August 9, 2012

The Unconditional

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One of the questions I hear the most is some variation of, “Are you telling me I have to unconditionally respect my husband’s bad behavior and become a door mat?   Everyone knows respect must be earned!

Interestingly, in our culture we don’t have a problem understanding unconditional love… in fact, we see unconditional love as the right of every human being. Imagine expecting our children to “earn” our love!  We would disapprove of such parenting.  Most of us have no problem separating the person from their behavior when it comes to love.  Love the person, hate the sin.  Right?

But mention unconditional respect and some women go through the roof!  Immediately, visions of weak, dependent women flood their minds – along with the inevitable label – DOOR MAT.  Or, they must enter the room with a cheerleading outfit on, waving their pom poms in worshipful adoration of their husbands who are watching Sports Center.

So is this what Christ had in mind for married women?  Not at all!  Let’s take a look at what the Word of God has to say about unconditional respect.

When the Bible reveals that a wife is to respect her husband, it is shown in the same way a husband is to show love to his wife (Eph. 5:33).  Both are unconditional.  However, unconditional does not mean you remove all the healthy conditions that make a marriage succeed.  Unconditional does not mean you go along with bad behavior, giving another person license to do whatever he or she feels.  Unconditional does not mean superficial praise.  Unconditional means that you give the person the gift of love and respect as you confront the issues.  In other words, you recognize that a hostile and contemptuous attitude is ineffective in helping resolve the issues. 

We expect a husband to unconditionally love his wife not by endorsing sin but by lovingly confronting those things he believes are wrong.  The gift he gives her is the gift of a loving tone, facial expression, words and actions while confronting unacceptable behavior.  When God instructed Hosea as a husband, "Go again, love a woman...  an adulteress” (Hosea 3:1), God did not expect Hosea to show love to Gomer his wife, by going along with her adultery. 

Similarly, when Peter instructs a wife to win her disobedient husband with her respectful behavior (1 Peter 3:1,2), God did not expect the wife to show respect by going along with her husband's disobedience. Unconditional love and respect does not sanction bad behavior.  If your spouse lies, steals, cheats or abuses, you must take a stand and lovingly and respectfully confront this.  In the book of Acts, chapter 5, Peter did not affirm Sapphira, the wife of Ananias, for going along with her husband's lie.  She lost her life because she did not respectfully take a stand against her husband's evil.

A husband may not deserve respect because he has not earned respect, but a wife’s disrespect for him is ineffective long-term—and not biblical. No husband responds to disrespectful attitudes any more than a wife responds to unloving and disrespectful attitudes.  Yes, if a wife is lovable, it makes it easy for her husband to love her, but the command of God to love one’s wife has nothing to do with her being lovable.  And if a husband is respectable it makes it easy for a wife to respect him, but the command of God to respect one’s husband has nothing to do with him being respectable.  Put it this way, this is about how we come across when addressing issues.  This is not about our spouse's worthiness.

Unconditional means NO CONDITION can arise that stops you from dealing with the situation in a loving or respectful manner.  We might say your love or respect is UN-situational or UN-circumstantial.  No situation, circumstance or condition in your marriage can CAUSE you to react in hostility or contempt.  No matter the conditions, God calls you to show love and respect to your spouse.  No matter the conditions, you have the freedom to choose a loving and respectful demeanor.   No matter the conditions, your spouse cannot stop you from loving and respecting.



Tina Bein said...

I just wanna say thank you for writting the book "Love & Respect". It truly saved my marriage in many ways! We have.always been a Christian family. But I never knew how important 100% respect was to my husband. And this study opened both our eyes. So thank you!

Paola Riddle said...

We are Christians but our marriage was never Christ centered and the enemy came,kill, still and destroy my marriage (John 10:10) and none of us realized, now my husband walk out of our marriage, turn his back to the Lord and step all over our vows by starting an adulterous relationship with other woman but i chooce to stand with Jesus for my marriage and wait in God's promises, please pray for our marriage and for my husband Steve salvation, thanks.

EMSchell2009 said...

I was given a copy of Love and Respect by ournpastor in our premarital conselling. We are one and a half months from our wedding and it has started many conversations between my future husband and myself. I want to thank you today though because I think that what I learned from it may have honestly helped my brother. Tahnk you and GOD for this book.

Alisa Valdes said...

I so love this! I am coming up against an incredible backlash for my forthcoming memoir, based upon nothing but the title! Women are attacking me like crazy. The book is called LEARNING TO SUBMIT: How Feminism Stole My Womanhood, and the Traditional Cowboy Who Helped Me Find It. One of my blog readers suggested I check out your material, as she says we are of like minds, and I am very impressed and encouraged by this blog. I would be honored if you guys might take a look at my memoir. I'd love to send you an advance reader galley. Anyway, if you have some spare time please check my blog. ... I'm a former atheist and radical feminist who has found peace, love, romance, wisdom and grace in traditional teachings and a return to the sorts of messages you both share here. Thank you! xoxo Alisa

Hungry for Examples said...

Dear Emerson,
There's a lot of theory and it all sounds good. I seek desperately to practice unconditional love by lovingly confronting those things I believe are wrong.

Here I will emphasize "I". No matter how I approach it ..either with a story, indirectly..confrontation is already unacceptable to my wife and is seen as hostile and judgemental. How can you sugar coat an unacceptable behaviour? This is especially so during a fight. Some say to pull away and some say to walk away to cool down and all sorts of things...I've tried them all.

What I NEED is some down to earth VERY PRACTICAL EXAMPLES not a big brush stroke to say 'confront lovingly' HOW is my question? and examples with many details will help me see.

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