As men, many times we feel judged by our ability to be accepted. We are only okay if others think or indicate we are okay. That is actually a desire of our heart and soul. We seek love and approval, and in this world the opportunity to experience life with another person consumes us. It has consumed man since Genesis, and it will consume us until we walk no more. It is this same desire of our heart that manifests itself in our desire to have a relationship with our God.
In many translations, this section is titled Wives and Husbands, the New Living Translation even has verses 1-6 titled as Wives, then verse 7 gets the titled Husbands. Regardless of the titles, Peter is giving us his marriage pep talk. He does not go into depth as much as Paul did, but the foundations are the same.
Let us not get hung up on wives and husbands as roles in a marriage, I want to make it clear that this section is about our behavior and character as a man. It has to do with how we approach dating, it has to do with how we relate and disciple other men in our lives. It is how we can listen to other men in difficult situations and know what to say and where to turn to.
A strange situation exists in society today. We have more readily available information about relationships, sex and marriage than ever before, yet we have more relationship problems and divorces. Obviously something is wrong. It is not sufficient to say that God is needed in these homes, because even many Christian relationships and marriages are falling apart. It is not restricted to marriages. We actually see a lot of dysfunctional relationships that don’t even end up at a marriage.
The fact that a man and a woman are both saved is no guarantee that their marriage will succeed. Marriage is something that we have to work at; success is not automatic. And when one marriage partner is not a Christian, that can make matters even more difficult. Peter addressed this section of his letter to Christian wives who had unsaved husbands, telling them how to win their mates to Christ. Then he added some important admonitions for Christian husbands.
No matter what our marital status may be, we can all learn from and be reminded, by Peter, of the essentials for a happy and successful marriage.
1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. – 1 Peter 3:1-7
Much of our learning in life comes by way of imitation. Grandparents have a delightful time watching their grandchildren pick up new skills and words as they grow up. If we imitate the best models, we will become better people and better achievers, but if we imitate the wrong models, it will cripple our lives and possibly ruin our characters. The role models that we follow influence us in every area of life.
Do you have an example of a time when a poor role model was detrimental to your life? Do you have an example of a healthy role model?
When Christian couples, married or dating, try to imitate the world and get their standards from Hollywood and the world instead of from heaven, there will be trouble. But if both partners will imitate Jesus Christ in His submission and obedience and His desire to serve others, then there will be triumph and joy in the home. In Christ we see a beautiful blending of strength and tenderness, and that is what it takes to be a successful man of God, and if you’re blessed, a husband.
We cannot follow Christ’s example unless we first know Him as our Savior, and then submit to Him as our Lord. We must spend time with Him each day, meditating on the Word and praying. As a relationship forms between a man and woman, they need to pray together. This creates an atmosphere of learning of each others heart. We can understand their desires, concerns and challenges. Praying together is the ultimate journey to knowing one’s heart. (This is true for relationships with women as well as the men friends) This leads to the fact that a Christian husband and wife must pray together and seek to encourage each other in the faith. If you cannot be comfortable praying together, you should not be comfortable with every others thing in your life.
Do you have examples of where praying with a female in your life was a benefit, healthy?
Do not use prayer as a starter for discussions. If we come together with a person and need to discuss something, our prayers should be for wisdom, love and compassion, but the person should not learn about gripe or issue you have with them in your actual prayer. Openly discuss your side of the situation, that is the only place to start, then lead into the impacts and what the environment results in. Then lead into circumstances. Don’t use prayer as a scapegoat and weapon against someone.
Why such focus on the wives?
Peter focuses a lot of attention on wives in this section; more than of husbands. To understand this we must again remember the context of our letter. The Christian wives were experiencing a whole new situation and needed guidance. In general, women were kept down in the Roman Empire, and their new freedom in Christ created new problems and challenges. Furthermore, many of them had unsaved husbands and needed extra encouragement and enlightenment.
Peter provides some great coaching for the women in the time, but we will mainly focus on our specific verse, verse 7. It is only one scripture, but it is loaded with wisdom. It is layered with principles that we can apply to all of our relationships. There are four areas of our responsibility in relationships.
1. Live with your wife
This sounds funny, but it is the core to a healthy relationship. We need to live together and share life together. From personal experience, I know it is possible to live in the same home with someone, but not share life together. This implies much more than sharing the same address. Marriage is fundamentally a physical relationship:
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” – Ephesians 5:31 ESV
The husband must make time to be home with his wife. Christian workers and church officers who get too busy running around solving other people’s problems may end up creating problems of their own at home. Many couples even get to a point where they force themselves to spend time together, but they have nothing in common and they are in a very awkward situation there they don’t even know what to do or say when they spend time together. This is the entire opposite of the “first love” days when they did not care what they did, but just wanted to spend time together.
“live with” also suggests that the husband provide for the physical and material needs of the home. While it is not wrong for a wife to have a job or career, her first responsibility is to care for the home (Titus 2:4–5). It is the husband who should provide (1 Tim. 5:8).
2. Intellectual—“in an understanding way”
Somebody asked Mrs. Albert Einstein if she understood Dr. Einstein’s theory of relativity, and she replied, “No, but I understand the doctor.” In premarital counseling sessions, couples are given pads of paper and asked to write down the three things each one thinks the other enjoys doing the most. Usually, the prospective bride makes her list immediately; the man would sit and ponder. And usually the girl was right but the man wrong! What a beginning for a marriage!
