Right off the top let me say I totally believe it’s important to respect men and I would certainly hope they love their wives. I just happen to believe the balanced notion that it’s supposed to go both ways. I wish this lopsided theology was only within the framework of marriage, but unfortunately it has seeped out to mean even more than that – and that is, the notion that men are wired so as to be insecure in so many things that if we just make a point to respect and admire them to the max, well, basically it will all but make them putty in our hands. If that’s not manipulative, I don’t know what is, but getting back to my original thought…
There is a danger in taking one short scripture such as Ephesians 5:33 and building a theology on it. I remember when the extreme version of the “prosperity” doctrine came out, the scripture most of these teachers readily spouted out as their foundation was: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” The reality is, this scripture in 3 John 1:2 is a greeting from John to Gaius, and really has nothing to do with whether somebody in 2007 should be riding around in an Escalade or buying their dream house. But that’s what happens when you build a theology on one scripture instead of looking at the whole counsel of God’s word.
What does the Word of God tell us? It tells us over and over again to love everyone. It tells us to humble ourselves – all of us. It tells us to be servants. The last time I checked, nobody was exempt. Not only am I to be a servant to my husband, and he to me, but we are to be servants to the world. We are not to be servants more to men than we are women. Giving honor and respect to men is not wrong, however when we begin to believe or act as though they are worthy of more respect than women, or that a husband deserves more respect than a wife, we have developed a lopsided theology at best.
I’m sure some of the teachers who started the various emphasis on these passages of scripture never intended people to take it to some of the extreme to which it’s been taken. That is something no teacher can really control. But it’s alarming to see how many people will grab on to a small shred of the Word and go to such an extreme that it makes for a very unhealthy life and relationship.
Does God want me to respect my husband? You bet. Does God also want my husband to respect me? You bet. Don’t agree? Think about this. God said, “husbands, love your wives.” I’m so glad mine loves me. But do you think that because God didn’t tell me to love him means God is giving me license to skip that part or to not love him? Of course not. Based on the whole context of the Bible, it would be a given that I would be required by God to love my husband, and everybody else for that matter. I would call this the “duh” factor. Are some people actually so clueless and out to lunch (or desperate to come up with something new to sell books) that they believe God is only asking us to respect our husbands, but not love them? No. Does the fact that God tells my husband to love me mean that he expects him to give me no respect? Of course not. God’s word, in fact tells us to engage in the practice of mutual submission. As far as good old fashioned R-E-S-P-E-C-T, God expects us to give it to everybody. This is the essence of the golden rule. When we look at scripture we mustn’t just look at a sentence, but the full context and also the overall tone of God’s Word. God would not give instructions to everyone to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and then expect a wife to respect her husband, but not necessarily have to give others respect or vice versa. Look at the plethora of “one another’s” in scripture… love one another, forgive one another, bear with one another, etc. The overall mandate in scripture for how we treat one another is very two sided…love and respect is definitely not a one way street. God’s street, in fact seems to be named, “one another.”
I do know if I were a man, I would be offended of the notion that some people teach that men are so fragile, and insecure that they can’t handle truth telling by their partners, that if they are not met with a quiet surrender and reverent respect in all situations that they might feel such intense pressure, they might not succeed in life or relationships, or God forbid have a breakdown. I submit to you, if that is the case with a man, he needs counseling, not for a woman to enable his insecurity. Are there perhaps, many insecure men in the world today? Perhaps. There are a lot of insecure women too. The truth is, their security needs to be found in Jesus, not in the way someone else speaks to them, doesn’t speak to them, respects them or doesn’t respect them.
With that said, do I believe that when men love women it makes it easier for us to respect them? Absolutely. And do I believe that when we respect them it makes it easier for us to love them? Absolutely. But this does not mean we are not to grant both to each other.
Taking this issue beyond the marriage setting, we have heard recently about a woman who, after being exposed to this lopsided theology decided to “try this” on every man (exclusively) in her office building. This was in an effort to better get along with them and have a better working relationship by understanding how much they “needed it” because of “the way they’re wired.” My question is, isn’t that sort of manipulative, unless she was doing this with all of her co-workers across the board? The fact that God would be asking her to extend this to the men in her company, excluding the women sounds particularly un-Christ like to me. Some would say, “maybe a woman’s goal in doing this is not to manipulate but to rather honor men.” My point to this would be: why would she be honoring men over women, or versus women? There is no scriptural mandate to do so. Unless one is trying some pop psychology experiment, it would seem rather pointless.
When I am in a group setting of colleagues of both sexes and we are working on a project, I do not defer to a man in his opinion or way of doing things simply because he is a man in the group. I do not give his opinion more respect than a woman’s, nor answer him in a fashion that gives him deference versus the woman. As long as we are lateral colleagues, I would extend to him the same level of respect that any other man or woman in the group would have and would value his opinion as such but no more, no less. Respect is not to be increased, nor decreased because one is a man or a woman. God expects us to treat all people with courtesy, humility and love no matter what their gender. Even if a person is not in authority, we should still treat them with respect. While we should treat our boss with respect, God is definitely not saying, “treat your boss with respect, but don’t worry about showing care in how you treat your co-workers.” When you break it down, it’s really so simple, you wonder how so many people are missing it.
The danger when a Christian woman speaks out on this is that people get the impression that she is speaking from the standpoint of believing it is okay to disrespect a man. Speaking for myself or Pastor Tara I can say this is definitely not true. We absolutely do believe men deserve respect. We just believe that women do as well…for respect is also an issue of…equal time.
Pastor Deanna Shrodes, Co-Founder of Equal Time