Have you ever texted someone and expected a response within a minute or two? Ever get frustrated with how long it takes for them to get back to you?
Are you doing The RESPECT Dare with similar expectations for your husband’s behavior?
Or maybe you HAVE “done the dare” and he is still unloving, addicted to pornography or gaming, spending all his time with his buddies instead of working, not looking for a job and lazing around, screaming at your kids, being angry, etc., in other words, he’s still blatantly sinning against you.
What to do? Many of our teachers in the past have told us that we have to “submit” and “respect” and “God will take care of it.” And I have seen that happen. I’ve also seen wives do something else. Matthew 18. Confront. And I’ve seen God take care of it then, too. I’ve also seen both actions result in chaos and a lack of change.
What’s a Christian wife to do? If you’ll hang in here with me for a bit, we’ll shed a little light on this tough topic.
The RESPECT Dare was written to give women examples of practical applications of respecting their husbands while deepening their relationship with God. This is not something that simply happens overnight, or over the course of the three hours it might take to read the book in its entirety. It’s meant to be an experience, one done in 15-20 minutes, daily, for 40 days. It also was not written with the intention of changing a bunch of husbands, but rather, to help a bunch of willing and eager women change. God is in the transformation business, but not at our direction and timing, but His. There’s a huge difference.
The book was also not written as a suggestion of “How to change your husband into the man you’ve always dreamed he would be,” or “How to make your husband love you like he did when you were first married.” It is to teach practical applications of RESPECT – and if you are feeling unloved in your marriage, you may still be feeling unloved when you are done with the book. And if you are, well, I have a Scripture I’d like to share with you, but there are a few things God wants you to understand first. Hang with me here.
When I discovered our publisher had deemed the book, the way to “a long and happy marriage,” I grew a little concerned, even though the majority of women who take the dare end up with this as a result. For most women, learning to speak the language of respect to their husbands does have a dramatic impact on their marriages, however, for some others, it just does not. Regardless, that’s not why it was written. Again, I believe God created this book to give women practical applications and deepen their relationship with Him. It’s not a book of deep theology written in college-level vernacular. It’s a simple experience with a somewhat complicated topic.
Since 2005, when we started in ministry, the number one message God repeatedly sends me is simply this: Be still and know that I am God. In 2001, when I started heavily working on respecting my husband, I did not realize at the time that God would have His own timetable, and that mine would be different. I really believed that there was a formula, one that went, “wife + respect toward husband = husband communicates love toward wife.” I have even seen this taught by many Christian teachers, and there is some truth to it, for many people. What is unfortunate, however, is the inconvenient truth that for many wives, their respect does not inspire a loving response from their husband. And it seems the other inconvenient truth is that no one seems willing to communicate to wives that they may need to confront their husband about his sin – it seems to fly in the face of “submission,” but I am here to tell you that it does not.
The inconvenient truth is that you may “do the dare” and your husband will still sin against you. And even after decades of being a respectful, submissive wife and friend to him, you will also still sin against him. Welcome to humanity. It’s all of our nature. The other inconvenient truth is that if he does, you are not being “unsubmissive” if you are led by God to confront this brother in Christ about his sin against you. That confrontation might be more difficult for you than choosing to respect your husband. But God wants all of us to love Him and others with His love – and that takes real heart change, bravery and deep faith.
I know some of you may be freaking out right now. You’ve heard “submit,” and “respect,” and “love,” but not, “confront.” Hear me out. And be careful to listen to God in the midst of this. I do not claim to know the timing of anything in your marriage.
Galatians 6:1 (ESV)
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
James 5:19-20 (NIV)
My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
The “you who are spiritual” means, “you who are godly,” in other words, God’s done a great work in your life purging sin – for the most part, you are respectful, a friend to your husband, you love well, you “have your act together” as a woman and are growing in your faith and you KNOW God – and you submit when your husband and you disagree. That “submit” word is a military term. You can check the Basic Info for Wives page for more on that. (Sorry it isn’t put together better – I haven’t had time to do that yet.)
Because I grew up in the work world and had a small business owner for a father, I already deeply believed the work is done first, then one gets paid, not the other way around. For example, I can’t fathom not paying off credit cards every month. If you don’t have the money, you shouldn’t buy it. These thoughts, combined with other teaching I’ve received, and the Scriptures against judgment and reminding us of the “plank in our own eye,” play into much of how I thought things would go when I started paying my husband respect. We are clearly told to “remove our own plank” before we approach someone else.
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
I needed to figure out how to respect him first and in doing so, I allowed him to have his own relationship with God and stopped trying to control him. I worked on myself and my responses, growing my relationship with God. I worked on my own obedience first. I kept working at it, too. There is no “arrival” point – the more you come to know God and understand His Word, the more you come to the conclusion that we will always be sinners (but saved by grace as long as we believe in Jesus, confess Him as Lord of our life and the Son of God).
We hear over and over again from women how their husbands are so inspired by what God has done in them, that they are highly motivated to be better men. They share how these men suddenly start bringing them flowers, sending love-texts, buying jewelry, touching them, paying them compliments, encouraging their wives to take some time for themselves, engaging more with their children, going to church, stepping up to leadership in his family, touching them without sexual motives, and start participating in the chores around the house, just to name a few.
We also occasionally hear from the frustrated, broken-hearted women who don’t understand how after six months to a year of being dramatically different, showing respect as a habit to this man she married, how he will still let doors slam in her face, criticize her cooking, leave his stuff laying everywhere and never lift a finger to take part in family life. He may still be addicted to pornography, gaming, alcohol, or abusing her. And having interacted with both sides of the equation, we have some learnings we want to pass along that might help you in your particular journey.
