Questions From Readers
● I know that the Bible says that a Christian wife should love and respect her husband. But my husband is a drunkard. How can a person love and respect a man who is like that?—C. N., U.S.A.
Understandably, a Christian in this situation would be repelled by her husband’s drunkenness. The Bible plainly shows that Jehovah disapproves of drunkenness. (1 Cor. 5:11; Gal. 5:21) It can lead to all sorts of additional wrongdoing. And God’s Word urges us: “O you lovers of Jehovah, hate what is bad.” (Ps. 97:10) However, that verse does not direct a wife to hate her husband. She may hate the badness and its results, yes, but not her husband. The Lord Jesus told his followers to love even their enemies. (Matt. 5:44) So while we can sympathize with a wife in this circumstance, knowing it to be unpleasant and difficult, surely she should strive to love her husband and to help him out of his badness.
As acknowledged in the question, God’s Word directs wives to love and respect their husbands, saying, among other things: “Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord . . . the wife should have deep respect for her husband.” (Eph. 5:22, 33) The husband has a God-assigned place of responsibility in the family, whether he fully lives up to God’s requirements or not. The wife should have respect for his position, even if she cannot approve of all he does.
As an illustration, we might note the Christian view of the governmental rulers, the superior authorities. These leaders have a right to a Christian woman’s respect and relative subjection. (Titus 3:1; Rom. 13:7) This does not mean that she agrees with the moral code that some of them have adopted, nor can she approve of all their opinions and activities. In fact, daily she may see proof of corruption on their part, including bribery, favoritism and failure to enforce the law. Yet, as far as possible, she shows respect for the office they hold, since God directs her to do so. Similarly, a wife can work to increase respect for her husband’s office or position in the family.—Titus 2:4, 5.
Before she married, she had respect for the man who is now her husband, and for his intended position as her mate and head. True, after she was married for a time, the Christian wife found out things about him that she did not know or expect prior to marriage. This is so in every marriage. She may have discovered ways and qualities that she did not like. But, if she looked for such, she probably also found new aspects of his personality and abilities that she could respect and love. Can the wife not now continue to develop love and respect for the things about her husband that initially kindled her love for him as well as those good things she discovered later? Are there things she personally can do that will emphasize or enhance his good qualities and minimize his undesirable ones? What can the wife do to make the home more appealing and enjoyable for him? These questions are worthy of serious thought. Remember, the effort she puts forth in developing respect for her husband will be a contribution to her own contentment.
Many times Christians have cultivated the admirable quality of endurance in order to further the Christian message and to aid others on the way to life. That is fine, is it not? The apostle Paul wrote: “Endure under tribulation. Persevere in prayer.” (Rom. 12:12) But does the Christian woman in this circumstance view her family situation as an opportunity to show Christian endurance? Has she through prayer sought God’s help in manifesting endurance?—Isa. 50:10.
We realize that these suggestions might seem hard to apply, especially in the case of a Christian wife who has had her patience and love sorely tried over the years by her unbelieving husband. It may be very difficult for her to continue and to strive to improve. But we firmly believe that the perfect counsel provided by Jehovah in his Word is the best counsel that one can get. As David wrote: “The law of Jehovah is perfect, bringing back the soul. . . . The orders from Jehovah are upright, causing the heart to rejoice.”—Ps. 19:7, 8.
In the early Corinthian congregation some Christian wives had unbelieving husbands. Undoubtedly those husbands did things that strained the love and respect of their wives. But what did the apostle Paul counsel? He wrote: “How do you know but that you will save your husband?” Those words are in the same letter in which he wrote: “The head of a woman is the man.” (1 Cor. 7:16; 11:3) So this constituted encouragement for those wives to love and respect their unchristian husbands, realizing that in time they might be able to aid those men to serve Jehovah. Such a thing might occur! Peter mentioned that unbelieving husbands may be won over by the “chaste conduct together with deep respect” of their wives.—1 Pet. 3:1, 2.
And this has proved true in our day. In one case a Christian wife in Massachusetts endured her husband’s drunkenness and swearing for over twenty years. But her chaste conduct and her deep respect for his position as head of the family had its effect. Finally, the husband saw that a change was necessary. He stopped drinking, smoking and swearing and joined his wife and grown children in attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall. Surely she was happy that she had endured. (Note also the remarkable experience from Iceland on pages 157 and 158 of the 1968 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses.)
Maybe that will in time be the joyful experience of other Christian wives. We hope so. But even if that seems improbable in certain cases, the wives can work to cultivate respect and love for their husbands, and thus show their appreciation for the marital arrangement and for their husbands’ God-assigned office.
“You should put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct and which is being corrupted according to his deceptive desires; but . . . you should be made new in the force actuating your mind, and should put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.”—Eph. 4:22-24.