesting to note that obedience is a synonym of respect. So let's revere God and our husbands by working hard at applying God's commands to everyday life. Application of God’s word is not an easy endeavor, but the rewards are priceless.