First, I want to share what some of the women in our community on Facebook have had to say. I posted the following and they responded:
So I believe God had me write the book to give wives practical examples of what respect looked like on a daily basis. For many women, this changes their husbands and marriages. For others, it does not. So then, what is the benefit, if any, of doing the Respect Dare if your husband and marriage don’t change?
Because God will use this to make us more like Him, even if our husband doesn’t change. ~Shawn
The benefit is an inner peace and freedom and the knowing, that I have done everything possible to save my family. And a new, happy, calm, steady and hopeful “me”. ~Caroline
Even if he doesn’t change, it will certainly change you as a woman of God and wife! ~Lisa
… and the goal going in shouldn’t be to change our husbands… 😉 ~Susan
Because it’s the right thing to do. ~Pamela
I believe that as a wife I can keep the changes, and keep praying and respecting. It is up to God to move my husband’s heart and his mind. Not me. My job is not to change him but to show him I can change for the better of our marriage, our family and to show him an example of prayer. The one thing my husband knows now, more than before I did the respect dare is that I pray for him. And that has helped us to pray together. My take home, in one line: Let God lead him and change him, keep praying, loving and living what God moves you to. ~Shanyn
It honors the gospel and puts God’s beautiful Word on display. See Titus 2! ~Gena
Yes!! It’s what the Bible says we are to do. I know that at first my hubby didn’t respond well but even though that hurt I still had a peace that I was in Gods will. I was growing closer to Him and was seeing my husband through His eyes and not my selfish desires and wrong expectations. ~Jen
Even though it didn’t change him or rescue our marriage, it certainly changed me, my thinking, and my behavior. For that I am thankful. ~Pamela
I didn’t do this to change him, I did it to change me and my attitudes and reactions. The fact that there have been changes is an added bonus. ~Gerri
Everything we do should be done for the Lord. Not for our husbands, not for ourselves, not for results. Just in obedience. His obedience/change is between him and God. 🙂 ~Melissa
One huge benefit is the change in US! I know that through this book, and through leading a small group, I’ve grown so much! I’m closer to my Heavenly Father, my husband and my earthly father. I’ve gained an inner peace and a better understanding of God’s will for me as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, etc. It’s a wonderful feeling? ~Andrea
This is about changing us! ~Susie
Well, Dr. Eggerichs talks about it in his book – we are faithful to what God has called us to do and set before us as our role. No matter what the outcome, if we are faithful, we will be blessed. ~Leah
^exactly what being faithful to God, with our lives, our marriages, not for an outcome, but to submit and our of devotion to the God we serve, our life doesn’t end here…Jesus understands our suffering. ~Kim
We aren’t going to be judged on how many people we changed. We are only going to be judged by God for submitting to Him to change US. ~Cindy
Entering The Respect Dare to change my husband…that sounds very manipulative and my husband is cleaver enough to recognize that. Who likes to be manipulated? I don’t, and neither does my hubby. I’m honest with myself, I started the Respect Dare b/c I knew I needed it. It’s an area that God has called me to and I need help. In the end, I want no regrets or “wishes that I had done more” before my Lord and Savior. I want to mature in respect as a way of saying Thanking you Jesus. I want evidence in my life that I’m yielded to the Holy Spirit’s leading- being respectful is part of that. ~Lisa
Being right with God. Thanks ladies for the reminder that this is what wives are called to. Husband’s response is icing on the cake if it materializes. If not, still have God’s favor resting upon me for obedience to Him. ~Michelle
Allowing God to shape and mold me … has been worth it … 😉 ~Linda
Because God commands wives to RESPECT their husbands, He never gave conditions. It’s about obedience to God. That is more important than whether our husbands obey their own command to LOVE their wives. Our spouse’s obedience to God in how they treat us is irrelevant. ~Jenny
It’s not about them changing, it’s about us changing! ~Tina
For the record, I will tell you that I agree with everything written above. Some of us are trying to “purchase” feeling loved again by our husband with our respect – and that simply doesn’t “work.” The goal instead should be to obey God – regardless of the outcome.
And we are given guidance to confront a brother when he sins against us (which our husband’s unloving behavior IS) – but more on that momentarily.
James chapter 4 addresses this whole concept of “giving to receive” in this way:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
4You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? 6But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
11Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
Remembering that your husband is our closest neighbor, we have to be careful of judging our husbands. And we cannot try to purchase their love. That said, however, when they behave unloving towards us, we can also either follow the advice in Proverbs 19:11, which reads, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense,” or we can practice Matthew 18, by confronting this brother who has sinned against us. Know this is a tough love situation, and few women are brave enough to deal with their husband’s sin in this way, but God’s advice is pretty clear:
15“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Do you hear that? Respectfully, patiently, kindly, and humbly, tell your husband how unloved you feel and the specific reasons why. Tell him specifically what hurts you and what you want instead. If he apologizes, forgive him. Give him a chance to change, and repeat this process if you have to. 70 times 7 times while he is working on it. Remember he is a sinner, just like you, and new behaviors are hard. He’s going to fail sometimes. You can look at this as an opportunity to extend grace, which you would also want from him when you mess up!
Just like you will never be perfect, you can’t expect him to be. You didn’t marry Jesus Christ, and neither did he.
However, if he refuses to listen, confront again, kindly, lovingly, patiently and humbly. He will probably apologize, and tell you he will try to do better. You need to forgive him. 70 X 7 times, if he apologizes. If he refuses to hear you, find a good counselor and tell him you have made an appointment and you expect him to go – and have a counselor (preferably male, as many immature men can only learn from other men) facilitate your discussions and help you confront. If he has male friends, instead of taking him to a counselor, you can have this conversation with one of these other people present to witness the communication. And again, if he apologizes, forgive, allowing him opportunity to change.
If none of the above results in changed behavior (and it takes people time to change, so be patient and persevere) then it is time to take it to the church leadership. That means an elder or pastor. You may then end up having to separate – but only under God’s direction – for a time of praying and restoration work to begin.
