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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Spiritual Respect - The Second Pillar

Some - either Ann Landers or Oprah Winfrey - once said that an ideal marriage doesn't consist of two people looking at each other, but of two people, side by side, looking into the future together.

It's a compelling image, and nowhere does it seem more important than in our spiritual lives. We want to be equally yoked, and to have a relationship with God that is accessible to and congruent with that of our mate.

But reality will go and intrude...we develop emotionally and spiritually at different rates, and chances are that at some point (or points) during a marriage, we'll be on different spiritual pages. To keep the relationship healthy, we have to look on our spouse's spiritual place with understanding and respect.

This isn't always easy.

Some couples have small differences; one partner might be a pre-Tribulation millennialist, while the other's firmly in the post-Trib camp. It's not hard to "agree to disagree" on points of doctrine like this; it doesn't really affect the sincerity and purity of one's faith.

Where lack of respect can raise its head is the degree to which we identify with our position. This is often buttressed by a feeling of belonging to a certain group, led by a pastor whom one likes...so when we get defensive about a seemingly minor point, we're often really defending a human institution that offers us definition, It's not about faith - it's about ego.

Then there are substantive differences in faith. This would be akin to one spouse believing that the Rapture will happen,and the other looking at that event with a tolerant, disbelieving scorn.

"How can he believe that?"

"How can you ignore the Truth?"

Respect, here, has to be a choice, so that the exchange above never takes place in real life. One must simply forbear to say anything critical, because your mate has a right to his or her beliefs.

Sometimes partners in marriage develop different approaches to worship. A personal example - my wife is enthusiastic about praise & worship, while my approach is very low-key. When I was still well enough to attend church, Barb would enthusiastically take part in Praise & Worship. I'd stand politely and listen.

She felt alone, and I felt pushed. Not a good combination for a marriage,

I could have respected her through the simple expedient of participating. It wouldn't have killed me.

Barbara could have tried to understand the influences that made me that withdrawn.

We could have met in the middle, but we didn't. That lack of respect, made manifest in an unwillingness to compromise, hurt the marriage.

Finally, what if your husband or wife abandons Christianity?

This is a terribly hard question. It can quickly kill respect, because to the 'staying' spouse feels abandoned and rejected on an elemental level, while the 'leaving' spouse is entering the unknown, a life without God. That's scary, and fear longs for company.

The only way to deal with a situation like this is to respect where your mate is.You do't have to sign onto their paradigm, but you should be willing to listen.

And you should lead - respectfully - by example. Effective evangelism exists in the space allowed by mutual respect.

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage (and I got to write today's!). If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information.


  1. So true! There really needs to be a sense of acceptance when we talk about our differing religious beliefs--well, any belief for that matter! It's hard to do, but if we are secure in what we believe, I think it becomes easier. Then that security can take the dialogue that comes with the meeting of minds and not marginalize or criticize the spouse that differs. Jesus modeled this so often--listening and definitely not being defensive when people came to Him with different beliefs. Even with the Pharisees constantly "stalking" Him and trying to catch Him in a mistake, He let the word of God do the "standing up" for Him. Great thoughts, Andrew! I pray you are making it okay and feeling less pain. I pray that for you, among other things, daily!

    1. Beth, I'm sorry it's taken so long for me to reply. Past few days have been a challenge of the worst kind.

      Letting the Word stand up for us, when dealing with someone whose beliefs don't necessarily jibe with our own, is a great way of putting it. Doing it with respect can be hard, but it's the model Jesus set out for us.

      He does set the bar high sometimes, eh?

  2. Andrew, These are some great points about respect for different points of view on our beliefs. I think even outside of marriage we may "put our foot in our mouth" and not even realize it when it comes to different worldviews on spirituality.

    On another note regarding your comment on Beth's site. I know exactly where you are coming from on the pain and hurting to even touch. I used to be there and it was very difficult for me and my husband. He said those exact words and I didn't want him caring for me instead of being my husband. I think I'm being nudged from above here to tell you that dating is also a state of mind. Pray and then let go, remember that dating and love is also a physical need for your wife to feel that she is connected to you (think invisible string here). If you cannot go on a date, talk about a magical date you would plan for her and what you would do. Make this type of date each week, get that connection back. Our Lord still has you here with Barbara for a reason, my friend. Love and laughter is healing for our soul and our body. Get lost in it. Praying for you.

    1. Kim, please pardon my delay in responding, and thank you for the insight on dating being a state of mind. I never thought of it that way!

      You may just have changed my life.