Saturday, April 12, 2008

Reverencing One's Husband

I came across this interesting post from a woman explaining to younger woman some considerations for a mate, and for those already married some suggestions for improvement. (link) It seems mostly correct, and so I commend it for reading, with a couple of quibbles and comments.

The verse in question is:

Ephesians 5:33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

But is cited as:

"Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."

I would take issue with the reduction from reverence to respect. The Greek word at issue is
φοβέω, which is the cognate and root of our English word "fear."

It's so translated in many places in Scripture, for example:

Revelation 19:5 And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great.

It goes beyond simply respecting. Reverence is a great translation here, and its disappointing to see many modern translations using "respect" in place of reverence.

That's my first quibble, and my second is like unto it. My second quibble is that reverencing/respecting is more about the woman than the man. With those quibbles in mind, I'd recommend reading the article (for unmarried women) as though the article was an explanation of ways to make your responsibility of reverencing your future husband easier. I would certainly agree that it would be wise in a society like the modern one, for women to consider whether their potential mate is someone who they could easily reverence, or whether the task will be a very difficult one. (In a more partriarchical society, that consideration should be undertaken by the father.) Part of that consideration is the woman's own ability to reverence her father. A girl may be able to identify certain characteristics about her father that make it easy or difficult to reverence him. She can then use that to her advantage in considering potential suitors. If it takes brains to gain her reverence, then she should be looking for a man with brains - if strength, strength - if Scriptural understanding, knowledge of God's word, and so forth.

Hopefully young men will read this too, and profit from it. Young men often want and need to marry. It would be wise for young men to seek ways to be a reverence-able mate. It's a big challenge, because young men are often foolish, headstrong, and unaware of their weaknesses. Here's the advice: find ways to make it easy for your future bride to reverence you.

This leads me to the intuitive portion of the post. The intuitive portion is this: the easiest husband for a woman to reverence ought to be the one who is most capable of loving her as himself. Contrariwise, the easiest woman for a man to love as himself is the one who most reverence's him. In other words, men and women are complementary.

It is the same between us and Christ. His extreme love of us should inspire from us the greatest possible reverence. It will also inspire love, certainly, but the command to us is:

Psalm 2:11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

which also applies to the authority relationships in which we find ourselves (whether husband and wife or master and servant ):

Ephesians 6:5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

Finally a word of caution:

1 Peter 3:6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

The point here is that there is no virtue in obeying one's husband and reverencing him if that reverence is from terror/fright (πτόησιν). In other words, it is not as though a woman should reverence her husband in a servile manner, like a whipped dog, but in a dignified manner flowing from a loving desire to give the honor that is due the position (not the man who occupies it).

May God give each us grace in our respective roles in life,


P.S. If a woman has been providentially given a husband who makes reverence very difficult, this command can be as difficult as it can be for a husband to love a shrewish wife as himself. The purpose of this post is not to condemn but to exhort: no wife is completely reverential, and no husband is completely self-sacrificing.

Thanks to Patrick Chan for pointing me to this post.

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