1 Corinthians 7:10-11 (NIV)
To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
The above Scripture communicates that we are not to leave our husbands, but that God knows some women might do that anyway, and if they do,they should be reconciled. In the original language, the word, “separate” means to “divorce.” The Bible doesn’t actually mention “separating” as we have come to understand it in today’s day and age.
And before you jump on the bandwagon of, “Oh! That’s it! I will go and do this!” remember that the verses beforehand warn of how precious our brother is to God, and how it is better to cut off various limbs before harming someone precious to God.
Check the entirety of Matthew 18 here.
And our husbands are just as precious to God as we are. That chapter also begins with the disciples wondering who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. Jesus had heard this discussion before, when they were arguing about which of THEM would be greatest – and again He puts them all in their place, accurately pointing out that their pursuit of prestige is a sin.
So check your motives – and get your part right first, so you are blameless before God in this area. I don’t feel we have the right to confront someone else’s sins against us when we are knowingly sinning against them. So wives, we need to respect. We need to get it right first, then we have earned the right to confront – IF LED BY GOD – otherwise we have a large “plank in our own eye,” and have NO BUSINESS correcting someone else’s behavior.
We are to be like Christ, regardless – and the only way you will know what God wants you to do, is to be in daily communion with Him, listening, dwelling in His presence, worshiping, confessing your sins, repenting from sin (changing your behavior), and sharing your troubles with Him.
God may very well use you to impact your husband. He also may not. Having been privy to innumerable stories from wives, I’ve seen God use poverty, imprisonment, loss of employment, public humiliation, family estrangement, and injuries of children to get a husband’s attention. I’ve seen wives suffer permanent disability, become oppressed by the enemy, and endure physical and mental illnesses, which God then uses to get their husband’s attention and transform him. I’ve seen women take their children, having been led by God, to another place to live while their husband deals with the consequences of his choices alone. I’ve seen others, again, led by God, endure extremely difficult situations while God works things out with their husbands. The point is, I could list off a ton of “suggestions” and “actions” to take, but none of them will impact your husband if your efforts are outside of God’s will. I have heard countless stories, including my own, of wives who have tried to get their husbands to change – only to lay down their efforts, throw up their hands, and watch in amazement to see God step in and do His thing effortlessly now that we were out of His way.
This is different from “respecting yourself” as the Temple of the Holy Spirit, however. God may want you to martyr yourself in your own home, or He may want you to take care of yourself and your emotional needs by surrounding yourself with rich female and family relationships, physical fitness, and/or a hobby or interest that you absolutely love. He may very well use Matthew 18 in a loving, firm, but powerful way. If we take a look at the men and women of the Bible, they had various circumstances, but most of them were willing to do whatever it was that God wanted from them. That’s the point. We will never know how to change your marriage – but God does. So The RESPECT Dare helps you get close to Him, and teaches you some practical applications of respect…so be close to God, obey Him, and that includes respecting your husband. Matthew 18 is not executed by hysterical women, but rather with patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control and humbleness. Is that you?
Or must you have your way in your timing?
Dare you to ask God to give you His heart, His will, and His help in aligning your thoughts to His.
It will change the way you walk through all of your relationships, not just your marriage. And in doing so, you will know, with full confidence, that each step you take within His will, has the outcome it was supposed to have – regardless of our worldly judgment of it.
There are, however, some things you can do while you are in the middle of this journey:
- Be still and know that He is God. In other words, stop trying to change your husband. Accept him for who he is, and love him the way he is. Yes, love and respect unconditionally, knowing he is fully human, meaning a sinful creature, and that if he is sinning against you, then it might be time to confront that sin, but without judgment. Know that Jesus died for him, too, and that none of us are to judge another. Christ didn’t even do that. Know that God loves him just the way he is. Shouldn’t you?
- ASK for what you need. “Submission” does NOT mean not confronting your husband when he sins against you or being silent and not asking to have your needs filled. Even if you have to ask every single day. Forgive him when he apologizes. Do it for a decade. If you feel loved when you are touched, affirmed, bought a gift, helped with a task, whatever, ASK for it. And be sweet when you do. Yes, even if you have to ask more than once, be sweet.
- Initiate what you are looking for from your husband. Even if you have to do it every day for the rest of your lives. He’s not your girlfriend – stop expecting him to behave like one. And if you have to ask three or four times, ask him how he’d like you to handle it if he forgets. Then do that.
- Do something radically different (at God’s leading) if you need to. If your approach is not getting your needs met, try a different one – this is so important! Foolishness lies in doing things the same way and expecting different results.
- Respect him anyway – because God says to. Your obedience delights your heavenly Father – and He rewards your obedience. Work on your trust issues by asking Him to help you in this area, but obey anyway.
- Revisit the things you did early in your marriage – even if you have to instigate them. Make a list of these things and start doing them.
- Don’t evaluate your progress by his reactions. Many husbands behave badly when we start working on things because our respect often causes them to face their own sin. I don’t understand why this is, but I’ve seen it happen a lot.
- Persevere. It’s what mature faith is made of.
- Remember that whatever you pay attention to GROWS. If you are emotionally reacting to him and how he treats you (and I’m not sure why this is, but it seems to go this way) understand you are paying attention to this negative behavior and you will get more of it. In the same way, if he takes a baby step in the right direction and you ignore it, he probably won’t repeat it nor will he take a bigger risk later.
- Remember the goal is to live as Christ, finding His peace and joy in the midst of difficulties. Remember 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
So thankful that you are on this journey with me. You are not alone.
my husband does not apologize for his critical remarks or the way he treats me; he turns it back and blames me for his behavior. i have prayed, told him to stop these things, no change;over 10 yrs of problems now; married almost 25yrs, we have children; I asked in confidence to get help from church friends and nobody can help; now I will have to pay to see a counselor, he won’t go.
