1 Peter 3:7 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.
We learn four things about how a husband ought to treat his wife here. First, he is to live with his wife with an attitude of understanding. There are so many jokes among men concerning how difficult it is to understand a woman, why she thinks as she does, why she feels as she does, why she communicates as she does. Men and women are different and while men may easily understand other men, in order to understand one’s wife, it will require more thoughtfulness, more consideration, more wisdom, more understanding. The husband is here enjoined to not respond in knee-jerk fashion to his wife with gruff directness but to stop and think, to pause and consider, and once having reflected on the nature and differences of his wife, only then to respond. Rather than an exasperated, “Why do you always…?” there can come a tender, “Oh, I see what you mean, let me help.”
Second, a husband is to honor his wife as a weaker vessel. This most clearly points to the obvious physical differences between men and women on average. Clearly God has intended a husband to live as the protector of his wife, whose beauty ornaments the life and home of the husband. We honor then the more fragile vessels, fine china, crystal glass, original paintings and sculpture. Each one is treated with more, care more honor than common crude vessels. What a gross misuse of his office when a husband raises a hand against the more beautiful and fragile vessel given to enhance his life. This teaching is not meant to diminish the physical capabilities of any woman, only rather to set the husband in the position of protector of his wife, upon whom then he rightly bestows honor.
Third, husbands are to live together with their wives recognizing that they are fully coheirs of the grace of God. If the first two points call husbands to treat their wives differently than themselves than this one calls for treatment as equals before the Lord. A husband is to recognize his wife’s spiritual privileges as equal to his own. She too may come before the throne of grace, she too has the Spirit, she too a child of the Father, she too is formed in the image of Christ, she too awaits an inheritance from above, she too will walk in paradise unburdened by her sin. The husband can find no better companion for the spiritual aspect of life’s journey than his sister of faith whom God has placed at his side. Let him then press on in the Christian walk encouraged by the faith of his wife.
Fourth, the entire life of the husband with his wife must be conducted peacefully, with understanding, by honoring the weaker vessel, living with her as a coheir, in order that their prayer lives may press on unhindered. For what more stops up prayer than a domestic quarrel? When a husband and wife feud and fume against one another their minds and emotions so rise in anger or hurt, that prayer is blocked up as by a dam of rage. Focused on the failings of the other, we are in no mind to prayer, other than brief invectives. Far less are we inclined to sit and pray together with the one against whom we have declared war. Peace must reign regularly in the home for prayers, both singularly and jointly, to rise to heaven in the harmony of agreement.
Here in a verse the Lord provides for husbands a sure road map for navigating life with his wife: understanding her ways, honoring her weakness, recognizing her spiritual equality, praying together with her. Here in short is a marriage manual provided by heaven itself. Husbands, take up and read!
Author: Dr. Tom Hawkes
Image: Edouard Manet