Book Review Series, Christian Marriage, Complementarianism, Doctrine as Idol, Domestic Violence, Gender Roles, Marriage, Martha Peace, Spiritual Abuse

Book Review Series – “The Excellent Wife” by Martha Peace – Chapter Ten – R.E.S.P.E.C.T., Find Out What it Means to MP

This is a book review series of The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews if you’d like to catch up.

Chapter OneChapter TwoChapter ThreeChapter FourChapter FiveChapter SixChapter SevenChapter EightChapter Nine

Chapter Ten is titled, “Respect: The Wife’s Reverence.” I’ll be honest, at first I found it difficult to tackle a chapter about a wife respecting her husband. My value system holds deeply that people are worthy of value, respect, and dignity. Yes, even people I disagree with and call out bad teachings and theology should be treated with respect.

That being said, I seem to get a slight twitch in my eye when I hear that a wife’s duty is to respect her husband. Maybe it’s because I immediately think of Emerson Eggerichs’ book, “Love and Respect” where the premise is that wives need love and husbands need respect. I don’t think love and respect is bound by gender or role. Or, perhaps it’s because these godly-wife books latch on to one cherry-picked verse, Ephesians 5:33 (However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.), of which Peace states,

Respecting your husband is not an option for you if you are going to be in God’s will.

All of this is to say that I agree with the premise of the chapter that husbands should be respected because people should be treated with respect. However (yes, there’s a however…), I also believe that wives should be equally respected. Respect goes both ways. It’s hard to tell if Peace’s value system allows mutual respect because she doesn’t teach husbands.

Because this book is geared toward wives, reading some of the examples provided makes it sound like respect is a one-way street. This really stands out in one of her highlighted principles, “the wife is to respect his position.”

Husbands have been given authority over their families by God. The wife is to respond respectfully to her husband because of his God-given position. The Scriptures make it clear that ‘Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 11:3). God has appointed positions of authority in the home, church, and state that always require respect from the one under authority (1 Peter 2:17; Hebrews 13:17; Ephesians 5:23). This respect is not only an outward show, but also an inward heart’s attitude of obedience to God.

Peace likens the wife’s position to her husband as a soldier to his superior officer, which leads to the biggest problem I have with this chapter: the husband being viewed as the position of authority and the wife respecting her husband because of that position. Are you surprised? This positional authority status in a relationship is an open ticket to abuse. Respectfully, I don’t care if comps say that their theology guarantees no abuse will happen in a relationship. (It’s been said!) If there’s a hierarchy structure, one maintains the position of power. This power differential makes it easier for abuse to enter into the relationship.

I also wonder if a wife can truly have an “inward heart attitude of obedience” if respect is required of her due to her husband’s position. I could see how this forced respect due to position could lead to resentment and a totally different outcome. How likely are you to respect someone if it is required of you?

Peace ends the chapter with the following:

Respecting authority is practically a lost art, but as a Christian wife, with God’s enabling grace, you can cultivate a respectful attitude. Circumstances come and go, husbands succeed and fail, some merit respect and others do not, but whatever your situation, you can by an act of your will show biblical respect to your husband and show love to God in the process. It is important to God. Treating your husband with respect is not something that your husband must first earn, it is something that you choose to show him. It is an underlying heart’s attitude that is to be prevalent regardless of your circumstances and in spite of your feelings. How hard are you willing to work at it?

Add the dynamic of abuse in a relationship and think of how a victim would hear that if she doesn’t respect her husband and his position she is not in God’s will. Imagine the added blame and shame she must feel that she is not a good enough wife in God’s point of view.

Do you feel a little eye twitch yet?

27 thoughts on “Book Review Series – “The Excellent Wife” by Martha Peace – Chapter Ten – R.E.S.P.E.C.T., Find Out What it Means to MP”

  1. Peace likens the wife’s position to her husband as a soldier to his superior officer

    Some man tried to, badly, use this analogy in a comment section once and when I corrected him about things like military strategy, retreats, etc, he was (apparently) so abusive that blog owner removed his comment. So that’s fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. some merit respect and others do not

    I will literally never understand how one is expected to ‘respect’ a husband who does not merit it. They must have a massively different definition of respect that I do.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So if men need respect and women need love and each is a complement to the other, then why would a wife who is abused by her husband (failing to love her) be expected to respect him?

    Respect cannot be demanded or extracted; it must be earned. So if a husband loves his wife in genuine, practical ways, her respect for him will be a natural outcome. On the other hand, we can treat anyone with respect – even jerks – without actually respecting them. There is a huge difference between the two.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Okay, let’s use the commanding officer analogy.

