23 February 2014

Bible Word Study: Respect

With thanks to J Beckley for her outline of how to conduct a Bible word study. And with apologies for the length of this study in a blog entry. It is not really a finished article, but rather a study. Responses and discussions are most welcome and desired.

Respect. I am concerned about better understanding the idea of how to show respect for others properly, and especially my husband, who is pretty awesome.

Ephesians 5:33

Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.


Respect in this passage is sometimes translated as the verb "reverence". As in "to revere". A couple of translations I saw used "fear" or "dread" (!).

The Greek word there is "phobeomai," from "phobeo". Do you recognize "phobia" in there?  Check this out: the total count of this term used in the King James version of the Bible is 93 times. Translated to "fear" 62 times, "be afraid" 23 times, "be afraid of" 5 times, "reverence" 1 time, and miscellaneous understandings 2 other times. Included in the list is this use by the apostle John: "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment . He that feareth is not made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18)  So we are taught over and over not to fear or be afraid of, and then, seemingly out of nowhere, Paul says that wives are to fear their husbands. There are, after all, two other terms which translate to "reverence" which could have been used. 

Consider the context. 

Okay, go back and read the entire marriage relationship discussion in Ephesians 5 which Paul used as an example of how we are all to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Read what others say.

Consider what Matthew Henry says in his commentary: "Reverence consists of love and esteem, which produce a care to please, and of fear, which awakens a caution lest just offence be given. That the wife thus reverence her husband is the will of God and the law of the relation." 

The early century preacher Chrysostom writes quite a lot on the subject. Consider this portion of his writing on Ephesians (I had to read it through a couple of times):
 "And yet how can there ever be love, one may say, where there is fear? It will exist there, I say, preëminently. For she that fears and reverences, loves also; and she that loves, fears and reverences him as being the head, and loves him as being a member, since the head itself is a member of the body at large. Hence he places the one in subjection, and the other in authority, that there may be peace; for where there is equal authority there can never be peace; neither where a house is a democracy, nor where all are rulers; but the ruling power must of necessity be one. And this is universally the case with matters referring to the body, inasmuch as when men are spiritual, there will be peace. There were “five thousand souls,” and not one of them said, “that aught of the things which he possessed was his own” (Acts iv. 32.), but they were subject one to another; an indication this of wisdom, and of the fear of God. The principle of love, however, he explains; that of fear he does not. And mark, how on that of love he enlarges, stating the arguments relating to Christ and those relating to one’s own flesh, the words, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother.” (Ver. 31.) Whereas upon those drawn from fear he forbears to enlarge. And why so? Because he would rather that this principle prevail, this, namely, of love; for where this exists, everything else follows of course, but where the other exists, not necessarily. For the man who loves his wife, even though she be not a very obedient one, still will bear with everything. So difficult and impracticable is unanimity, where persons are not bound together by that love which is founded in supreme authority; at all events, fear will not necessarily effect this. Accordingly, he dwells the more upon this, which is the strong tie. And the wife though seeming to be the loser in that she was charged to fear, is the gainer, because the principal duty, love, is charged upon the husband. “But what,” one may say, “if a wife reverence me not?” Never mind, thou art to love, fulfill thine own duty. For though that which is due from others may not follow, we ought of course to do our duty. This is an example of what I mean. He says, “submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ.” And what then if another submit not himself? Still obey thou the law of God. Just so, I say, is it also here. Let the wife at least, though she be not loved, still reverence notwithstanding, that nothing may lie at her door; and let the husband, though his wife reverence him not, still show her love notwithstanding, that he himself be not wanting in any point. For each has received his own."
A simpler description of this fear is found in the EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary. "The *Greek word ‘respect’ used here is ‘fear’. You might fear someone who frightens you. But it is not that kind of fear. It is about your relationship with someone that you love. You want to please that person. You might do something that will not please him or her. That is what you fear. That is what our relationship with God is like. It is the kind of fear and love that each of us should have towards God. The Bible says that this kind of fear of the *Lord is ‘the beginning of wisdom’. When you fear the *Lord, you start to be wise."