I needed to read #8. My husband is acting even worse now that I’m working on respecting him and loving him and being happier than I did when I was a crying mess. Our marriage is in the crosshairs and I’ve decided to just work on me and how I’m treating him. I feel like he’s (unintentionally, I hope) testing me to see if I’ll continually love him as he treats me worse. Thank you for this post!! It’s giving me more hope!
Sarah, so glad you are here – so sorry you are going through this. Hang in there, take courage, put your hope in Him – He loves you, baby! 🙂
Love to you,
Amen for this. Been reading all day. Mulling over the comments. This is not something I have been called to do – to approach my husband in this way. But I have learned a lot about better ways to approach him. I will continue to read this. Thank you, sister.
I’m probably hyper-sensitive, but it feels like I have to be A) perfect before I can expect to have the right to confront him, or even ask for what I need from him…and also, alot of this presupposes that my husband has a relationship with Christ. My husband would describe himself a Christian, but he refuses to attend church, refuses to pray with or for me, has decided the church is full of hypocrites (and I’m sure viewing his less than perfect wife doesn’t help), so he won’t have anything to do with it. So coming at him from a Biblical standpoint is only going to highlight my own failings (he is VERY judgmental) and simply won’t move him at all.
GaNeane – I really understand what you are saying. My husband was a deacon in our church, very knowledgeable about the Bible and obviously described himself as a Christian. 4 years into our marriage he told me he’d never pray again – as far as I know, he hasn’t (YET!). I stayed married until he asked to leave (after 3 years of separation, 12 years of marriage). Matthew 18 would have probably only led me to the obvious, he was not a Christian, and never had been. It would have changed my prayers, though. However, your husband claims to be a Christian, therefore, as a sister in Christ, you COULD be lead to confront his sin (whatever that may be). I can only encourage you to become one with the Holy Spirit, allow him to intercede with you and to be your comforter. Your full surrender to a relationship with Christ brings freedom to know right from wrong. If you are then led to do something like this, you will have the confidence of Christ in you. May you find hope here for a beautiful future with your husband. ~katy
Nope. Sorry. Only one Jesus. But ask yes. And I’ve found too, that confessing my sins daily to those I sin against (and yeah, I do it daily… 🙁 Just being honest) saying, “I’m sorry I did xyz, will you forgive me?” and “I’ll try to do better.” and keeping your word is stellar. You won’t ever be perfect. Sounds like you have a similar situation to Angie. 🙂 Who knows what God will do – we’ll keep praying for you, lovely! 🙂
my husband later told me that he DID notice a change in me, my repentance, my relationship with God, and it DID impact him. I had no idea, and I’m sure that’s a good thing! Of course, the impact was not immediately evident. My point, our imperfection and our willingness to acknowledge it is much more powerful than any so called pharisaical perfection.
I’m not sure the ‘when your brother sins against you’ church discipline verses can quite apply to marraige relationships, at least, in most cases. It would probably work in cases of abuse. Those verses seem to be intimating a scenario where one person was clearly in the wrong (stole something, hurt a neighbor, etc), vs. “fight” scenarios. When Euodia and Syntyche were disputing, Paul wanted the church to help them mediate and urge them to get along – he didn’t ask one to take the other in for discipline. [Those verses also apply to being seperated from the church assembly, not being let out of one’s covenant-bond of marraige or with God. So at most, your husband would get kicked out of Bible study, not your house :P].
And this is the case with most marraige issues. Even if the majority of the issue is the husbands problem, it is rare for it to be 100% the husband’s fault.
Mediating with a church counselor is actually wonderful – but *not* starting from the premise that ‘the husband is wrong’. The mediator has to be neutral so he can frankly evaluate the marraige issues and give advice, not “confronting the husband’s sin”. Since there are many reasons a woman may feel unloved, and it may well not be all his fault (if she is the the type to read normal things as personal attacks), or it may be issues spanning years that have piled up due to unforgiveness on both their parts – this neutral mediation is essential.
Also, you can’t go up to someone and say “you’re sinning because I feel unloved.” Would we like God to say “You’re sinning because I don’t feel you’re loving me to my standards today”, even if we had a heart full of love for Him? The man may or may not be loving his wife. If he *isn’t*, then he is sinning. If he *is*, and the wife simply isn’t ‘feeling’ it, he is not sinning. People have differrent love languages. The best thing in that scenario is to get counseling so they can communicate better. One of the most tragic things to witness is when a man does something loving for his wife, but the wife takes it as an unloving action because it wasn’t what she wanted or expected, and what started out as love twists into a fight. People are responsible for their actions and their motives, but not for the way other people feel because they twisted or mistook those actions and motives [Or hold onto past, supposedly forgiven, actions through time].
Separating the two because the husband is being ‘unloving’ is not a solution scripture prescribes. Seperation should only be by mutual consent (as in, both agree- not because the church leadership decides its a punishment), and only because both want the time to devote to God. (vs. needing space/working on the relationship/etc). Seperating can’t help fix the relationship, any more than we could fix a broken relationship with God by seperating from Him! In fact, scripture implies that many relationship problems are because the two have already been acting seperately and without intimacy, which is why it goes so far as to *forbid* the two from from depriving each other. ‘Separation’ is not a threat God allows man, or woman, to use.
[If he does something criminal, of course, there will be seperation because he goes to jail. That’s a different issue].
Thank you for your thoughts! Am glad to participate in the dialogue!