    Would anyone like to serve under an officer constantly harping over the respect his subordinates owed him? Who acted like a control freak and loved to lord it over others in a way reminiscent of The Caine Mutiny?

    Funny how some churches think this petty tyranny not only glorifies Christ but somehow reflects Jesus behavior. He was meek and lowly of heart. He gladly acted like a slave when He washed His underlings’ feet.

    My mom is okay with Dad being our leader because he’s not an egotistical jerk constantly harping on “muh headship.” He’s a wise and kindly man.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Their knowledge of the military is generally poor, imo. I think the guy who got mad at me elsewhere was trying to say the commander will protect his soldier at all costs, and what angered him was my noting that the whole point of soldiering is to achieve objectives which often involves the death of soldiers? So…

    And yes, terrible commanders get overthrown. People serve their terms and get out. They change units. If not, they retire. They don’t just sit there happily soldiering away pretending to ‘respect’ people who don’t deserve it for ever.

    All that aside, a relationship between two people shouldn’t be a battlefield and you don’t need a commander to manage ONE person. It’s all nonsense.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Rachel said: “He was meek and lowly of heart. He gladly acted like a slave when He washed His underlings’ feet.”

    Yes, THIS! Some husbands forget that Jesus submitted to US. How amazing is that?! Jesus set the bar at complete humility, and nothing less. Jesus expected nothing when he washed the disciples’ feet.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Even Eggerichs couldn’t get around the need for husbands to also respect their wives. His acronym for what wives need is COUPLE. E = esteem. According to my dictionary, esteem is “to regard with respect or admiration.” Huh. Who’d have thought?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I don’t have to imagine that last scenario at all. My emotionally/verbally/spiritually/financially abusive former spouse was also a freeloader. I was the primary and often sole source of income for a family of five. And housekeeper. And mom of preschoolers then schoolchildren then high school to college students. He never once made a mortgage or family car payment. He stole, lied, forged, and manipulated as a way of life. He committed insurance fraud on multiple occasions. Most notably, he “robbed” our home and made a police report and insurance claim. He just never knew I knew it because if I’d brought it up he’d have denied it and made my life even more miserable for daring to accuse him of such a thing. He forged my name to the insurance check and never to this day told me about it. (Not that I’m complaining about that … I wouldn’t want to profit from it!) He stole from his employers. He even stole from my mother … including her good silverware and multiple pieces of jewelry, even her wedding ring set. I could go on an on, but suffice it to say he was a despicable person.

    Yet I can vividly remember one of many similar conversations when he flat-out told me I had to respect him because the Bible said I was supposed to. He tried to imply that if I respected him like I was “supposed to” (and do everything else I was “supposed to,”) he’d be so less stressed and would be able to be a better husband/father. I said respect had to be earned, he of course said it didn’t. And referenced scripture. There was honestly nothing TO respect, and I have no idea how one is supposed to conjure up respect when there’s no object for it to be directed toward.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Great point Mark.

    And some of these same Pharisees went on to become Christians after the Resurrection.

    Abigail was a wise and godly woman, yet she gave household items away behind her churlish husband’s back and called him a “fool” while begging David to be merciful to him.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Elizabeth D – “Yet I can vividly remember one of many similar conversations when he flat-out told me I had to respect him because the Bible said I was supposed to.”

    This is where my problem lies with the author’s view of a wife respecting her husband. Thank you for sharing with us. I’m so sorry that you had this spiritual abuse heaped upon you with the other abuse you were experiencing. I hope that you are in a better place and have been able to heal.

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  11. Elizabeth D – “Yet I can vividly remember one of many similar conversations when he flat-out told me I had to respect him because the Bible said I was supposed to.”

    There is a lot of “pretending” that goes on when an abused Christian wife is told to respect and honor her abuser. PRETEND that he really is a good person underneath and means well. PRETEND that your reality isn’t real. All that “pretending” is just living a Lie. We are to live in Truth. Jesus, and the apostle Paul, for example, did not hesitate to call out unrepentant sinners and hold them accountable for their actions.

    Yes, I can maintain my own integrity by treating those around me with kindness and respect, but I do that because of who I am… not because I’m pretending they aren’t abusers. When the truth is acknowledged, then boundaries and consequences become logical steps.

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  12. There is a lot of “pretending” that goes on when an abused Christian wife is told to respect and honor her abuser. PRETEND that he really is a good person underneath and means well. PRETEND that your reality isn’t real. All that “pretending” is just living a Lie.

    We have enough problems with “alternative facts” in this Post-Truth Age without Christians jumping on the bandwagon going “ME TOO!”

