Husbands, Honor Your Wives (1 Peter 3:7)Series: 1 Peter (Living in Exile)
I grew up in a home with three other brothers, but no sisters. Ashley travelled to Arkansas to meet my family in the summer of 2009 in between our sophomore and junior years of college. One day we went canoeing and then came back to the house to play a card game named “Nerts.” It is a fast-paced game and it always got rowdy in my family. We called names, slapped, pushed, threw cards. It was great. After we cleaned up, I realized Ashley had disappeared. I found her in her bedroom crying. “You guys are so mean! You all hate each other!” I was confused — we just finished playing the most amazing game of Nerts ever. “No we don’t, we were just having fun!” She replied, “Then why is your mom crying too?”
We are in exile. Peter has addressed us as foreigners who need to live very carefully as God’s minorities in the majority society. If we don’t, we will give the world reason to slander us. But if we will live in a distinct, honorable way, we may actually turn the world so that they actually glorify God with us. In particular, Peter has been instructing us about our relationships — being subject to governing authorities, to masters, and wives to husbands. In each situation he has carefully spoken to people who have no power and honored them with special encouragement to do what is right. For husbands, he has one very direct sentence that ought to sober us up really quick. Peter offers two instructions and two reasons why husbands should obey.
Do: live with your wife in an understanding way
We men like to be the authoritative experts in our field. We don’t want to look dumb. We want to be competent. But do we understand our wives? If not, how can we live with them in an understanding way? Do you remember how you treated her when you were still dating? You were sensitive to her needs and careful with your tone. You tried to avoid misunderstandings. You wanted her to know her likes and dislikes. Now, many wives stop expecting anything thoughtful from their husbands because it is too painful to keep being let down.
Ashley’s sister is getting married this summer and it has been neat to watch how she and her fiancé interact — they are always very considerate of one another. They are friends. They flirt. When they disagree about something, they laugh at their differences. There is not supposed to be a dissonance between then and now.
Husbands, you might be thinking: she’s too complicated, too sensitive, I don’t understand her, she does things wrong. We don’t have to be Christians. Nobody is twisting our arms. But if we are going to do this, we need to remember who we are doing this for. We are doing this for the Lord (Col. 3:23-24). When we study our wives, figure out what makes them tick, and live with them in a considerate way, this is one way we show the Lord we respect him. Furthermore, Paul says, “He who loves his wife loves himself.” Not only are we hurting her if we do not live with her in an understanding way, we are hurting ourselves.
Do: show honor to her as the weaker vessel
Do you have things in your home that are considered prized possessions? Valuable things that you handle delicately? For us, it’s our premium Bibles. Premium Bibles are actually more sturdy and durable than cheap, economy Bibles, but that doesn’t mean we are careless with them. We read them, but there is a certain care and reverence for how we deal with them. We don’t leave them outside. We don’t let the kids play with them.
I don’t know that Peter is saying that our wives are actually weaker than us. He could be pointing to the fact that women can generally tend to be weaker in body, in boldness, and in social standing, so you need to make sure you honor her. Or maybe he’s saying you should honor her as if she were a delicate vessel — whether or not she actually is.
Either way, do we realize the weak, vulnerable position our wives are in? She has left her family and she’s trusting you. Do we honor her? Do we uplift her in front of the kids? Do we open doors for her? Get out of the way when she is working? Do we praise her? Do we show her she is precious to us in what we do for her, buy for her, say to her? By the way, this is really easy to do in front of other people or to post on social media. It is another thing to do this behind closed doors.
How do we treat her when the doors are closed? Do we speak to her like she’s our slave — giving her deadlines, criticizing her, acting like she is dumb? It’s one thing to meekly lead her with respect. It’s another thing to act like she’s an employee that we have to manage. Yes, because that’s why women get married — they are a helpless little lambs wandering around the countryside looking for a beau to rescue them and tell them how to cook, clean, and spend money.
Peter isn’t just calling us to not treat her like a slave, he’s telling us to honor her. Honoring our wives means praising not criticizing them. It means thanking them for the meals they make and for the other unseen things they do. It means doing the dishes for them. It means recognizing she is just as intelligent as you and treating her as such. It means she gets the same amount of spending money as you or more whether or not she works a paid job — because she works just as hard or harder than you. It means we don’t give her the leftovers of anything.
Here’s a good time for a reminder: Proverbs 31 wasn’t written to tell wives how to be perfect, it was a mother helping her son see that he has the ideal wife and he had better reward and honor her for that. Proverbs 31:28–31 ESV, “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”
Peter offers two reasons why it is vital for us to treat our wife in this way.
