“I see London, I see France, I can see your underpants!” My aunt sang as I hid my three-year-old face into the couch after a temper tantrum. It seemed that the skirt of my dress had lifted up and my white underwear was exposed for all to see. I had brought dishonor on my parents, who had taken the time to dress me properly and who had taught me never to show my underpants to anyone in public.
The English word for “honor” connotes giving respect to those in authority over us. We honor our parents and grandparents. We honor our teachers. We honor our governing officials. We honor our bosses. However, how do we show honor to our spouses, who are supposed to be equal to us?
The Greek word that is used in 1 Corinthians 13:5 for “dishonor” (aschemonei) is translated as “acts unbecomingly.” Strong’s Greek Concordance uses the definition “to prepare disgrace for another,” while HELPS Word-Studies describes the Greek word for “dishonor” as “to lack proper form.” It turns out that my little reveal as a three-year-old was the perfect example of showing dishonor. I lacked the proper form of how a little girl should act. I was preparing disgrace for my parents as well as myself by exposing my little booty.
The only other time that this Greek word is used in Scripture is in 1 Corinthians 7, when Paul talks about an engagement relationship: “If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married” (v 36, NIV). The word has nothing to do with how the “other” is acting in this case; it only deals with the self. If you are not doing what you are supposed to do, you are showing dishonor. This thinking reveals that we should lay down our pride so that we can show honor to our spouses.
Practically, if you are not in a marriage relationship, but you are acting like you are (if you know what I mean), you are showing dishonor to your significant other. It is not a sin to get married, but it is a sin to act like you’re married when you aren’t. Everyone who has ever gotten married knows the pressure to have the biggest, most expensive wedding. However, there is no wedding more beautiful than a couple who puts all that glamour and glitz off the pedestal and focuses on showing honor to each other.
In February of 2016, my husband and I had to choose between waiting two years and waiting nine months to get married. We realized that if we kept waiting, we could have compromised, and we could have shown dishonor to one another by acting like we were married when we weren’t. We were married in November of 2016 with no regrets and with anticipation of starting our lives together.
If you are married, you can show honor to your spouse through the dictionary definition of showing honor, acting true to the form of a good spouse. Remember that the world is watching you, and they are looking for an example of what a God-centered marriage looks like. How are you going to show them that God is at the center of your marriage?
Honoring always involves looking up. Although our spouses are equal to us, we all have a standard to follow. God gives us a standard for how we should treat our spouses in Ephesians 5: women are to submit to their husbands, and men are to love their wives. That is how you show honor to your spouse.
Ultimately, when we honor others, we honor God. God will show us how to honor our spouses through His Word and through the work that He does in our hearts. If you have been acting dishonorably toward your spouse, the first step is to ask for forgiveness, both from your spouse and from God. If you trust God, He will show you how to bring honor to your spouse and how to be an example of a good marriage in a world that so desperately needs love.