by Jay Dennis
Long before Aretha Franklin sang her hit song “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.,” God made clear in His Word that women should be respected. Christianity elevated womanhood to its highest level. In the Gospels, Jesus demonstrated great honor in the way He treated, spoke to, and spoke about women. The apostle Peter further exemplified and taught that men should honor women. In his first letter, Peter gave us a powerful reminder of a husband’s duty to his wife as he spoke on having a godly marriage: “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Pet. 3:7, NIV).
The Bible honors women and condemns anything that would harm or injure women, whether physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual. God has called men to be the protectors and defenders of women. In our sexualized culture, the minds of Christian men are being assaulted with lust-inducing images from advertisements on television to Internet pornography. Temptation does not have an expiration date, so Christian men of all ages and backgrounds are affected by the world’s sexual objectification of women.
With the emergence of the #MeToo movement, there appears to be a new and welcomed sensitivity to treating women with respect. The question is, “What can Christian men do to respect and honor women in their daily routines?” This could transform a man’s thought life if he is continually mindful. The principle is this: If every Christian man would view women who are older as he would his mother, women around his age, as his sister, and every younger woman as his daughter, his thought life could be revolutionized resulting in a respect for all women.
Consider Seven Areas of Respecting Women:
1. Respect Women Attitudinally
Peter says to show honor to women (1 Pet. 3:7). Christian men are to treat women as equals, never inferior. He is teaching men to seek to understand and try to see things from a woman’s perspective. This involves valuing her opinions, offering her your help, showing her honor, being courteous, never being harsh or rude, and showing friendless, but not flirting. Look for ways to offer help to women who have a need. Treat her as a woman, and do not treat her like she is a man. In a culture that is attempting to negate the differences between a man and a woman, the Bible teaches we should celebrate those differences through respect.
2. Respect Women Visually
Job, one of the godliest men who ever lived, said: “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman” (Job 31:1, NIV). Further he said, “If my steps have turned from the path, if my heart has been led by my eyes, or if my hands have been defiled…” (verse 7). Job is making the powerful connection that what a man sees affects his actions. Therefore, a Christian man must continually guard what he allows to come through the eye-gate. Respecting women visually involves never staring or ogling a woman, looking at her in the eyes, and refusing to view pornography. A man should project caring, concern, and compassion through his eyes and immediately engage in battle mode if a lustful thought is present. Respecting women involves a passionate commitment to rejecting anything that would sexually objectify her.
3. Respect Women Actionably
Further, you should demonstrate great manners around women, promote the things that are important to them, and stand against anything that harms them. It involves being wise and limiting any type of physical touch and doing things that are as simple as opening the door for her or giving up your seat for her. A friend of mine made great use of sticky notes to leave his wife reminders of his love and appreciation for her. Simple and kind actions demonstrate great respect.
4. Respect a Woman Verbally
In Colossians 3:19, Paul told husbands, “…and do not be harsh with [your wives]” (NIV). How can every Christian man heed the call to not be harsh with his wife or any woman? Here are a few ways: compliment her appropriately, speak kindly, never use profanity or sexually-suggestive humor, and never speak of your own marriage problems or sexual issues with a woman who is not your wife. Further, a Christian man should speak out against injustice toward women and speak up when a woman is being harassed. To husbands and all Christian men, using words like “Thank you,” “Please,” and “How can I help you?” are ways to verbally respect women.
5. Respect a Woman Relationally
Peter tells husbands we are to live with our wives “in an understanding way” (1 Pet. 3:7). Here are some ways you can respect a woman relationally. Remember you can’t be best friends with a woman who is not your wife. Don’t dine with or dine alone with a woman who is not your wife. Include your wife in your work relationships with women. Protect where you go and what you do with a woman who is not your wife. It is wise when dealing with women to speak often of your wife and family, and talk to your wife about the women you deal with on an everyday basis. Coming back to our principle, if you see yourself as a son, brother, or father of women, a healthy respect can emerge. Think about it this way, “What would I do to help my mother, my sister, or my daughter?” If your wife has an issue with any relationship you have with another woman, drop it immediately and listen to your wife!
6. Respect a Woman Emotionally
The writer of Proverbs tells us to guard our hearts (Prov. 4:23). What you think and feel is only one small step from acting out. These are some ways you can practically respect a woman emotionally. Never talk negatively about your wife. Listen to women, show compassion to women in need, demonstrate humility to women, and never demean a woman in any way. If a sinful, lustful thought develops, immediately confess it and replace it with Scripture. Remember, you can never trust your feelings to guide you into doing the right thing. That’s why you must daily be controlled by the Holy Spirit. Great wisdom is needed here as you help women. If the issue is too personal, encourage her to talk with a godly woman, maybe even your wife.
7. Respecting a Woman Sexually (Your Wife Only)
Paul gives very specifically and powerful advice to those who are married in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5:
“Now for the matters you wrote about: ‘It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.’ But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Obviously, this section is for married men only as it relates to their wives. Sex is an integral part of a healthy marriage, and these Scriptures remind us of that. Consider the following ways to respect your wife sexually: no sex before marriage,; no sex outside of marriage, and remember, sex is 3D (body, soul, and spirit), not 1D (body). Sex is about sharing intimacy, not about simply using your wife’s body for your fulfillment. In your sexual relationship, always include gentleness, tenderness, patience, and sensitivity and make sure she is comfortable with what you do. Ask your wife what she needs specifically from you, and tell her exactly what you need. Sex in marriage is about giving to, not getting from, your wife. Study after study has indicated that married sex is the best sex.
Each day make a covenant with your eyes that as you go through your routine you will view every woman as a mother, sister, or daughter. To the women you routinely deal with, be their son, brother, or dad. Making a shift of your mindset in that direction will help keep you living in freedom and will honor Jesus Christ in the way you treat women.