    Only consolation is that Christians usually jump on the bandwagon when or after said bandwagon jumps the shark and goes into its death spiral.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Julie Anne – Thank you! I was about to ask if anyone else thought the title was clever, or if I was the only laughing at my own little joke. 🙂

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  14. My understanding of the words respect versus trust, the priority of human dignity and the sorting out of personal responsibility come to mind while reading this review post and comments. Here are my thoughts:

    Respect, IMO, is tied to human dignity. Personal choice/responsibility….AND appropriate consequence is not something that has to be merited. It is something that’s “given” by our maker, and both genders and all ages are made to be “given” physical age appropriate respect. Earlier in my journey I thought respect also meant honor and obedience, or “living his/their life by default”/cultural norms or expectations. I grew miserable with that belief and grew to feel ashamed that I didn’t have “it in me” to see how to live, what to me, was a lie. “God doesn’t make junk” people would say. “You must put the marriage first”. These did not make total sense. I believed, as much as I could, that God loved human beings and marriage, or divorce, was not to be taken lightly. For me, “God doesn’t make junk” was calibrated to: but people are sometimes stuck in poor decision making patterns that devalue others and themselves. Instead of, “You must put the marriage first” my thinking was calibrated to believing that learning personal responsibility and good self care, which includes giving respect(“paying yourself first” (good manners and practicing gratitude for what’s already been given) comes before movement toward mutuality can happen. There’s no guarantee that the other person will change and do their part, but there is personal peace, refreshment, to be had with each new day and new wise choice step taken.

    I’ve come to realize, IMO, that I can respect without expecting of myself to, as easily give, trust, because trust DOES have to be earned, along with the level of closeness, which depends on behaviors, especially pervasive patterns that lack mutuality, or even a vision of mutuality (“it’s not perfection, just direction”).

    Complementarianism, taught as authoritarianism or even as a benevolent authoritative leader is rationally incoherent with the teaching that men and women are both given human dignity, so complementarianism is not even a vision of mutuality and my respectful response “submitted” to it is, “no”. I don’t feel or believe that I am rebellious by exercising my human dignity to say “no” in order to stay in line with my conscience before God. I’m far from perfect, but I just don’t have faith that oneupmanship is healthy, or a growth mindset, for either gender. I do struggle to not react from outrage. But I have some good self care awareness that outrage is fueled by more than, or less than, calibrated honorable resistance. So, I am motivated to examine myself, when I’m in that place, and try to find the honorable resistance/respect, purposeful, place and give a response, or not, from there instead.

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  15. Is this book in any way connected to “The Exemplary Husband” by Stuart Scott? The cover design looks very similar. I had a chance to review TEH to see if our church should use it for a men’s retreat. Man, that book is a DRY read – I’d label its genre as Death-By-Proof-Text. Also, it had some statements similar to those in “The Excellent Wife”. I had a problem with the shepherd-sheep metaphor where the husband is the shepherd and the wife and children are the sheep. Husbands aren’t chasing dumb animals around an ancient hillside. I didn’t recommend it, and we didn’t use it.

    Is there a connection to John MacArthur’s church?

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  16. “What is the cost of lies?

    “It’s not that we’ll mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all. What can we do then?”
    — Opening voice-over, HBO’s Chernobyl

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Paul K. They do seem very similar. I wonder if Martha Peace and Stuart Scott went to Starbucks and wrote their versions together so that they parallel each other. Oh, probably not – that wouldn’t look good for a married man and married woman (with different spouses) to have coffee together. However, on a serious note, I’m pretty sure that my husband came home with both The Excellent Wife and The Exemplary Husband from the Shepherd’s Conference a decade or so ago. I know that Scott has connections with MacArthur.

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  18. I had a problem with the shepherd-sheep metaphor where the husband is the shepherd and the wife and children are the sheep.

    Good night, i have heard that in a church context but not from spouse to spouse. How gross that is.

    And I HATE this grouping of wives with children that happens in these circles. Hate it.

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  19. Hmm. Women are like stupid animals and children.

    Puts me in mind of a preacher who said he deliberately chose a not so bright wife so she would be obedient and never question his leadership.

    He said it. Not me.

    Hey girls, want to know the best way to embrace your god given femininity? Whack yourself senseless with a hammer. TBI is a great way to enhance your womanhood. Tee hee.

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  20. Kathi – I was about to ask if anyone else thought the title was clever

    I was about to ask what ‘MP’ stood for – surely not Member of Parliament. I’m now glad I didn’t, because I would have looked very silly.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”
    Galatians 2:10-11

    Legalism is not the answer.

    Liked by 1 person

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