On the surface "respect your husband" may seem to be an unpopular piece of advice to a woman in an abusive relationship. The words "honor," "submit," and "obey" really don't make a lot of sense when you're being bullied and humiliated by the one who professes to love you.
Today we're going to talk about what respect is...and what it is not.
Biblically, the word "submit" can be viewed as "to rank under." Ranking under someone does not mean you follow him in sin; obviously you would not kill someone just because your husband tells you to do it. But it does mean that you realize it is not your place to teach him how he ought to behave.
Basically, you are not the boss of him. God is.
A godly woman knows that only God can change her husband, and no amount of "you-should-read-this-book-I'm-reading" is going to do that. 1 Peter 3: 1-2 says, "Wives, in the same way, submit yourselves to your husbands, so that even if they refuse to believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct." (ESV)
Having respect for a person who is hurting you has nothing to do with that person; it has everything to do with your relationship with God. Peter is saying here that a man who is not a believer can be turned to God by observing the actions of his godly wife.
If you haven't seen "The Case for Christ," watch it. That's exactly what he's referring to.
However, in the case of abuse, your husband may be so blinded by his sin that your obedience to God may call you to godly actions of an entirely different variety.
John 1:14 says that Jesus was the Word made flesh and that in Him dwelling among us, we have seen His glory "as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (ESV) We often focus our understanding of Jesus on the fact that He showed us the essence of kindness and divine favor through the grace offered to us.
But John reminds us that He revealed himself as being full of grace AND truth. Together.
Truth is straightforward. Truth is not up to interpretation. In the Greek world, the concept of the word for truth used here connotes being able to see reality as it really is, rather than the illusions we sell ourselves (Strong's Concordance).
Having grace and respect for an abusive husband means that you are filled with sorrow and compassion for him over what he is doing. It means that you are not seeking to punish him and that you are not vengeful. It means your heart breaks for the pain he is suffering and inflicting upon you and your children (trust me, it takes lots of years and lots of Jesus to feel that way about an abusive man).
But being filled with truth means you are under no illusions as to what is going on. Your husband is consumed by sin and is in grave spiritual danger. Satan is darkening your door, and your husband is taking his coat and asking him to stay for dinner. Let me be clear: Being grace-filled in your interactions with your husband is necessary. But enabling his bullying through the lack of exposure to consequences for his actions is not truth.
Again, having consequences does not mean punishment. You are not the one who doles out the lessons here, God is. But if an abused woman is full of grace, she is grieved by her husband's sin to the point that she wants him to get the help he needs to find Jesus. And in her love for him, she may decide to stop enabling him by bringing his sin into the light. Maybe by telling someone. Maybe by seeking pastoral involvement. Maybe by leaving.
Each journey is different but you are not alone. Seek to be full of grace AND truth, that you will be able to wisely discern, with God's leading, His will for you and your husband in this situation.
For more on this topic, check out The Christian Single Mom’s Podcast episode called “Is It Abuse?”
Please let us know how we can pray for you by visiting our prayer request link. No one should face this kind of situation alone.
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