It has been our experience that the purpose of the Matthew 18 discussion is not to “have him taken out,” but rather clearly dear with our closest brother, our husband, when he sins against us – and often times, during that first conversation, we discover things we didn’t know, and an apology occurs. 🙂 I don’t believe the Bible exempts wives from having access to this type of help. And just like we sin against them, they sin against us. Not dealing with it helps no one. And forgiveness (to the tune of 70 X 7) is key. I think you may have read into my post some things that I did not intend to be there, like the church suggesting that he leave, or that the fault is all his. There are a hundred sides to this topic, and we have pages and entries trying to address them. And I agree that the couple should pursue counseling – although the statistics show that it only works 25% of the time. So perhaps getting help with working through the conflicts is what we need. AFTER we have learned how to 1) love, 2) submit, 3) respect, and 4) be his friend, not his mother. Then we do not have so many “planks” in our own eyes, so to speak, and can see more clearly to love. Perseverance is what mature faith is made of – and love is patient… Unfortunately, most conflict is conducted under the influence of anger, which inevitably damages relationship.
Thank you for your comment and for disagreeing respectfully. I hope I have done the same.
What I mean to say is, if it is a situation (marraige or otherwise) where the two people may have reasonably sinned against each other, or it incorporates many different sins over a period of time, that pattern of church discipline does not work. [Although counseling or mediation *might*]. And I didn’t say you said the church should make him leave, rather that that is what the verses you chose led to (as a Gentile and a tax collector… they were not allowed in the inner temple/assembly of the saints. Later on in scripture a man is temporarily banned from the assembly under the same discipline system. It’s hard to get ‘temporary separation of man and wife’ from ‘separation of man and church meetings’.). Also, the context of the verse is one party wronging another, clearly, to the point where the first party even has other eye-witnesses in the church that can back him up. Even if one party feels wronged, and indeed, might bear the burden of the harm – most marital difficulties boil down to conflict situations where both parties are at fault, and that most of the conflicts have not been directly witnessed. Approaching a marital conflict with the idea that one’s spouse is the ‘sinning brother’, or going to the church to ‘judge’ that your position is right (without eyewitnesses), usually leads to resentment and a blindspot on one’s own part of the problem. Usually, it’s not just ‘one fault’ (like Matt 18) that leads someone to confront their brother/husband, but a laundry list of grievances.
In those cases, where two disputing parties cannot esteem each other and get along, handling it is more like when the Bible asks disputing parties to mediate their differences within the church rather than taking the issue to court. The other way the Bible gives women, especially, to help with their husband’s spiritual lives is by her behavior.
There is no reason a woman cannot say how she feels or tell her husband when he is hurting her. However, taking a correctional stance to the point of bringing in the church is usurping his role as spiritual leader of the home (not to mention, usually humiliating to the man and the opposite of respect). Abigail disobeyed her husbands wishes for the sake of her husband and the good of the household, but she still told him what she had done in the morning, despite not knowing how he would react. And, Nabal was not a nice man. Yet Abigail did not drag Nabal in before the priests to reform him. She even stopped David from killing him. It was God who punished Nabal. Sarah obeyed Abraham’s wishes, even when they got her into sticky situations, without calling him out afterwards.
To respect (among other things) is to regard with favor and accord honor. The seat of judgement where the defendent sits is opposite the seat of honor. This is not a seat a wife should ever force her husband to sit in, especially if she is playing the prosecuter!
I am curious… and please do not read any disrespect into this – but what are your thoughts on equality? (not mutuality, but equality – please do not take this as my labeling myself as an extreme feminist who believes in shoving opinions and rights down other’s throats – nor am I saying I do not understand that the current definition of feminism is rights for all, so those of you reading this, please do not misread that, either! :)) Yet another reason I don’t like labels, too many meanings to too many groups of people! 🙂 But I wonder, do you think that a man, because of the accountability and position of responsibility that God holds him to in Genesis 2 and 3, do you think he is more valuable to God than a woman? Or are they equally precious to Him from what you have studied?
You said that these verses in Matthew 18 applied in the case of abuse, and while I agree that there are always “faults” on both sides of the marriage equation, spousal abuse is not mentioned in marriage in the Bible. I have never been taught and have never read that those verses only apply to church situations – but rather, as the ESV titles the section, “If Your Brother Sins Against You” – I realize this is outside what you may have seen from the extreme side of traditional complementarian view, but some complementarian extremeists also take me to task for suggesting women be friends with their husbands as defined by the original language with the word, “love” of “phileo” in the original Greek in Titus 2:2-5. Matthew 18 is a progression for all believers as taught by most theologians and is a progression that doesn’t start with taking the issue to the church leadership (which might very well be an elder or pastor, not the entire church) and so I guess I disagree with some of what you are saying above, and that’s okay. It is also erroneous that the witnesses are only there as witnesses to the sin – there are many translations that bring to light the nature of the original language which shows that these witnesses are there to witness the discussion between the two and testify to what words were said by the one who has the problem (in this case the wife) and is making the accusation. This is one of those verses with a number of different meanings, obviously.
I also wondered about why you said Matthew 18 might be okay for abuse situations. What do you say to the women who are called to suffer abuse at their husband’s hands? And I am wondering if you also believe some sins are worse than others? Do you believe a wife is to submit if her husband wants her to disobey God? To view pornography? To steal? To lie? Does submission tell her then to sin? What do you think she should do to obey God if she in love, (which by the way means, without any resentment, anger, or bitterness, but the peace and compassion of Christ – and yes, there is a huge huge difference) is not allowed to communicate these hurts to him, and then escalate the issue in the name of submission? I am just curious about what you think about these things as well. Most of these situations also do not get to that last stage, and from what our experts tell us and what we have seen in our years in ministry, it is usually due to either the wife being too afraid to continue the process, or the “church” (usually being an individual) not handling the situation appropriately. I am curious as to what your ministry experience says about these things. 🙂 Two adults in a relationship should be as iron sharpening iron, not mothering, rescuing, dominating, avoiding, nor controlling. Having said that, there are times to overlook the insult, and times to confront, but in love. But we can disagree on that. God knows His Word has many much smarter than I am disagreeing on this and many other topics, so I do not intend to solve this one today. 🙂
Please know I mean no offense, but our extensive research and ministry experience has demonstrated that the Bible is a living document with applications we cannot limit to our own experiences. To be completely honest with you, it makes my heart beat a little too fast to consider challenging what God has done in the midst of these women’s lives – some of their husbands have actually come to know Christ as a result of what you called “correction” (although I would never call what they did that, as it was done out of deep love for their husband). I have not done this in my own marriage, by the way, but do believe we need to be careful about how we box these verses into just one category. The whole topic of separating is one I don’t have time to get into right now, as I have to get dinner on the table. 🙂 Perhaps another day. 🙂 Thank you again for the respectful dialogue.
