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4 Reasons To Show Unconditional Respect To A Husband, Part 2

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In Part 1 of this 2-part series, I painted a picture of how contempt and disdain can reap devastating consequences on a marriage. But I also shared a story with you of how one wife applied unconditional respect to a difficult situation that has become all-too-common in today’s technologically saturated society, and how it can result in hope and eventual healing.

I left you with this question: What do wives need to understand about unconditional respect?

Let’s continue...

1. Unconditional respect guards her against her default mode of disrespect when she is disappointed with her husband.

God reveals His will to a wife by instructing that she clothe herself in “respectful behavior” toward her husband, whether he is obedient or disobedient to Christ (Ephesians 5:33) in order to prevent her from reacting with disrespect and contempt.

Her natural tendency in the face of a disobedient husband is to display disrespect. She defaults to disdain. When her husband fails to be what she (and God) expects, she is hurt and the disappointment proves so severe that she feels disgust. Thus, God protects her from this propensity by calling her to  “respectful behavior” in the face of his disobedience.  

From 1 Peter 3:1,2, we learn that to be submissive is to put on “respectful behavior.” This turns what many wives view as a negative (“being a submissive doormat”) into the positive meeting of a need.

A wife puts on respect as a way of meeting her husband’s need.

When many wives learn this, it shifts the focus in a direction that encourages her. It makes her proactive in her approach.

By the way, Paul calls husbands and wives to submit to each other in Ephesians 5:21. A husband submits to his wife’s need for love (Ephesians 5:21,25) and a wife submits to her husband’s need for respect (5:22,5:33). Paul instructs wives to be submissive to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22), but goes on to define that as respect (5:33) in the same way Peter does by equating the word “submissive” (1 Peter 3:1) with “respectful behavior” (3:2).

2. Unconditional respect is precious in the sight of God.

Peter directs a wife to look beyond her husband to God. He continues in 1 Peter 3:4,5 saying,

"...but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands.”  

Her respectful behavior is directly related to God. It is “precious in the sight of God” and shows that she has “hoped in God.”

This is first and foremost about God, not her husband.

When she puts on unconditional respect she touches the heart of God, even if her husband remains obstinate. She gives to God a gift that He regards as precious.

Stunningly, God gauges such behavior as an “imperishable quality.” Whenever a wife adorns herself with these qualities, God finds immeasurable worth in her conduct. Before Him, nothing she does is wasted in His sight. Everything matters to Him.

Though her husband may remain indifferent, her obedience in the face of her husband’s disobedience counts to God. That her behavior is “precious” enters the same category as the “precious blood” of Christ (1 Peter 1:19), the “precious corner stone” which is Christ (2:6), and the “precious… promises” of God (2:14).

This is no small issue to God. This wife is not a doormat before her husband, but a welcoming mat to God Himself.

Her “respectful behavior” is derived from “a gentle and quiet spirit” coming out of “the hidden person of the heart.”

This answers the question, “How do I know if I am displaying a respectful attitude toward my disobedient husband?”

It begins with what she feels in her spirit. As she faces her disobedient husband, does she possess a gentle and quiet spirit? Or, does she feel unsympathetic, vicious, merciless and callous? Does she feel like yelling, belittling and threatening? If so, she needs to focus on what it means to have a gentle and quiet spirit, otherwise she will not exhibit respectful behavior.

3. Unconditional respect has nothing to do with a husband earning and deserving respect.

That the husband is disobedient to the Word means the husband does not deserve respect nor has he earned the respect. This respectful behavior then is unconditional.

A wife’s respectful behavior is displayed independent of her husband. This is about who God calls the wife to be regardless of her husband. Her respect is not conditioned on her husband’s behavior. She will behave respectfully no matter how her husband behaves. She is a woman of dignity.

How does she do this?

She shows respect from her heart and spirit to the hidden person of her husband. This is not about respecting the husband’s carnal conduct. This is about seeing the image of God within her husband, separate from his flesh.

Should a wife distinguish between a husband’s inner heart and outer behavior?

Jesus said“the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”

Paul states in Romans 7:18-23,

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.  For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.”

God calls a wife to conduct herself respectfully by focusing on the spirit of her husband, not his flesh--looking more deeply into that part of her husband where he longs to do what God calls him to do.

Yes, God is grieved by his sinful behavior. However God does not show contempt toward the spirit of her husband because that is not who God is, any more than He shows disdain toward her when she sins.

4. Unconditional respect can prompt a sense of conviction and win the heart of a disobedient husband.

Notice what happened in the story I shared yesterday. This wife’s husband surfaced his sin on the heels of her showing him respect.

In their case, her respect reassured her husband to such an extent that he wanted to tell her all in order to be all that he needed to be to her.

Of course, her world came crashing down, the very thing women do not want to hear. Because she does not struggle with pornography, this sin especially defiles the wife. This sin threatens her at her core, since it feels like she is not good enough. She feels replaced. It feels equal to adultery to her, and can be comparable to adultery (Matthew 5:28).

However, just as a wife who experiences unconditional love would feel free to tell all the ugly things in her soul, knowing she is completely accepted, so a man opens up when he feels assured that his wife respects who he is apart from his temptations and sin.

He came under conviction and it lead to confession. Yes, the pain of his confession rocked her world, but his integrity now controlled him, not his lies.

Her application of 1 Peter 3:1,2 worked! Her disobedient husband faced his disobedience!

As result of her unconditional respect and his outpouring of conviction, they can begin the work of restoration and healing in their marriage. None of us wish any of this happened in the first place. But for the wife forced to face this pain, Peter guides her and his words empower her.

-Dr. E

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider