That’s an easy call: Not Happening!
He doesn’t deserve it, not by a long shot.
Just yesterday … last week … last month … a year ago, he … (You fill in the blank).
For many, it’s where you’re living right now, in circumstances that compromise the respect you once had for your husband.
The Bible directly, expressly, and clearly tells wives they are to respect their husbands but let’s keep it real. Every husband, at some point in the marriage, will say or do something that diminishes (in many cases, completely destroys) the respect that his wife once had for him.
And it isn’t just the big things like adultery, porn, physical or verbal abuse that take respect out of a marriage. It’s often a series of subtle, little things that, over time, are just as destructive.
So, what’s to be done? How can you respect your husband when he hasn’t earned it?
First of all, if a husband continues in gross sin, the answer is simple: You can’t. And, what’s more, you shouldn’t. This doesn’t mean a wife should speak to or treat such a husband in a disrespectful manner, but it is impossible and twisted to accord genuine respect to the unrepentant adulterer, for instance.
But what we’re talking about here are the many “normal” married moments when giving respect is a big challenge.
Question: Does the admonition to wives in Ephesians 5:33 to reverence/respect their husbands stand only when she has decided the husband is 100% truly deserving of respect?
If this is the way you interpret this Scripture, take care. The application of your logic will come back to haunt you because the same interpretation applies to the directives given to him regarding his love for you.
Is your husband required to love you only when he has determined you are 100% truly deserving of being loved, or does God tell husbands in the same verse that they are to love their wives even when they aren’t having their best moments?
Let’s be honest with ourselves. We don’t walk on water – none of us. From time to time we all do many things that make it difficult for our spouse to love and/or respect us.
So, how do you accord respect to the husband who doesn’t deserve it in the moment?
Here’s how Lisa gives me respect, even when I haven’t earned it.
1) Endeavors to treat her husband with respect in the presence of others, regardless of being momentarily out of fellowship.
2) Remembers that she doesn’t have a perfect track record, either, and knows that she isn’t called to be her husband’s Judge, Jury, and Hangman. Do you want God to deal with you in the same manner as you are dealing with your spouse? Before you answer this question, you should carefully review the story in Matthew 18:21-35.
3) Is mindful that God has given her much mercy and grace – reminding herself that she is called to give to others what she has received from God. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32
4) Remembers that, sooner or later she will need grace, too.
5) Reminds herself that, if she can’t respect the man in the moment, she can respect the office of “Husband” that he holds. We can always relate in a respectful manner, not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, as 1 Peter 3:9 instructs all of us to do. How we communicate is a choice.
6) She endeavors to let no disrespectful communication escape her mouth, eyes, or body, not seeking to exact a price for the offense. God is perfectly capable of dealing with the sin in the life of another person without your or my “help”. We need to stay out of the way of what God desires to do in the life of another person through discipline.
If you are walking in the flesh – in your self-will – focused on what you do or don’t deserve, then all bets are off. Respecting your husband won’t have a chance. There are enough grievances in marriage to last a lifetime.
Offering this kind of respect is abnormal to our sinful nature because obeying what the Bible says is a matter of walking in the Spirit – something every true believer has the power to do.
Question is, are you willing?
Matt Jacobson is a biblical marriage coach and founder of FaithfulMan.com a biblical marriage, parenting, and discipleship ministry providing written and audio teaching, as well as couples marriage coaching. He is the co-host (with his wife, Lisa) of Faithful Life Podcast and is author of the bestseller, 100 Ways to Love Your Wife. Matt is pastor of Tumalo Bible Fellowship and is married to Lisa, founder of Club31Women.com (they have 8 kids!).