Love to you,
Man and woman are both equal, and both equally precious to God. A woman submitting to a man doesn’t make her less equal, or her any less valuable. In a general christian sense, we all (male and female) submit one to another. I am not sure why you would think that obeying scripture (or holding verses to their proper context) would lead to inequality. God decided man couldn’t live without woman! Scripture doesn’t need explained away or modified, the woman of scripture are held in very high esteem.
A husband asking his wife to disobey or to do something against her morals is the similar conundrum to a king asking his people to disobey God or to do something against their morals. Sometimes the answer is clear (ie, don’t bow down to an idol, don’t murder, don’t give up Christ), but there are many cases in scripture where soldiers or spouses obeyed when the issue was murky (such as putting Uriah on the frontlines, or Jesus asking the jews to pay taxes to Ceasar even though the Roman government commited abominations with the tax money, or Abraham asking Sarah to tell Pharoah she was his sister). There is a heavy responsibility on leaders and teachers, since they can easily lead others astray. Jesus uses particularily harsh language when speaking of authority figures and children: “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” In the case of a husband asking a wife to do something morally ambivalent, which the two cannot come to agreement on, it is far better to be the wife than the husband in that scenario! The burden of leading your family wrong is a very great one.
It is also interesting to note that most times in scripture when an issue was significant enough to ‘force’ disobedience, the people involved actually had to risk their lives or livlihoods to disobey. [The midwives, Rahab, Hannaiah, Azariah, and Mishael, Daniel, Abigail, Esther, many of the prophets, etc].
But if the issue is more like a Calvanist husband asking his non-Calvanist wife to host a dinner for a MacArthur study group, or the husband wanting beer at a party when the wife is a teetoaler – these are not life and death moral issues. It’s counterintuitive to think that one can follow God better by disobeying God. Rather, God says that living a holy life yourself in submission (by extension, not rebellion), not ‘words’, is what a woman should focus on to transform a man who is being disobedient to the word.
[This is also a reason why its good to have discussions on major moral beliefs, and how the two will sort future conflicts out, before one even gets married. At the very least, most main points should be sorted before the kids arrive].
From what I have seen in the church of marital conflict, it usually comes out in gossip (often couched in ‘prayer requests’) before they ever think of asking anyone for help. This causes more issues, as the woman or man seek to find people who will ‘side’ with their grievances. I am more fond of church mentorship programs than counseling; counseling is very hit and miss (and can make it worse if the counselor affirms the poor behavior on one or both sides), wheras mentorship and discipleship programs come alongside someone in their walk with God wherever needed. These usually have a positive effect on struggling marraiges, and the marraige isn’t even the focus of the program- God is. There have been a few women as well, who after attempting to use the church as a weapon against their husband, have moved on to new churches when their home church didn’t take the bait or their husband was cleared. Meanwhile, their husbands were left to clean up the mess made of their reputation.
And back to Matt 18, since it seems we are still miscommunicating. The course proscribed in that passage is a series of steps. 1) Go to your brother personally 2) Go to him with eyewitnesses 3) Go before the church. If he still refuses to repent, the church temporarily bans him until he does.
The eyewitnesses are important – every testimony must be established by one or two witnesses. (Not just one or two people who listen to the case then and decide it. That’s step 3, the consensus of the church. The concept of witnesses is well defined in both the old and new testament, and Jesus uses witness testimony as part of the basis of his claim as the Messiah. A witness is someone who testifies to the truth they have personally seen).
That is a very drastic course of action to take for anything, since the final step in this is (as other scriptures more graphically phrase it) handing the person over to Satan! (presumably to be tested as to whether or not they are a true believer and drive them to repentance). Cases in the Bible included one of incestuous sexual immorality and blashpemy.
There is indeed Biblical precedent for taking someone to task for sin who is an authority figure – but only with great care and respect (as in, don’t accuse an elder accept with one or two witnesses) – but there is another reason not to take marital conflicts into the arena of church discipline:
“Do not devise harm against your companion while he lives securly beside you. Do not contend with a man for nothing, if he has done you no injury.” Prov 3:29-30
It’s a little hard to express the strength of those words, but its saying unless your neighbor has cost you money (and thereby, you need financial restitution – not a common scenario when everything you own is each others), or done a calamatous evil or great misery that must be righted (such as physical injury or disabling emotional trauma) then do not strive against your neighbor. This goes even moreso for your best friend; your spouse.
A married couple should be yoked together pulling the same path – not striving together, wrestling as in an arena. That isn’t what “Iron sharpens Iron” means. The iron that sharpens the steel blade is not *another sword*. [Crossing swords actually blunts and damages the blade].
