I think people often confuse respect and trust. Why do I say that? Because I hear people, women in particular, saying their mates must earn their respect before they will show respect.
I totally understand the challenge to treat with respect the mate who acts in a way that is not respectable. It certainly feels and even is unfair.
When it comes to trust, we definitely shouldn’t trust someone who is not trustworthy. It is foolhardy to do so. Even though, trust seems similar to respect, it is not the same, especially for the believer.
[bctt tweet=”The action of trust must be earned, while the action of respect must be given to your spouse no matter what. #unfair #Christlike” username=”BethSteffaniak”]
If you’re a Christ-follower, you are called to treat, in particular, your mate with respect, no matter how hard or unfair it might seem.
Now I’m not saying you have to feel respect for your mate’s unrespectable actions. However, you should never stoop to treat him or her with disrespect. So the difference is the action of respect versus the feelings of respect for your spouse.
Today, I’m continuing my series on the 10 Unfair Realities in Marriage by addressing number 2 on this list—showing respect when respect isn’t earned.
If we look at the way Jesus responded to authority figures that he didn’t always agree with or trust, it gives us insight into this confusing issue.
1. Jesus treated authority figures with respect.
He did this even when these authority figures did not always act in morally upright ways.
Mt. 17:24-27 gives us one such example of when the religious leaders in Jesus’ day tried to test Him. They were hoping to trick Him into insulting either the Roman government or the Jewish leaders, since the two were at odds over this tax.
In the Matthew passage the Jewish leaders asked Jesus’ disciple Peter if Jesus paid the temple tax. First of all, Jesus, as a Rabbi, would have been exempt from this tax, but he still instructed Peter to go and pay it.
Jesus wanted to go above and beyond what others were expecting or deserved. He was able to treat both the governmental leaders and the religious leaders with respect in this situation.
Every Christ-follower needs to do the same in his or her marriage and beyond—regardless of how others act.
2. Jesus avoided treating both hateful “accusers” and an “adulteress” disrespectfully.
This situation is explained in more depth in Jn. 8:3-11. But to summarize: Jesus was being wrongly tested again by the religious leaders who wanted to publicly humiliate, accuse and stone a woman caught in adultery. Instead of joining in on this attack, Jesus turned and did something rather odd and unclear. He wrote something in the dirt that shut these men’s mouths and caused them to stop dead in their tracks.
Most of all, He did this without disrespecting them.
But then Jesus also avoided disrespecting this woman who was not necessarily worthy of respect.
Now, He didn’t approve of her behavior. Instead, He chose not to condemn her, even though He was the only sinless one there who could have cast the first stone. He simply and respectfully told her to go and sin no more—never letting her sinful actions interfere with His next right choice.
[bctt tweet=”We must treat our spouses with respect—never letting their wrong actions lead to wrong actions by us. #Christlike” username=”BethSteffaniak”]
3. Jesus treated Peter with respect even after Peter had betrayed Him.
In Jn. 21:15-25, a newly resurrected Jesus treated Peter with respect, even though Peter had denied knowing Him (before Christ’s crucifixion). Jesus had every right to condemn Peter, but instead He gave him a fresh start. He urged Peter to follow Him wherever He would lead Peter in the days to come.
We must do the same—continue to treat our mate’s with respect—when they disappoint, hurt and even betray us. It is not fair. But it is right, and more importantly, the Christ-like response.
It’s never easy to do for our mates what is unfair to us. I’m here to say that I have not perfected this, nor can I claim to even be as consistent as I need to be. Though, I’m trying.
But I do know what has motivated me to treat my mate with respect, even when he doesn’t earn my respect. So I hope you’ll allow me to share …
4 Important Motivators for Respecting When it’s Unfair
1. Remember Jesus’ many examples of respect in your messy marriage moments.
I’ve only listed three above, when there are so many others! In fact, the one I just mentioned between Jesus and Peter was followed up by a moment of respectful boundary setting in Jn. 21:20-23. Check it out!
So if you’re struggling to respect your mate, perhaps find and study more of Jesus’ examples of respect in the Bible. I’m certain this will encourage you to stay the course just like Jesus did.
2. Remember Apostle Paul’s encouragement to respect/submit, as well as love.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do 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. Eph. 5:22-25
Based on this, neither the husband nor the wife is exempt from showing respectful and sacrificial actions in marriage and life. Both parties are given commands that might feel unfair from time to time. However, these all reflect the attitude of Christ, who yielded to the unfair task of sacrificing His needs—His life—for ours.
3. Respect out of deference and respect for the Lord.
I try to always keep this in mind: When I treat my husband with respect, even and especially when he does not deserve it, I am actually showing respect and honor to the Lord. 🙂
If you look back up at Eph. 5:23, you’ll notice Paul told believing wives to submit to their husbands “as you do to the Lord.” This indicates that our motives for submitting and respecting should be out of our respect for the Lord. Another example of this is …
Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people … Eph. 6:7
Our focus must remain on Christ whenever we treat others with respect.
4. Remember God rewards your choice to respect your mate, especially when it’s unfair.
Eph. 6:7 flows into this last (though not only) motivator for me (in v. 8) when it says,
… because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. Eph. 6:8
These acts of faithfulness to God—shown through respect to our mates—never escape our good and respectful Father’s notice. He delights in and rewards our surrender and godly attitudes of respect, especially when respect is hardest to give.
Here’s a printable that you can use to begin to pray for this area of need in your heart and marriage. Click on the image and it will pop up in Dropbox. Then click on the … in the upper right corner to download the PDF of the image to your computer! I hope it blesses you and your marriage!
Disclaimer: If you are in an abusive marriage, please seek the help of a professional skilled in setting boundaries with abusive relationships. The best way to show respect and care for an abusive mate is to find these outside, professional sources of insight and support to protect yourself and your children from harm. In doing, so you will ultimately protect your mate from him or herself until you all get the help you need. The Domestic Abuse Hotline phone number is 1-800-799-7223 or 1-800-787-3224, or you can visit www.thehotline.org for more information.
I hope you’ll join me next week when I’ll be talking about the unfair task of “loving your mate when your mate doesn’t love you back.”
What is another motivator you’ve discovered that has helped you to treat your mate with respect?
How can I pray for you in this challenge? Let me know in the comments or by emailing* me!
Here are some lovely linkups I join – Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Mondays, Dream Together Linkup, Tea and Word Tuesday, Jennifer Dukes Lee, Glimpses Linkup, Break Through Homeschooling Linkup, Coffee for Your Heart, Sitting Among Friends, Grace and Truth, Grace Moments Linkup, Tune in Thursday, Moments of Hope, Faith and Friends, Fresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday
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