We’ve spent the last two weeks exploring the promises Christian women and men believe about marriage. Promises that may not be on the top of our minds or that we could describe if asked, but promises that are deeply woven into our Christian thinking about marriage. This week we will discuss the marriage promise a Christian man believes: RESPECT.
We first discussed the marriage promise a Christian woman believes (find it here) and then switched to the men (find the first part here). Don’t be fooled (or offended) by the fact that I’m spending two posts on what the man believes. If I were to write everything about what the woman believes and what the man’s responsibilities are – I might never write about anything else. (I have a lot to say to men)
By spending two posts on the man’s belief I’m hoping to help women married to men who don’t talk about what they need from their marriage. Disconnected men don’t have deep access to their relational, emotional equipment. So I try to help women understand a bit about what their men are really thinking about their marriages.
Let’s start where we left off and remember the phrase that describes what Christian men believe about marriage.
Wives are supposed to be the reflection of the Church in the marriage.
The first part of what men believe concerning this phrase, submission, we covered last week. We got this from the passage copied at the bottom of this post. The second part, or word, we draw out of the passage that describes the woman’s role in marriage is ‘fear’, or ‘respect’, or ‘revere’. The Greek word is a neutral word that can be used positively or negatively but more often it’s used positively. Meaning, a fear or respect that is ‘good’ not ‘bad’. The word is applied to our response to God, government, children to parents, weather, opposition, and many other things. And it’s mostly used as an encouragement to ‘fear not’ or to have a proper sense of ‘respect’.
Just defining this word makes me realize how big a topic the word respect brings up. It conjures real fear (because it’s been used as a menacing verbal weapon by some), and summons pictures of holier-than-thou magistrates and authoritarian types that demand respect due to their position (even when their character deserves none), but to some it brings the warmest, strongest memories of truly good people, worthy of respect, admiration, and yes, even healthy fear. Men and women who by strength of character and depth of heart love with an overcoming love. One that sweeps us away with the might of determination and tenderness of grace.
It’s that last definition I think best describes what a man wants and believes about marriage. He wants to be respected by a powerful, grace-filled woman who loves with a depth of character that only comes from long soaking in the Word and Spirit. And yes, he wants and needs that respect even when…especially when…he doesn’t deserve it.
It’s not that he’s demanding it (only small, cowardly men demand respect), it’s that he needs it. In the same, way a woman needs love. If you haven’t read Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerich I highly recommend you do. It will help you understand the fullness of what I’m trying to cover in one short post.
Good men don’t demand respect. Good men by the strength of their character, their Christlikeness, draw respect from other good hearts. It just happens.
An extremely important note: Men need respect whether or not they’ve ‘earned’ it. Just like women need love even when they haven’t earned it. If men and women had to earn what their soul most needs, every soul would be devastatingly barren. We cannot earn what we most need. It has to be given. And that is the heart of grace.
And that’s where you come in if you are married to a Christian man. In order to respect your man, you must have a heart filled with grace and governed by the Spirit. Men fail, some often, some habitually. It doesn’t change their needs. It does require a massive store of wisdom on the part of a woman to endure his failure, show him grace, and respect him back to Christlikeness.
And that’s the promise from Peter we looked at last week. Here it is again.
‘Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.’ 1 Peter 3:1-2
The undiluted promise from God is that your husband may be won back to obedience when you are respectful. You can ‘respect him back to Christlikeness’. Amazing the power you have! A woman who can consistently, genuinely respect her husband will find she has a man who lights up in her presence, carries himself tall, exudes confidence, and overcomes his frailties. (let me add a qualification to that last sentence – I’m assuming you haven’t just started respecting your husband after years of being angry or disappointed in him. I’m assuming he has dealt with his own baggage from the past. I’m assuming you have no barriers in your heart to truly respecting him – that’s a lot of assumptions. If any of them are not true please don’t take this sentence as a guarantee. More work needs to be done)
If this is news to you, or a timely reminder of things you’ve known but haven’t been practicing, let it serve as a starter. Regardless of how your husband responds, regardless of his actions or attitudes, it is your role. (NOTE: If your man is an abuser, addict, or adulterer the best way to show respect may be to separate from him until the Lord changes his heart and his life proves the change. Consult your Pastor or Christian Counselor before taking this step. I include this note to counter the ‘women should stay and respect regardless’ instruction some give. It is irresponsible and often dangerous to instruct a woman to stay ‘no matter what’.)
If you’re ready to start a new journey in your marriage, I’ve created an eBook called, POPCORN: Seven Steps For Connecting With Your Disconnected Man. It’s not an instruction manual on ‘respect’ per se but it’s a place for a woman to learn what behaviors can help draw their man out. Help him connect in a way that respects how he’s made. You can obtain your PDF copy by connecting with us here. Ask for the POPCORN Steps. May God bless you as you surrender your heart to Him!
“…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”