A Christian Wife Owes Unconditional Respect to Her Husband

"The wife should have the kind of reverence that restrains her from talking back to her husband, rebelling against him, or striving to have the upper hand in the household. . . . her authority is secondary to that of her husband who has the primary, and greater, authority."

Love is supposed to be unconditional. So is respect.

The Bible teaches clearly on this subject. Unfortunately, many Protestant teachers are liberals and feminists who chafe at God's requirements for marriage. These folks claim there is no hierarchy between husbands and wives, and that a wife should only respect her husband if he deserves it. Sitting at Rachel Held Evans' feet would be more preferable to some people than simple obedience to the Apostle Paul. There are occasional exceptions, but today they are relatively few and far between.

Thankfully, the ancient Christian faith — Orthodox Christianity — is a breath of fresh air. For 2000 years, the Orthodox Church has consistently taught that wives owe respect to their husbands. Unconditionally.

Just imagine a scenario in which your wife is selfish and sinful. Instead of being a good wife, she is being downright catty, mouthy, and disrespectful. In response to this, what if you said,

"I'm not going to love my wife until her actions improve. I'm not going to give her any more love until she earns it."

Obviously, you would be disobedient to God's commands, and you would be in sin. The Bible requires us to love our wives unconditionally. No matter what she does, you are still required to love her. It is not optional.

In exactly the same way, the Bible requires wives to respect their husbands unconditionally:

"let the wife see that she respects her husband" (Ephesians 5:33)

Scripture includes no caveats to this command, and no exceptions. The reason is because marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church. The husband is supposed to love his wife, just as Christ loves the Church. And the wife is supposed to reverence her husband, just as the Church reverences Christ.

God requires a wife to respect her husband. Other versions of the Bible translate this word as "reverence" or "fear". The same underlying Greek word is used in multiple passages of Scripture, referring to godly people who have a healthy fear of God.

One of the most highly respected men in Church history preached about marriage like this:

"And yet how can there ever be love, one may say, where there is fear? It will exist there, I say, preeminently. For she that fears and reverences, loves also; and she that loves, fears and reverences him as being the head . . . Therefore [God] places the one in subjection, and the other in authority, that there may be peace"
— St. John Chrysostom

Another great Orthodox preacher writes about marriage in his commentary on Ephesians. He writes many centuries later, showing that the Church's teaching remains the same: 

"Equality in everything between husband and wife creates instability in the running of the household. Therefore, Paul instructs the wife to have reverence for her husband, so that by means of her reverence for him, there might be a single authority."
— St. Theophylact

And when a wife truly respects her husband, what does it look like? How does she treat him? Faithful Orthodox Christians have a very practical response to this question:

"In addition, the wife should have the kind of reverence that restrains her from talking back to her husband, rebelling against him, or striving to have the upper hand in the household. . . . her authority is secondary to that of her husband who has the primary, and greater, authority."
— St. Theophylact

Therefore, as an Orthodox priest, I offer the following advice to all men:

  1. If you are a single man, be very careful who you marry. If she doesn't show you honor and reverence now, she won't respect you after marriage either. Drop her like a hot potato, and find a good Christian woman who is willing to give you unconditional respect.
  2. If you are married to a woman who doesn't show you due respect, then it is your responsibility to correct the situation. Calmly inform her that God's commands will be obeyed in your home. From now on, if she gets catty and mouthy, immediately stop the discussion. Let her know that respect is a prerequisite for any discussions in your household. If she wants to talk about anything at all — even when she disagrees with you — she is required to speak respectfully. Otherwise, the conversation is over. Once she learns to talk with respect, she will eventually learn to show respect in other ways. You are required to give your wife unconditional love, and she is required to give you unconditional respect.
  3. If you are married to a godly, submissive wife, then give thanks to God for such a blessing! You are the king of your household, so treat your wife like a queen. She deserves it.

Love and Respect are duties which are required. They are not something you earn.

— Fr. Joseph Gleason
Rostov the Great, Russia

Find out why my family and I moved to Russia . . .

Are you a Protestant who disagrees with this article? Or is there a question you would like to ask? Please write in the comment section below, and I would be happy to respond. If you are disrespectful or rude, I will not give you the time of day. But if you are respectful, kind, and willing to listen, then I will gladly have a conversation with you.

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