It is amazing that two married people can live together and not really know each other! Ignorance is dangerous in any area of life, but it is especially dangerous in marriage. A Christian husband needs to know his wife’s moods, feelings, needs, fears, and hopes. If you have ever attempted this action, you know how difficult it can be. We need to “listen with our heart” and share meaningful communication with her. There must be in the home such a protective atmosphere of love and submission that the husband and wife can disagree and still be happy together. I know I never learned the idea that I can be happy while disagreeing. I am learning, but it is very difficult and strange.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, – Ephesians 4:15 ESV
“Speaking the truth in love” is the solution to the communications problem. It has well been said that love without truth is hypocrisy, and truth without love is brutality. We need both truth and love if we are to grow in our understanding of one another. How can a husband show consideration for his wife if he does not understand her needs or problems?
To say, “I never knew you felt that way!” is to confess that, at some point, one mate excommunicated the other. When either mate is afraid to be open and honest about a matter, then he or she is building walls and not bridges.
3. Emotional—“showing honor to the woman”
Chivalry may be dead, but every husband must be a “knight in shining armor” who treats his wife like a princess. (By the way, the name Sarah means “princess.”) Peter did not suggest that a wife is “the weaker vessel” mentally, morally, or spiritually, but rather physically. There are exceptions, of course, but generally speaking, the man is the stronger of the two when it comes to physical accomplishments. The husband should treat his wife like an expensive, beautiful, fragile vase, in which is a precious treasure. Like she is the daughter of the King, which she is. Like she is a gift given to us by the creator, not just some lost soul that we are going to pick up along the way to make our life better here on earth.
When a young couple starts dating, the boy is courteous and thoughtful. After they get engaged, he shows even more courtesy and acts like a gentleman. Sad to say, soon after they get married, many a husband forgets to be kind and gentlemanly and starts taking his wife for granted. He forgets that happiness in a home is made up of many little things, including the small courtesies of life.
Big resentments often grow out of small hurts. Relationships need to be honest, we need to admit hurts, and seek forgiveness and healing. “showing honor to the woman” does not mean “giving in to the woman.” We can disagree and still respect and honor the other. This is a vital communication fact for any relationship. We we as men don’t agree on something, that does not mean we disrespect each other. Good relationships never include disrespect. As the spiritual leader in the home, the husband must sometimes make decisions that are not popular; but he can still act with courtesy and respect.
“Showing honor” means that the man respects his woman’s feelings, thinking, and desires. He may not agree with her ideas, but he respects them. Often God balances a marriage so that the husband needs what the wife has in her personality, and she likewise needs his good qualities. When we are having challenges with emotions or feelings that our spouse has, we need to grasp the reality that “we are one” and that her feelings and thoughts are our feelings and thoughts. Many times when we don’t like or understand those thoughts we just discredit them. That is a form of denial. We can have much healthier relationships if we understand their feelings and emotions are actually our feelings and emotions.
The husband must be the “thermostat” in the home, setting the emotional and spiritual temperature. The wife often is the “thermometer,” letting him know what that temperature is! Both are necessary. The husband who is sensitive to his wife’s feelings will not only make her happy, but will also grow himself and help his children live in a home that honors God.
4. Spiritual—“that your prayers shall not hindered.”
Peter assumed that husbands and wives would pray together. Often, they do not; and this is the reason for much failure and unhappiness. If unconverted people can have happy homes without prayer (and they do), how much happier Christian homes would be with prayer! In fact, it is the prayer life of a couple that indicates how things are going in the home. If something is wrong, their prayers will be hindered.
A husband and wife need to have their own private, individual prayer time each day. They also need to pray together and to have a time of “family devotion.” How this is organized will change from home to home, and even from time to time as the children grow up and schedules change. The Word of God and prayer are basic to a happy, holy home.
we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. – Acts 6:4 ESV
A husband and wife are “heirs together.” If the wife shows submission and the husband consideration, and if both submit to Christ and follow His example, then they will have an enriching experience in their marriage. If not, they will miss God’s best and rob each other of blessing and growth.
It is good if men and women occasionally take inventory of their relationship. Again the focus is on marriages, but we should never journey into marriage if these fundamentals are already fragile and a point of discuss during dating. Here are some questions, based on what Peter wrote.
- Are we partners or competitors?
- Are we helping each other become more spiritual?
- Are we depending on the externals or the eternals? Artificial or real?
- Do we understand each other better?
- Are we sensitive to each other’s feelings and ideas, or taking each other for granted?
- Are we seeing God answer our prayers?
- Are we enriched because of our relationship, or robbing each other of God’s blessing?
Honest answers to these questions will make a difference. It will allow us to really examine our motives and actions with a transparent heart. Let us always cherish each relationship with gratitude as a gift from God.
It is about us
We can easily just blow through this section if we are not married or dating. We can sleep through this section if our relationships are going well. It needs to be stated that those inventory questions can be used for your disciple relationships as well. Read those questions again and think of your discipleship partner:
- Are you discipleship partners or competitors?
- Are you helping each other become more spiritual? More Christ-like?
- Are you depending on the externals or the eternal for your relationship?
- Do you understand each other better?
- Are you sensitive to each other’s feelings and ideas, or taking each other for granted?
- Are you seeing God answer our prayers as friends and allies? (Are you praying for each other?)
- Are you enriched because of your relationship, or robbing each other of God’s blessing?
May this be an area that we can mature in as disciples, followers of Jesus Christ. Will they know you are Christians by your love? If someone watches you from across the room, will they see Jesus manifested in your life?