The iron that sharpens the sword is the iron of the whetstone. It is actually a beautiful picture of man and wife:
“But let me sharpen others, as the hone
gives edge to razors, though itself have none.” -Francis
Amonite – I am struggling with this sentence: “However, taking a correctional stance to the point of bringing in the church is usurping his role as spiritual leader of the home” I believe Matthew 18 gives us clear direction to avoid going to the church in steps 1 and 2. I don’t know of any wife who WANTS to get to step 3 but I also don’t know of any wife who wants to live in a marriage where she is not loved. You gave excellent Biblical examples of wives who were honored without using this method (though they did not have the New Testament as we do). I guess I just get stuck when it comes to saying a wife does not have the authority to call out a brother in sin IF that brother is her husband. Reading Ephesians certainly gives a husband authority over his wife but I read that with the understanding that he is living for Christ. If a husband is not loving his wife, just as Christ loved the church, even to death, then I believe it is biblical for someone to call him out on that sin. How wonderful it would be if all men had such a community of believers around them that another man (or even woman) could see this in marriage and call it out so the wife didn’t have to do this on her own. I just don’t think that happens though, usually the only person to know that a wife is not being loved is the wife. The wife then has a decision to make, speak to him directly, go to someone else or continue to pray. A wife who has prayed, allowed God to change her own life and fully believes that the Holy Spirit is leading her to speak can openly, and lovingly, speak with her husband about his sin pertaining to their marriage, in my opinion. I am thankful that the Bible does give us a pattern to follow. My Knight and I actually had a very in depth conversation about this today so I thank you for sharing your opinion. He is open to me being honest with him about what I need in our marriage. Our marriage is designed so that I love God more than I love my husband, my husband loves God more than he loves me. For us this means that we are brother and sister in Christ before we are husband and wife in Christ. For us this means that Matthew 18 is an excellent way for us to follow the example that Christ set for us.
It’s somewhat antithetical to the higher point of marraige (to reflect Christ and the church, that is), and backwards from any of the few directions (Explicit and implied) that scripture gives on the topic.
Ephesians 5: 22-32
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
In reflecting Christ and the church, it is the man whose -love- for his wife represents Christ cleansing the church from sin (among other things)! The wife reflects the radiant church, bride of Christ to be presented before Him as a royal bride.
The wife may desire to ‘switch roles’ and ‘fix her husband with her love’ – but that doesn’t reflect the relationship of Christ and the church. In this passage, the wife’s role is respect and submission. Only together do man and wife reflect the mystery of Christ and the church.
1 Peter 3:1-6
“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
And let not your adornment be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 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. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him master, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.”
Here, the example is far more specifically related to the disobedient husband. This applies whether they are not christian at all, or are christian but disobeying. Yet, rather than say, ‘rebuke them, and forgive them if they repent!’ – the advice is to be chaste and respectful, that they may be won even “without a word!”.
The use of Sarah as an example is also key, as there were many times she had to obey things that may not have sat well with her. She had to leave her home, she had to let her handmaiden sleep with her husband, she had to tell Pharaoah she was Abraham’s sister (not a lie, being his half-sister, but very dangerous) on two occasions, etc. Yet, the line “do what is right” clarifies that obedience to God will always take precedence.
And for all we have talked on Matt 18:15-19, there’s also 21-35. The servant who had had his impossible, unpayable debt cleared refused to be lenient on waiting for a pittance. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” Or “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”.
There will always be people on earth who wrong us, ignore us, hurt us, and pain us. It’s a far more terrible thing to go around with unforgiveness, which eats at our very relationship with Christ. It can even cause physical pain.
As I am a wife that followed “Matthew 18” in my marriage, I thought I’d chime in. Please note, I simply share my personal experience and I do not teach or preach in any capacity. Thanks for allowing me that disclaimer.
I had been married 9 years, and the situation was very severe by the time I approached others about our marriage issues. I was not in a physically abusive situation, however I do not think physical abuse is required in order for a woman to ask for help, wise counsel, or accountability from others.
At the time, I did not even realize I was following “Matthew 18”. I was in a desperate situation physically (prolonged, severe health problems and 4 pregnancies within 7 years), and I was drained emotionally. I contacted a person I thought could help me around the house, and she tenderly pleaded that I contact someone at our church. Somehow she knew our problems were bigger than a messy house. Once I did that, things seemed to naturally progress. Ladies from church came to help me. They noticed right away there were deeper problems. This progressed to an elder and his wife beginning to meet with us. This progressed to my husband and I meeting with more elders. As they saw the seriousness of the situation, and in particular the hardness of my husband’s heart, the counsel with elders and the pastor increased. In the end, my husband refused to listen, to speak, or respond. The elders and pastor placed him under “church discipline”. This was not a public flogging. It was discussed in private meetings. My husband professed to be a Christian, member of the church, and accepted the authority of the church leadership. However, the leadership found him to be unrepentant and questioned his profession of faith.
During this time, I was participating in a course created by Nina at another church (I guess you would call it the precursor to The Respect Dare). My focus became my relationship with God, not my relationship with my husband. Prayer became more and more an integral part of my existence. Every action I took and choice I made was wholly for God and God alone. Everything I did was to honor Him, obey Him, love Him. That meant that respecting my husband, loving my husband, taking time to think of him first and his needs were all things I did for my Lord first. I did nothing with any expectation of response from my husband or for a change in him or our marriage. All of my expectation was in God, to keep His word that He loved me, would take care of me, and one day hold me in heaven. I was clinging to God and finding Him the source of strength, joy, peace, and comfort during one of the bleakest, darkest, most uncertain times I had yet faced. I had not had the love of my husband for most of those 9 years, and I can say that is true because today he would tell you the same. However, I had the love of the God of the Universe. The piercing pain of rejection by my husband was only surpassed by the beautiful and tender presence of Jesus Christ.
It was also during this time, the Lord showed me what I needed to know and only what I needed to know at that time –my husband was not only angry at God but he hated God. My husband was an enemy of Christ. Of course, I was an enemy once too. I continued to plead for my husband’s soul, that his heart of stone be removed and a heart of flesh be given.
