Can a Wife Respect an Unfaithful Husband?
We want to talk today about a letter that you received from a wife who’s husband was involved in sexual sin and she has just absolutely lost respect for him. What help do you have for her and others like her?
Well, it’s a very difficult thing to overcome. And I would say that this was probably the thing that kept me in chains for some time regarding my relationship with Steve. The lack of love wasn’t killing the marriage, it was the lack of respect; because a woman has to be able to respect her husband. When we see our husbands doing degrading and perverse things, or doing destructive things to themselves, you lose respect for him. And it’s just a very hard thing. For a wife to lose respect for her husband creates all kinds of ugly dynamics in a marriage because he senses that. He knows because she’s probably saying and doing things that obviously are emanating from her that she does not respect him; and he’s going to respond to that. It’s just not a good situation.
Does the wife usually - when she's dealing with that - conclude in her own mind and in her own heart that the answer to that or the fix for that is for her to fix her husband?
Well I think a lot of women try to do that, yeah. They will try to badger their husbands into doing things the way that they want them to do them. They try to...fix them. That’s a very good way to put it. For different types of women, they respond differently. With me, I just left. I couldn’t handle it. I could not handle not being able to see Steve with eyes of respect. Even though he was a cop in LA and a ‘macho guy’, I just had zero respect for him. Other women try to fix their husband, so there’s all kinds of ways that we deal with it. But the Bible talks to women about respecting their husbands, and that is the command to wives. We don’t have any loopholes with that - it’s wives, respect your husbands.
So what I have told women over the years is that God is asking us to respect the position and not the person. If we can get ourselves to see it that way, then it would become easier for us to treat that man with respect in the sense that we’re not degrading, we’re not putting him down, we’re not rubbing his nose in what he’s like; but we’re respecting the position that he holds in our life. Whether or not he’s doing everything exactly the way that we want it, we’re still commanded by the Lord to respect him. And I know that’s very hard for us women. I understand what that's like to esteem someone who is doing horrible things.
Someone who’s not worthy of the esteem that you’re giving them...
Yes, yes, it’s very, very difficult, and yet we’re commanded to do so.
Well, you mentioned feelings. Now you’ve said that the word of God says that you must respect your husband. But what do you do about those feelings?
Well they are just that. They are just feelings. If we live by our feelings we will do all kinds of stupid things. We should not live by our feelings. Even though those feelings are very legitimate, you can still treat that person with reverence. And that is the greek translation. The Greek word translated is “reverence”. We can treat them with some amount of honor and with some amount of dignity. It’s an action. It’s something that we can do. It doesn’t require a feeling. If we wait for our feelings, it’s never going to happen.
It’s the same thing with love. Love is an action. It’s something you do to someone else. Love is what God has done to us. It was something he poured out on us. And the feelings follow behavior. If you do the right thing, eventually the feelings are going to follow. Now, whether or not we ever actually have our feelings of respect restored - that will happen as the person repents. I don’t know that we can ever be expected to actually have feelings of respect for someone that stays in a habitual cycle of self-destruction. But we can treat them with respect and with honor. We don’t have to necessarily have those feelings.
We look at Jesus who said “love your enemies.”
Yeah, and it’s the same principle. That’s impossible. Humanly speaking, it’s impossible for us to love our enemies. It’s divine. It has to come from heaven - the ability to love your enemy. I think it’s the same thing with respecting our husbands when they don’t deserve respect. It’s an act of the will. It’s just an obedient act before God. And that’s tough, but we do it. We do it by grace and we do it by the power of the Holy Spirit in us. As we obey, he gives us the grace to do it.
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