First Duties

I’ve written a bunch on the duty of wives to respect their husbands, but as I live through the different stages of my own marriage, it astounds me how applicable God’s instructions are to all of us all the time. So I’m assuming another whack at it can’t hurt. New wives learn to respect their husbands to start off on the right foot; young wives with children find that their husbands need respect more than ever as they learn how to be a godly head of a home, as the two of them bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; middle-aged wives can delight in respecting their husbands as they navigate through the empty nest years. And I am assuming that old age will only be better. God’s commands are not a burden; and the woman who has been respecting her husband for a few decades has made a significant contribution toward the peace, comfort, and joy of her marriage. All that respect is like money in the bank that is drawing a lot of interest. God always blesses obedience, and a woman is obeying God when she respects her husband. In many situations where marriage tangles are difficult to sort out, respect will only be a help to the situation, not a hindrance. And I do think some husbands are running on fumes and have been for many years. A little respect would probably bowl them right over.

The Bible tells wives to see that they respect their own husbands. I’d like to point out a couple of obvious things about both passages (in Eph. 5:22,33) and Col. 3:18). First of all, it tells the wives to see that they are doing this. It is not given to the husbands to see that their wives are doing this. Wives are to monitor themselves on this duty. Second, wives are to submit to and respect their own husbands, not anyone else’s. This is not a command to women in general to be submissive to men in general. No, you are to be in submission to one man: your husband. This protects you from all those other men. This is why I encourage unmarried women to think hard about whether they respect a man before they agree to marry him. Will you be able to respect him in five, ten, and twenty years? Women can marry men they do not respect, and they do it all the time. This means the command will be burdensome to them. But a woman who marries a man she can look up to, trust, and admire, will not find it a challenge to respect her husband.

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5 thoughts on “First Duties

  1. “Second, wives are to submit to and respect their own husbands, not anyone else’s. This is not a command to women in general to be submissive to men in general. No, you are to be in submission to one man: your husband.”

    I would qualify this a bit: We should respect various men in proper proportion to our relationships to them. Daughters should of course respect and submit to their fathers. Sisters can bless and encourage their brothers with an appropriate degree of respect. We are to respect and submit to earthly authorities — governments, employers, etc. — in regard to the spheres over which they rule. We’re all called to honor and obey our leaders in the church. And we can all have a general respect for men who show themselves to be respectable. Of course each of these relationships calls for a different degree and quality of respect, and each of these authorities has a different degree and quality of responsibility for us, and we get in trouble when we give the wrong kind of respect to the wrong men, and expect the wrong kind of leadership from them.

  2. This is so true! In my biblical counseling classes, my Profs used to point out that Scripture commands woman to respect their husbands and for husbands to love their wives because these actions are not as natural. In other words, it is much easier for me to love my husband than to respect him- sadly. When i was saved in high school, I wanted to do full-time ministry so badly that I thought I didn’t want to get married becuase of the bad relationships I had been in, I thought marriage would be a hindrance and take up more time. But when I met my husband, I knew I wanted to marry him becuase I respected him so much and wanted to help and support him in his ministry. All that to say, I started out respecting my husband a lot, and I still struggle with it. Woman should not marry a man that they do not think they will be able to respect. But apart from that, even if the man is not worthy of respect, Scripture calls us to that regardless.

  3. When we were first married, we attended a church where the pastor ruled the homes of his congregants. He did this not by making such a proclamation, of course, but through charisma: he was a lot of fun, very authoritative, and very sure of himself. Women, he said, were to be submissive to the authority over them (meaning their husbands, “of course,” but also to the pastor himself!) Sounded so close to being true, that we were afraid to even question it, and because the pastor was the one with the Biblical training, he knew better than we did what the Scriptures meant 🙁 Because so many of the young married men in the church had grown up in our emasculated church, and many had believing mothers who did not respect their husbands and believing fathers who had no idea how to lead, these young men bowed to this pastor, allowing their wives to be counseled by him, and corrected by him, and directed by him–in effect, allowing this man to be head over THEIR homes. If the pastor told the women to do “such and such,” or not to do such-and-such, the husbands had no recourse–“the pastor said…” !! How do you fight that?? The young wives, having grown up in homes where Mother was her “own” person and wasn’t “going to let any man tell HER what to do” were exhibiting their training well. So many of us LOVED our husbands DEARLY—but did not respect them even a little. But God orchestrated it all for His glory. Because my husband and I were ABSOLUTELY MISERABLE, we were compelled to seek answers and we didn’t even tell the other we were doing so. I was trying to find reasons NOT to submit to him, and he was complaining to God, “Uhhm, this woman you gave me…” Do men and women EVER really change?? ;D Anyway, he started listening to the preaching of Reformed men of God (tho he didn’t know what “reformed” was!) and one day he heard a preaching about the role of a Christian husband. He was hearing, for the first time, intelligent, practical and Reformed thought on leading a home and loving a wife. At the same time, I started listening to Elisabeth Elliot on the radio and she told me that it didn’t MATTER if I THOUGHT I was my husband’s “equal” in all things, nor if I THOUGHT he was too young to lead, nor if I thought another man had better ideas…what mattered was what the Bible said to me regarding my role as a wife. She said that if I could not respect HIM, that I needed to respect the OFFICE God had put him in. “But he’s just a man! He isn’t any better than me! Why must I submit to him?” Well, because God SAID so, was Elisabeth’s obvious reply!! She also said that I was married to a sinner—and so was HE!! 🙂 God used her to put things into perspective for me, and my husband and I had a big talk, and began to walk-stumble-walk along the road to a happy marriage. We were no longer miserable, even though we had a long way to go in figuring out our Biblical roles. As a woman I will say that when a wife’s eyes are cleared by God’s Word, and she is able to SEE that part of submitting to God involves submitting to her husband, she will not be miserable. Even in disappointments, she will have a deep joy. God will bless that obedience. Will wives be challenged by the practicalities of submission? Yes! But that’s not such a bad thing! 🙂

  4. “…these young men bowed to this pastor, allowing their wives to be counseled by him, and corrected by him, and directed by him–in effect, allowing this man to be head over THEIR homes.”

    Ugh. Exactly the sort of thing I meant about expecting the wrong sort of leadership from the wrong authorities!

  5. Yes, Valerie. It was a terrible mess, and the result of bad doctrine applied in innocence (in so many ways) on the part of the young couples involved. What troubles me is when I see grown women who have been Christians for many years stressing our need, as women, to come out from “the shadows our husbands and children cast upon us”. These women also hob-nob with the church leadership (to prove they can run with the big boys?) and their husbands are “nice” and “sensitive.” I am being facetious there, of course!! I am reading the debate Mrs. Wilson’s husband Doug is having with the athiest Hitchens over at the Christianity Today site, and I happened to click on what I could see was a supportive feministic blog for Christian women who are persuing traditionally male leadership roles in the Church. One right after the other, the blog contributors tried to defend their positions for eschewing traditional female roles for positions of power and authority. None of them used Scripture, except one woman who questioned the Apostle Paul’s take on women, due to his male chauvenist leanings. With flowery psycho-babble, they established and stood firm in their positions. These women don’t realize they are fighting for something that will bring them frustration and sorrow in the end. Their very attitudes are ones which do not engender marital harmony, but marital strife. I am not a wives-lay-down-like-doormats proponent, because we are our husbands’ helpers and a smart man values the opinion of a godly wife (of course, a godly wife tries real hard not to be a nagger or a sniper or a complainer, etc! 🙂 But when we believe that being a wife and mother are not good enough we are playing the Feminist Anthem. And when we won’t submit to godly authority, we are being rebellious. How can good come out of that?

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