By Julie Roe, Ph.D.
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n his letter to the Hebrews, Paul the apostle wrote that “marriage is honorable” (Heb. 13:4, NKJV). He makes the point that it is a state of life God approves, unlike one in which people carry on as fornicators and adulterers.
But the Bible goes further than simply telling us marriage itself is honorable; it says there must be honor within marriage as well. Each spouse is under a mandate to honor the other: “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife” (1 Pet.3:7); “Let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Eph. 5:33).
As Christians, we should desire a marriage that lines up with God’s Word. But how do we fulfill this mandate?
To create honor (esteem, regard, consideration) in your marriage, begin with small, productive steps in the right direction. Here are some suggestions to help you start the process.
1. To change you have to become aware of how you do things now and what the new goal is. If you want to love and honor differently, ask yourself how you love and honor now, and how you would like your approach to change.
2. Get free from old, destructive patterns of behavior. Identify the dynamics that affect your behavior. You could have: (a) Learned behavior from your family of origin — behavior generally modeled by the same-sex parent; (b) Internalized, unresolved anger that spills out onto others, allowing you to vent your pain but never resolve the
conflict; (c) Feelings of inadequacy that cause you to put other people down so you can feel good about yourself; (d) Passive guilt that you use to manipulate other’s decisions and actions; (e) Fear of intimacy or emotional closeness, especially if your love has been rejected in the past. If any of these patterns apply to you, ask God
to deliver you and help you relate to your spouse according to His principles of love and respect.
3. Create an atmosphere of “approval” in your marriage. Undergird and support each other and your mutual destiny. Build each other up with your words and actions. Find areas of agreement and build on them.
Show your spouse how valuable and important he is to you and thank God for him.
4. Search for ways to build a firm foundation of trust, creating ways to instill security from the toxins of the world – poison-proof your marriage! Ask yourself what you can do to add security to the marriage: find accountability partners, seek professional counseling, learn how to communicate better, be more accountable with your time and money (be truthful, repent, forgive, get your mate’s opinions before making a final decision), tell your partner you are with him for life, speak of your love for him every day.
5. Learn to love yourself so you can stop being distracted by your low self-assessment and can focus your attention on loving your mate and others (see Lev. 19:18).
6. Learn that the “WE” is greater than the “I.” What one spouse does affects the other. Ask yourself how your decisions and actions may affect your spouse.
7. Have some fun; get out of ruts (not included in “ruts” are the rituals you both enjoy together). Be creative in finding things to do together. Be intentional in planning fun activities.
8. Pray for your spouse in his hearing. If you don’t feel judged by your mate, this will be easy. Ask your mate for specific issues you can pray about for him.
9. Fast. Fasting develops humility (see Ezra 8:21), and humility comes before honor (see Prov. 15:33).
10. Repent to God and to your mate for any wrong you have done. I don’t mean simply apologize; I mean be truly sorry for your behavior. Godly sorrow leads to repentance and change! (See 2 Cor. 7:10.)
11. Forgive. Forgiveness heals past hurts and wounds and brings reconciliation into the relationship.
12. Express love with words of endearment and godly actions even if you don’t “feel” like it. Honoring God with your vow to love your spouse pleases Him.
13. Criticism equals rejection, but love equals acceptance. The whole world is looking for unconditional love and acceptance. A godly marriage provides both.
14. Ask your spouse how you can honor him more effectively. There are things that are generally honoring to all (for example, not embarrassing the person in public, not interrupting when he is speaking), and then there are things that are personally honoring or dishonoring to your mate.
15. Be serious about your relationship. Don’t take it for granted, as if you don’t have to work at it. You worked hard to win this person, so keep it up — stay the course — be persistent — run the race until you finish it: “till death do you part!”
In our day and age, when the sanctity of traditional marriage is under attack by liberal extremists, it is easy to be deceived into thinking that this state of life is subject to the definition of man. But God has clearly laid out in His Word conditions under which marriage may take place and how it is to be lived out. He defines it as a lifelong
union between a man and a woman in which both spouses love, respect and honor one another. If you are falling short in any of these areas, it’s not too late to change. Put the suggestions above into practice, and you’ll be amazed at the results. The rewards for obeying God, both on Earth and in eternity, will far outweigh the effort you expend and the sacrifice you make to treat your spouse as God demands.