by Mary Somerville
Are we ministry wives deficient in respecting our husbands? Perhaps there are husbands who don't live up to their wife's expectations of what they wanted in the relationship emotionally, spiritually, financially. The result is an erosion of respect.
Let's return to the life of Jesus Christ-the perfect example of respect, the fourth model for the ministry marriage. Out of the oneness that He enjoyed with His Father He chose to honor and esteem Him through everything He did. As we read through the Gospels this stands out clearly. He honored His Father by keeping His commands. He said, "I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in His love" (John 15:10). He taught His disciples to pray for His Father's name to be hallowed and that His Kingdom would come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:9-13). He said, "I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do" (John 17:4). Jesus respected and honored His Father to the utmost. As we emulate Christ in His relationship of oneness with His Father, we will respect our husbands.
The Apostle Paul commands us to do that: "Let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband-that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly" (Eph. 5:33, Amplified). Wow! What man wouldn't thrive under that kind of respect and admiration!
The Apostle Peter tells us that we should be adorned with the inner beauty of a "gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God" (1 Pet. 3:4). He cites Sarah as an example: she obeyed her husband, "calling him lord" and the apostle tells us wives to not be afraid of that kind of respect.
Ways We Can Show Respect
Let's get down to some specific ways that we can respect and admire our men. We can be lavish in our praise and yet genuine. I praise Bob for the way I see him using his gifts. I tell him he is the greatest expositor of the Word in the world. I doubt that he is convinced, but I think it makes him happy that I think so. I let him know that I am thrilled to have the same pastor my entire life, even though I don't have a choice in the matter.
After one exhausting day in the ministry, Bob threw himself on the bed and said, "After eight years in the ministry just what have I accomplished?" My response was, "You've made one woman the happiest woman in the world." He has remembered that and how much it meant to him. That was all he needed.
You have the privilege of being your husband's greatest admirer. It's so easy to take one's spouse for granted. We need to remember to thank him for all the same things that we would thank someone else for, and more. I may work just as hard as he does, but that does not negate the need to appreciate what he does. Need I remind you that most women would give anything to have a husband who is a spiritual leader and a respected man of God? It is a real privilege to be by the side of a man committed to serving God and others.
Just think of it! You can give your husband your love, support, and encouragement in his day-to-day responsibilities as no one else can. His role is demanding, sometimes like a pressure-cooker, and you have the privilege of loving and ministering to the minister.
Focusing on your husband's positive qualities will help you to respect him. When was the last time you praised your husband for something that you admire in him? We must always keep in mind that our job is not to change our husbands or help them solve all the problems in the church-just love and respect them. I am not the voice of my husband's conscience. It is always easier to see my husband's faults rather than my own. Yet it is prideful to think that I know how he should be fulfilling his role. He needs the freedom to grow as a person and to experience failure without hurtful criticism. Nagging, suggesting, advising, or belittling has no place in the life of a respectful wife.
What If Hubby Is a Hypocrite?
What if you see hypocrisy in your husband and his public image doesn't match his private reality? What are you to do? Your husband is also your brother in the Lord. We are told in Scripture what to do when there is habitual sin: "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted" (Gal. 6:1). It is your responsibility to restore him if you see his sin and you are "spiritual." Being spiritual means walking in the Spirit; not necessarily that you have to be a spiritual giant.
First, take the log out of your own eye (Matt. 7:1-5). If I have had any part in the sin or have responded to it in the wrong way, I need to ask for forgiveness and then follow the basic process for restoration, as outlined in Matthew 18:15-20. You may need to involve other church leaders to help restore your husband. It's not right to cover up for him. If sin isn't dealt with, God won't be able to bless him. I must respect him enough to restore him.
The Case of Molly Wesley
We can learn from other ministry couples of the past, even from negative examples. What could Molly Wesley have done differently to make her marriage a success instead of the miserable failure that it was? She married John, who was 47 years of age and who continued his life as an itinerant preacher after they were married. He traveled the length and breadth of England, Scotland, and Ireland and his preaching became the basis of the Wesleyan Revival that changed the hearts of the English people and probably saved those countries from a blood bath similar to that across the Channel, known as the French Revolution. When he died at the age of 88, Methodism had 153,000 adherents and had spread to America and Holland.
John's evangelistic missions had kept him away from home three-quarters of the time, which failed to leave enough time for them as a couple. When her family commitments would allow (she had four children when they married) she would accompany him on his travels. They were separated just four years after they were married, and then were reunited for several periods of time during their 20-year marriage.
The separations and Molly's attitude gradually widened the gap until their marriage reached the point of no return. In his last letter to her he bitterly wrote that if she were to live a thousand years, she could not undo the mischief she had done. Could Molly have done things differently to help make the marriage a success? Perhaps, but he also could have done things differently, if he had been more committed to the marriage.
"An excellent wife is the crown of her husband but she who shames him is as rottenness in his bones" (Prov. 12:4). With Christ-like love and respect our marriages will be crowned with glory!
Marriage is an amazing gift from God. With it He shows the world the unity that He has in the Godhead and that He desires with His children. As ministry couples we want to be brilliant reflections of that kind of oneness.
So, to stand strong in the trenches with people falling all around us, let's be devoted to unity. Our marriages will be strengthened as we trust God to give us a strong, sacrificial, growing love for our husbands, a voluntary submission, and unconditional respect for them till death do us part.
Excerpted from Mary's book, One with a Shepherd: the Tears and Triumphs of a Ministry Marriage
Mary Somerville, a graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, has more than 35 years of experience
as a pastor's wife. She has been her husband Bob's chief encourager as he has pastored
two Evangelical Free Churches-one in New Jersey and
one in California, where they now reside.