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 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?