Scores of discussions and blogs and sermons and articles have been written about the need that men have for respect, and the idea that women need to understand that. Radio's Dr. Laura sums it up in her book "The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands", as reviewed at Bible.org:
" "A good number of men want respect more than love." God knew this when He made us. His commands to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:33 reflects each one's deepest needs: "Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." Dr. Emerson Eggerichs of LoveandRespect.com points out that this verse commands a husband to love his wife. Why? She needs love like she needs air to breathe. This same verse commands a wife to respect her husband. Why? He needs respect like he needs air to breathe."
illustration from Dr. Eggerichs' book "Love and Respect"

And a modern man's understanding of this scripture is well presented in the (sort of long but important) blog article: "Your husband doesn't have to earn your respect," by Matt Walsh.  In one place he explains: "Often, people will say that a husband should only be respected if he “earns” it. This attitude is precisely the problem. A wife ought to respect her husband because he is her husband, just as he ought to love and honor her because she is his wife. Your husband might “deserve” it when you mock him, berate him, belittle him, and nag him, but you don’t marry someone in order to give them what they deserve. In marriage, you give them what you’ve promised them, even when they aren’t holding up their end of the bargain."

My analysis.

Here's something that I wrote to a friend in a response to her issue with the above article. For whatever it might be worth:
I truly am going to write this with love and respect for you in my heart, and for all those who are living in a hurting relationship. Please don't think I am trying to belittle the porn problem or do some kind of false sympathy thing. Yes, it hurts, it's wrong, it's sinful, and should never be allowed to happen to a relationship. This isn't going to be sympathy or empathy here, but maybe a 'what to do next' response.   
The problem I have with your issue is that Jesus Christ Himself is an "enabler," by your definition. He loves and respects us in spite of our refusal to repent. He commands us to love and respect our leaders and even our enemies, regardless of their earning it. How could he do that if the respect that he requires is supposed to be earned? And if I turn my other cheek, am I not enabling the one who slapped me to take advantage of me again? I know and admit and agree - it's hard to expect someone to show respect toward a fellow human being simply because he is a human being when said human is behaving like a complete and unrepentant jerk. But we should. Trust can be eroded; liking can be eroded; but love cannot be eroded because Love - God - never fails. I don't have to like the porn-guy, I don't even have to stay married to the cheating guy, or the God hating guy. But I have to love him and respect him, because God is in me. I don't have to buy him more porn (or beer or tobacco or drugs); I don't have to shrug and turn a blind eye to it; I don't have to feel as if it doesn't tear my heart out when he turns to another woman, or anything other than the promise he gave me. But I do have to respect him as a human because that's what God did for me and for all of us. It's hard and I keep working on this false attitude that respect means high regard means he earned it. I don't have to hold a rotten person in high regard as an admirable citizen; I don't think that's even possible for a person who lives in Truth. But a person can respect another person. Jesus died for him, even if he is a jerk. Just like he died for disrespectful me.

The thing about showing respect is that we're all supposed to show respect to others all the time anyway. It's just very important that we don't forget to show respect and unconditional love to the person that we married, because we're representing Christ and the church, His body.

Love this quote.


Two last things I'm considering on the subject during this study.

1 - I just watched the movie "Amazing Love: The Story of Hosea" with my teenaged children. The story of Hosea is just ... amazing, when thinking about unconditional love and respect for those who don't deserve it. (It co-stars Sean Astin of "Lord of the Rings" and "Rudy" fame, and Erin Bethea from "Fireproof", as well as a brief appearance from Sean's mom, Patty. Filmed partly in Nazareth Village, Israel, I and my four young men and women liked it, and I really appreciate the fact that this little known story is illustrated and linked to the story of us so clearly.)

2 - Paul's letter to the Philippians. Especially chapter 2, which includes:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life.

1 Peter 3:8-9

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, 
a tender heart, and a humble mind.
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, 
but on the contrary, 
for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.