So what does all this have to with Matthew 18? I find it interesting that the first 14 verses of Matthew 18 deal with the issue of pride, arrogance, and self-righteousness and its antithesis – humble yourself by becoming like a little child. Next is the problem of sin and its antithesis – cutting off and casting away that sin which we do through confession and repentance. Lastly, that we do not despise the lost and those that have strayed from Christ, rather we are to have love and compassion. Great is the rejoicing in heaven over the one lost sheep that is found, and great is the love of our God that He does not will that even one should perish! Isn’t it interesting how Jesus teaches us to humble ourselves, confess and repent of our sin, and have love for the lost and backslidden before He teaches us how to deal with a sinning brother? I do. And that is exactly the process the Lord took me through as I had to confront and reveal the true condition of my marriage.
Meetings with elders and pastors continued until finally it was suggested to me (not commanded) that I consider separation from my husband. The elders expressed their sorrow over my husband’s unrepentant state, and shared that this was the worst they had ever dealt with. They felt there was nothing else they could do or suggest at that point. Perhaps the shock of separation would cause him to re-evaluate his position and finally confess. The elders still had no idea what my husband was hiding. Neither did I.
After prayer and searching the Bible about marriage, divorce and separation, I decided against separation. I don’t begin to tell anyone else whether they should separate or not. I personally did not believe that was God’s will for me. However, I would not tell another woman or man what they should do in their situation.
As I shared what I had experienced in my 9 year marriage in a small group during that course I mentioned, by God’s Providence, there was another woman listening that had experienced the same rejection as I. She felt led by the Lord to share something with me. She asked that I share it with my husband. I did. What happened next was nothing short of the working of the Holy Spirit. My husband confessed his secrets, his hidden life – a sexual addiction that began at the tender age of 11. He went on to confess he had no relationship with Christ. He grew up in the church, did all the right things Christians were supposed to do. He never thought he needed Jesus. He had never had anyone ask him if he needed Jesus, until confronted as he had been for the past several months. He had never heard the testimony of another Christian confessing sexual addiction until that night. I had the privilege of praying with my husband as he asked Christ to come into his heart, and the joy of witnessing the scales fall from his eyes, a soul transformed and set free, a heart filled for the first time with the love of God after being bathed in the depths of His wondrous mercy and grace. The truth sets us free. And love.
I haven’t forgotten Matthew 18. Isn’t it interesting that after dealing with our sinning brother, Jesus teaches us about forgiveness? I love this parable. Oh how great is the grace of God that He has forgiven us all of our sin! Grace by definition is undeserved. How easily we forget the grace shown us, when our brother sins against us! Jesus knew that well. We need the reminder. I need the reminder and I was reminded that night. I was forgiven. How could I not forgive?
I think it is plain to see that Matthew 18 applies to us all and is helpful in every relationship when God leads us and we follow.
God used others during a very serious time in my marriage. I had support and care for the first time, acknowledgment of the problems, and I was relieved to be able to step away from being the only person to confront these issues. I was able to focus much more on prayer. I was able to step back, to look at my own responsibility and repent of my own sin, and accept that I could only be responsible for me – my own heart and my own actions. Meanwhile, God used others to hold my husband accountable, to challenge him for the first time to peer into his own depravity and need for Jesus Christ. For the first time, my husband had godly men involved in his life. He heard the testimonies of other men that had battled sin and come up scarred but redeemed by a loving God.
God knew what I needed. God knew what my husband needed. We needed others. He provided a way in Matthew 18.
Thank you Angie for sharing your story so openly. It is beautiful and brought me to tears several times. My ex-husband walked away from the church, and his professed belief in Christ, only 4 years into our marriage. Unfortunately he has yet to see his need for Christ, though my prayer is that he will someday be restored. We divorced after 12 years of marriage, the last 3 years separated. God has extended grace to me and I now have an amazing, Godly, husband. I have told Nina, and others, that I believe if I had been supported by wise counsel and a church leadership that wanted to get involved things may be different now. What a blessing that you have received!
I feel deeply for the precious sister who said it hurts when it’s not working. Oh I’ve been there and still have those moments…. Moments when you just want to give up but I cling to the truth that Hope in Him will never disappoint. (Romans 5:5). I’m struggling now with whether or not to confront sin but because it has not gone well in the past I’m praying very intensely before I do. When I do pray about this, I always hear Be still and know that I’m God. I’m trusting God to lead me through this. He may alone do the work in my husband or He may be preparing the right time for me to confront him.
Great post, thank you!!
You are right – He can do the work Alone, or He may be preparing the right time (or you!) to confront him. Praying for you, lovely.
Thank you Nina for this GIFT and sharing this boldly. Just got a copy of your book to start 2013!
Many blessings and a happy blessed New Year!
I have found from my own experience when I let the HOLY SPIRIT and the WORD speak thru me that I myself learn to love JESUS more and then my awesome hubby SEES my heart and experiences my DEEP LOVE for him and our marriage and then he starts to change the way he looks at me and then we BOTH look at each other with more respect and it’s a WIN WIN situation….
Its so easy to say those things when it did “work” or things arent that bad! But when its “just not working” (really not working), even if you feel affirmation and peace from God and you’re changing yourself positively and in obedience….It. Still. Hurts. Nothing can turn that off…:(
M – I totally understand. I mean REALLY REALLY understand. And the thing that always gets me through is remembering that the Word teaches us that God sifts all of this trouble through His perfect fingers. He wants our relationship with Him to be so deep, so amazing, like give-up-everything-to-follow-Jesus-like-the-disciples (who all but one were martyrd for Him) kind of deep. I don’t pretend to have that down, but I know when I’m close… and in those moments, yes, it still hurts, but His love is so much greater than the pain, that we can bear anything. I am praying for you, dear heart, that you continue on in this journey He has called you to… never will He leave you, never will He forsake you.
You are never alone.
Love to you,
And Matthew 18 is a tough love situation, but it is Biblical, and if God calls you to it – you need to bravely go there.