This is Part I in a three part series answering one of the questions asked at the Living Stones Women's Conference: “How can women help men grow spiritually?” To address it, I conducted interviews with men of all ages, backgrounds, and leadership positions, as well as a handful of women, and some common themes arose. This series will hone in on the top three: honor, image and relationship. ________________________________________________________________________
The fact that this question was asked makes it clear there are many women who desire to help the men in their lives but perhaps don’t know how. As a single woman, I have spent years waiting and longing to become a “helper,” believing that the way this would come to fruition in my life would be through marriage (Genesis 2:18-25). I have cried and ached and prayed and been frustrated with God, thinking that he was withholding the opportunity to be a helper from me.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I am not a helper because of who I’m helping; I am a helper because it is who God created me to be as a woman. I don’t have to wait for my circumstances to change in order to walk in my calling to help. No one is exempt from this, and this is good news! Whether young, old, single, married, dating, engaged, widowed, divorced—whatever circumstances we’re in—there is a way for all of us to walk in our calling as helpers.
While honor is not the only way women can help men grow spiritually, it is certainly job one. Without a heart filled first with honor, a woman’s “helpful suggestions” can quickly deteriorate into nagging (Prov. 27:15-16). Without the intention and desire to show honor, a woman may as well buy the men in her life a one-way ticket to the desert (Prov. 21:19). If neither of these options sound appealing (and I presume they don’t!), we need to devote ourselves to working toward another way.
What is honor? What does it look like to show support or trust?
1) Give Credit Where Credit is Due
If someone is honorable or does something honorable, they should be given honor. In this way, we show honor to the men in our lives by letting them know when we notice the honorable qualities they possess and the honorable deeds they do. We do not willfully withhold our praise—we rather look for and anticipate ways to point out the honor we see in the men (and really, all brothers and sisters) around us. In so doing, we honor God. This is why Paul, in his letter to the Roman church, instructs us to “love one another with brotherly affection” and “outdo one another in honor” (Romans. 12:10).
Are you and your husband facing an important decision that you are both anxious about? Remind him of the times he has heard from God, acted upon it, and the abundant fruit of obedience that was borne in his life (and yours) as a result.
Is there a man at church who you notice going out of his way to be a gentleman? Tell him how this impacts those around him.
Have you witnessed a pastor, deacon, community group leader or ministry head fulfill their calling well? Don’t assume someone else will tell them. Take a minute and let them know you see Christ’s character through them.
Perhaps you’re afraid of telling a brother-in-Christ you’ve noticed the honorable qualities he possesses or the honorable things he does because it could be construed as flirtation. To that, I have to say shame on all of us, men and women, for creating and perpetuating a culture in which honor is used to get ahead with the opposite sex. How destructive this is! While the most intimate relationship must remain protected in and reserved for marriage—and wisdom must be exercised in all dealings with the opposite sex—honor must exist in the context of all relationships, not only romantic ones.
If we continue to wield honor as a tool for personal gain, we create an environment in which
1) we only encourage someone of the opposite sex if we want something from them,
2) we fear showing honor because we don’t want someone to get “the wrong idea” about our intentions.
Ignoring our mandate to give honor where honor is due will continue to unravel the fabric of brother-sister relations in Christ’s church if we don’t do something about it. So much potential for God’s glory will be thwarted if his kids can’t learn how to build one another up in love.
Bottom line: we have to start somewhere. We have to at least try to show honor to one another. We’ll probably fail and make messes at first; but you have to make at least one burnt, weird, inedible pancake before they start to come out golden. Am I right?
2) Acknowledge a Person’s Right to Respect
This is a big one. What gives anyone the right to respect? Psalm 8:5 states that God himself has “crowned [man] with glory and honor.” And this honor was given to mankind before any individual, male or female, was able to obey or rebel. All of us, men and women, are created by God in honor and for honor.
However, as I’m sure we can all attest, it takes about 2.5 seconds of interacting with another human to discover that this “honor” we’ve all supposedly been given seems more like a dream than a reality. We are all guilty of dishonoring one another or failing to give honor where honor is due. Why? Paul, again in Romans, says that we have not only been born in sin, but we have all bought into it by sinning ourselves—and this includes the ultimate dishonor of turning our backs on God and willfully (yes, willfully) failing to give him the honor he deserves. But no matter how often we dishonor or fail to honor one another, it does not change what God has decreed. God the Father, through his Son Jesus, has decided to forgive. He has decided to pardon us. He has decided to heal us. On that cross, Jesus subjected himself to a dishonorable death—one that we absolutely deserved for our crimes—in order to declare our dishonorable debt eternally forgiven. What’s more, he rose again from death proclaiming his victory over all sin, over all dishonor (whether given or received, deserved or undeserved), and to restore the honor that was intended for the entirety of creation—especially us.
It is because of this great gift of restored honor that Paul has the right to say, “pay to all what is owed to them... honor to whom honor is owed.” (Rom. 13:7) While this verse is written in the context of giving respect and honor specifically to governmental authorities, the application is far more broad. He goes on to say, “owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8). As we give one another the gift of honor, we fulfill the law, which can be a fancy way to say that we magnify Jesus’ perfect character, allowing all of us to see his face and give glory to his great name.
Men have been given some pretty big shoes to fill. They have been charged (by God himself) to lead marriages, lead households and churches—and this is worthy of honor. The tasks they’ve been given are terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. Yet, so many of the men who responded to the question of how women can help men grow spiritually said that a woman’s assumption of good will and intent on his part were invaluable in showing him the kind of honor that makes him soar and excel in his walk with Christ.
Essentially, we have two choices: we can either help a man stay crippled in his fears of failure by showing him the kind of dishonor that will only prove his fears to be valid... or... we can choose to show honor to the men in our lives and show them the very face of Christ, the only one who can truly empower them for their God-given roles.
A Note on Abuse:
I know there are some pretty big exceptions to acknowledge in the “honor” conversation - namely, abuse. If you are being abused by a male in authority over you, he is not being honorable, not obeying Jesus, not fulfilling his God-given roles, and you should not submit yourself to him. Here are some resources on what you should do in the event that you are being abused or mistreated—by anyone in any form:
- Sexual Assault: Myths and Misconceptions, by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb
- How to Honor Your Wife, by Mark Driscoll
- The Church, the Gospel and Violence Against Women, Various Authors