You may have heard the well-worn joke that marriage is a fine institution, as long as you’re willing to be put in an institution!
Unfortunately, this joke has become the dominant view of marriage in our generation. By the year 2011, 40 percent of poll responders agreed with the statement: marriage has become obsolete in American life. Now, in the year 2021, more Americans age 18 to 44 have lived with a partner outside of marriage than lived with a spouse.
The institution of marriage is not the primary target of the enemy, God is. Marriage is merely the collateral damage of a societal attempt to strip God of his rightful glory. Frankly, a committed marriage is an obstacle to the selfish lifestyles of our culture. Biblical marriage is the most profound demonstration of Christ-like selflessness.
As the apostle Peter turns his attention toward the husband’s role in marriage, he offers a biblical perspective on marriage. When properly applied, this perspective gives God glory, both internally in the heart of the man, and externally in his witness to the world.
Peter writes, “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 3:7).
There’s a lot of truth to unpack in this verse, so let me touch on all four points Peter drives home.
The divine command.
The command here is simply, Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way. This command uses the words live and understanding to communicate a two-way relationship.
“Live with your wives” does not mean to live under the same roof, share the same bedroom and use the same last name. This phrase commands the husband to open himself up to his wife; truly live with her. Peter tells us as husbands to bring our wives to mind—take them into our hearts; let them enter our thoughts and desires and live with them as if living with our very selves.
To live with them in “an understanding way” is a convicting challenge to us as husbands to learn more than her favorite color, her favorite flower or restaurant, but to take the time to try and understand her intentionally—her challenges, needs and desires.
The creation distinctive.
Rather than let culture decide gender roles, Peter encourages all believers to return to the Garden of Eden, as it were, and follow God’s original creative design for male and female—husband and wife. Part of this understanding is what Peter communicates to a politically correct world. He refers to the wife as the weaker vessel.
This creation distinctive is not just in reference for husbands and wives, but for all men to appreciate in their understanding of women. Simply put, Peter is noting that generally, women are physically weaker than men. It isn’t a sexist attitude to admit that the average man can throw harder, run faster and lift more than the average woman. That isn’t an accident or a put down— that’s the way God designed us.
As mentioned in a previous article, Peter is not communicating any inherent inferiority of women, nor is this observation derogatory or demeaning. Frankly, there isn’t anything derogatory or demeaning in His created design of male and female. The differences shouldn’t be covered up or diminished but highlighted and enjoyed.
With this simple observation, Peter challenges men to treat women with the distinction that they have as women. They’re not a bunch of guys. They deserve to be treated with consideration and kindness; men should treat women with courtesy and deference. Here’s a question to ponder: if your sons learn to treat women the way they see you treat your wife, will they grow up to be respectful or rude toward women?
The prophetic incentive.
Peter continues: “showing honor … since they are heirs with you of the grace of life.”
This prophetic insight is intended to direct the framework by which Christian husbands treat their Christian wives. We treat our wives with honor because they are fellow heirs of an eternal kingdom.
When you look at your wife, you are not just looking at the woman created to be your helpmate—you are looking at a daughter of God, someone set apart as the bride of Christ. You happen to be chaperoning your wife through life until she is effectively handed off to her eternal Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.
In all our attitudes and actions toward our wives, we, as godly husbands, must regularly ask ourselves, “How are we taking care of a future queen in the wedding party of heaven?”
And the answer to that question should be simple, as Peter commands: with honor.
Show your wife honor by the way you talk about her, even when she isn’t there to hear you speak. Honor her in the way you provide for her. Be generous and kind. Support her financially, with the needs of the household as well as through her special interests and outreaches, as she fulfills her service to the Lord and His work.
The spiritual ultimatum.
Peter ends this verse by delivering a severe warning to husbands, “showing honor . . . so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
As marriage reflects God’s relationship toward us—the wife representing the church and the husband representing Christ—we’ve been given added responsibility. Husbands who do not love their wives are told here, in no short terms, God will not care about your prayers. When you act in sin toward your wife, you lose communion with God. When you fall out of fellowship with her, you fall out of fellowship with God.
Imagine that! When you sinfully offend your wife, you have also offended God.
With these commands and added warnings, husbands are given every possible reason to lovingly commit to the bride God created for them. When a man honors his wife, he ultimately glorifies God—in his own life and in her life. And along the way, he reflects the attributes of a faithful, loving God to His sinful, watching world.