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A Model for Husbands Who Desire Marital Health (Part One)

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As biblical counselors serving married couples, we can use the teaching of 1 Peter 3:7 as a model for husbands who desire marital health.

Christian Counseling, Biblical Counseling, Marital Health, Association of Biblical Counselors
A Model for Husbands Who Desire Marital Health

In my clinical practice as a biblical counselor, I counsel a lot of men who have hurt their wives – emotionally, verbally or even physically. Every counselor who has worked with a couple in an abusive marriage knows how often Christian men will misuse the teaching of 1 Peter 3:1-6 to manipulate, control and dominate their wives. Sadly, many Christian men haven’t thought much, if at all, on the instructions in the verse that follows.

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)

I spend time in this text with men who are belittling and controlling towards their wives because there is so much here for Christian husbands to consider. 1 Peter 3:7 teaches that there is a particular view that Christian husbands should have of their wives that will help them love their wives well. I tell my Christian husbands who have hurt their wives that God wants them to become “3:7” husbands, and I even use this text as a template for men who are ready to reconcile with their wives.

But before I go any further, here is my important counseling caveat: there are narcissistic, self-exalting, power-hungry men who will never “get” this until Christ humbles their hearts. No amount of teaching of this verse will help them have this biblical perspective of their wives, because they don’t want it. Those men are the ones who will continue to encounter the active opposition of God (James 4:6b) and whose communion with the Lord will be hindered due to their arrogant, disobedient hearts. However, when working with a humble, repentant man who truly does not understand the role of a husband rightly, yet desires marital health, 1 Peter 3:7 is a good start.

Seven Truths About Christ and the Gospel

The most important word in 1 Peter 3:7 is “likewise,” which calls us back to the description of Christ and the gospel at the end of the previous chapter (1 Peter 2:22-25), where Peter draws heavily from Isaiah 53 to demonstrate that Jesus’ exemplary life gave us an example to follow in the way that He responded to difficult circumstances:

  1. He didn’t sin. (v. 22a)
  2. He was not deceitful. (v. 22b)
  3. When he was abused, he didn’t abuse back (v. 23a)
  4. Not only did Jesus not harm his abusers, He didn’t even threaten them with intimidating words (v. 23b)
  5. Instead, Jesus kept “handing over” (paredidou, sometimes translated “entrusted”) every aspect of His life, His mission, His cause, and those who hurt Him to God the Father. Jesus trusted that the Father “judges justly,” that God would both vindicate Him and punish His enemies if they didn’t repent.  And this verse reminds us that this “handing over” to the Father has to be a continual act. (v. 23c)
  6. And, just in case we start to think: “But that was Jesus. He was the Son of God, God in the flesh. I lack the power or the strength to respond as He did,” Peter also reminds us of the gospel itself, which gives us the power to live righteously. (v. 24)
  7. Peter further reminds us of Christ’s lordship of our lives, as we have “now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer” of our souls. (v. 25)

Peter points to the gospel and Christ’s active shepherding and oversight as all the resources that we need to follow His example. These seven truths are the motivation and fuel that enable men to be 3:7 husbands.

In our next post, we’ll consider three applications of these seven truths and how a 3:7 husband who desires marital health knows, honors and respects his wife.

Posted on June 13, 2016