Since They Are Heirs With You
Wives have weaker frames, quieter voices, and a submissive role, and so that can lead us to think differently, but they are heirs with us. This may be saying she is an heir of the same reward in the age to come, or it may be saying she is an heir in life with us right now. Either way, she has the same standing before God as we do. Look at your wife as your sister in Jesus Christ. She stands on the same footing as you now. And in the age to come, she will stand on the same footing as you then — you won’t be bossing her around. In fact, if we are bossing her around now, we likely won’t be heirs with her of eternal life, and we aren’t heirs with her now.
So That Your Prayers Aren’t Hindered
Prayer is precious communion between us and God and we sever it when we do not honor our wives and live with them in an understanding way. Do you ever feel like there is a wall between you and God? Can you unashamedly come to God’s throne and pour your heart out? Beg of him what you need and offer praise to him and have 100% confidence he hears you? Does it ever seem that God doesn’t have your back?
Isaiah 59:1–2 NIV11, “Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” When we do not treat our wives properly, our prayers are hindered. Or, as my brother put it, husbands who mistreat their wives do not have a relationship with God.
Reminder: Keep Your Conduct Among the Gentiles Honorable (2:12)
Consider the ramifications of the fact that this is how Peter started this section in 2:12, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” The church should be known as a place where wives, sisters, and daughters are honored and protected as precious to us.
And yet this is not always our reputation. The world often associates unreasonably high demands for wives, the inconsiderate behavior of husbands, and the mistreatment of women with traditional Christian values. Sometimes, this is an unfounded misunderstanding. Sometimes, this is an accurate evaluation of Christian husbands. A Christian woman spoke to me about this last year. She asked “Why is it that women have a voice to deal with inappropriate behavior everywhere in the world except the church?” We are supposed to honor women as the weaker vessel, and yet, she said, “A lot of women and girls are left to their own devices to deal with inappropriate behavior,” as if they have the same brute force and social standing as we men do.
Men treating women improperly is a big problem in Christendom. Many wives are broken by how their husbands are treating them. When we don’t confess our sins and repent of our wrongs against any woman, we cause shame to come upon Christ’s church and Christ’s name. Women — if your husband or a man here is not treating you right, let’s talk to him together. Brothers, sometimes we need another man to remind us how to treat our wives, don’t we? And if you are in danger, call us, but first call the police. If he gives excuses or threatens you, ignore it. First Samuel 15 and 2nd Samuel 12 can show you the difference between real and fake repentance.
The woman I spoke with made an interesting observation. “Women are conditioned from a young age to believe that it is acceptable for men to yell at women based on how their fathers speak to them and their moms.” How we talk to and treat our wives now teaches our sons how they should treat their mother, sisters, their future wife, and their future daughters. It teaches our daughters what we believe is acceptable. Do we want our daughters to marry a man that treats them like we treat our wives?
I grew up in a home where it was 100% evident: when Dad got home he could not wait to see Mom, and Mom could not wait to see him. When he got home, we had to sit there and watch them make out in the kitchen. Often, he didn’t make it out of the entry way from the garage before Mom met him. That has drastically affected how Ashley and I interact. If your wife isn’t excited to see you, maybe it’s because you aren’t a very pleasing person to be around. Brothers, let us keep our conduct honorable so that the church will praise Christ and his church, not mock them.
Woe Is Me (Isaiah 6:1-5)
Have you ever had the experience where you speak rudely to your spouse and then you suddenly realize that someone else heard you? It’s embarrassing. Isaiah had a worse moment. One day Isaiah suddenly found himself in God’s heavenly temple where the Lord was high and lifted up and seraphim were praising God as “holy, holy, holy.” There, he had the most horrible realization. Isaiah 6:5, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” And afterwards a seraphim atones for his sin with a burning coal so that he can actually be in God’s presence, but I want you to notice something else: he is horrified by the words that have passed his lips. Our sins cannot be atoned for if we do not repent, and repentance is not saying sorry and giving excuses — it’s making an embodied change in how we think, act, and talk. And we are not going to repent like that if we are not genuinely horrified by the words that have passed our lips, as Isaiah was. We have all said, “I should do better.” But is it time rather to be horrified and say, “I am lost”?
Brothers, let me recommend a practice. Get up 15 minutes earlier, go to your closet, sit on the floor, read a chapter from the Bible, and pray about it. I have found there is something very humbling about that time when I have taken it. I feel naked before God. And feeling that way will help us be humble, gracious brothers to our wives. This may make the difference between whether God hears any of our prayers, or not. Let us honor God in our exile by how we treat women. Let’s change our reputation and give the Gentiles a reason to glorify God with us.