What are some practical ways a wife can show respect to her husband?
When Paul says, “The wife see that she reverence her husband,” he uses the word phobeo which is a common word occurring 93 times in the New Testament. Peter likewise speaks of an unsaved husband who witnesses, “chaste behavior coupled with fear” (1Peter 3:2 RV) in his wife. While the word they both use can mean, “be afraid of one” (Thayer), the correct idea here is “to treat with deference or reverential obedience” (Thayer), or, “to be in awe of” (Strong). So, while it can be especially difficult for a woman with an unsaved husband, how can a wife practically show proper, Biblical respect for her husband? She can do so in the way the Church shows respect for Christ.
Through Appreciation: Paul calls women to submit to their own husbands: “For the husband is the head of the wife.” This is a divinely given role with great accompanying responsibilities, making him accountable to God for the marriage and the home. A wife who is a true “helper” will understand and be in awe of the importance of his roles and will do everything possible to help him complete his responsibilities before God. The Church appreciates the headship of Christ and will eternally express that to Him. Therefore, understanding her husband’s roles and expressing appreciation for Him are significant ways to show respect for him.
Through Prayer: The Church takes a keen interest in the interests, concerns, and activities of the Lord and longs for His success. Marriage is not a place for competitive spirits. Instead, a wife should pray for her husband and seek for him to be all he can be for the Lord and help him achieve it. Proverbs warns: “A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike” (Prov 27:15). Instead of seeking to change her husband, criticize him, or compete with him, she should spend time communicating with God, giving thanks for his strengths and praying about his weaknesses.
Through a God-centered Life: The “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” so Peter tells wives to focus on what is “in the sight of God” (1Peter 3:4), and he speaks of women who were “holy” and who “trusted in God.” Paul writes about her responsibilities “in the Lord.” The first key, then, to a proper relationship with a husband is a proper relationship with the Lord. A woman, even if her husband is not saved, will respect him most by making it a priority to please the Lord and see things from His perspective through the revealed Word of God.
Through Character: Wives should seek to be appealing to their husbands. Men are visually oriented so every man loves a wife who cares for her appearance. Therefore, Peter does not give permission for the neglect of appearance. On the other hand, what really shows respect to a husband is a desire to be the best person or the most Christlike woman she can be. The clear focus and priority is on “the hidden man of the heart” and a “meek and quiet spirit” (1Peter 3:4). A woman can respect her husband and be attractive to him by her personality and her actions and reactions in daily situations.
Through Subjection: Peter presents role models of “holy women who trusted in God (who) adorned themselves being in subjection unto their own husbands.” Subjection means to “subordinate” (Strong) and is a military term meaning to “rank under” (Vine). Thayer makes it practical, giving as one definition, “To yield to one’s admonition or advice.” This does not mean that a wife does not offer an opinion or give counsel. It means that she values order and the headship of her husband (given by God) and voluntarily puts herself in a role of allowng him the final word for which he is responsible to God. This is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of self-control and strength, as it may not be easy. Nagging, threatening, and manipulating are never seen as activities in the Church and certainly do not please the Lord.
Through Communication: Peter gives the example of Sarah who called Abraham, “lord.” Speech reflects thought and when Sarah spoke in Genesis 18:22, it says she spoke within herself. Conscious of Abraham’s weakness and failings, she still viewed him as lord or the head in their relationship. A wife has great potential to show respect in the way she speaks to her husband and about him, in private and especially in public.
Through Loyalty: Two times, Peter tells wives to be in “subjection to your own husbands” (vv1, 5). Trust is an essential ingredient to a good relationship. The confidence that the Lord can have in His Church is of great importance to Him. A wife can respect her husband by never giving cause for him to doubt her faithfulness or trustworthiness.
Through Kindness: Women today can imitate Sarah: “whose daughters ye are” when they “do well” (v6). This habit of “doing good” (Darby) or doing the right thing means to do what is best in spite of the circumstances, the reaction of the husband, or the outcome. The Church will please the Lord through what she does to Christ and for Christ. Every husband loves a wife who is kind to him and others; this is the Christlike virtue that should be manifest in the Church.