A Model for Husbands Who Desire Marital Health (Part Two)
Jesus’ exemplary life and the way that He responded to difficult circumstances serves as a model for husbands who desire marital health.
In our previous post, we looked at how we, as biblical counselors, can use the teaching of 1 Peter 3:7 as a model for husbands who desire marital health. With Peter’s teaching, we considered seven truths of Christ and the Gospel as the motivation and fuel that enable men to be 3:7 husbands. Today, we look at three applications of these seven truths and how they might help ourselves and those we counsel to grow in Christ-likeness.
Three Applications of the Seven Truths
So, “likewise,” in view of Christ’s example, His gracious response to our waywardness and abuse, His righteousness exchanged for our unrighteousness, His substitutionary atonement, the healing that He purchased for us, and His lordship over our lives, husbands should (literally), “live together with your wives in a way that is according to knowledge” (synoikountes kata gnōsin). This is a command, and the first application of the seven truths named in 1 Peter 2:22-25.
While I think it is true that kata gnōsin (“according to knowledge”) refers to “understanding” or “being considerate of” one’s wife, I would also agree with Tom Schreiner (The New American Commentary, Vol. 37, pp 159-160) that this text primarily refers to the husband’s relationship with God. This phrase, together with the last phrase of the verse (“so that your prayers may not be hindered”), makes clear that the way a husband treats his wife is to represent the way that God has treated him and has implications for his ongoing relationship to God.
How reminiscent this is of James 4:1-4, where James speaks of our prayers going unanswered because they are asked for selfish ends, “to spend it on your passions”. When a husband is focused on his own desires and passions, making their fulfillment ultimate in marriage, his prayers (typically for his wife to change) will be hindered. Only when the idols of comfort, approval, power, control, etc. are identified, confessed, mourned over and repented of can a husband enjoy the amazing grace offered by Christ and begin to truly understand the value of another, of his wife.
A 3:7 husband lives with his wife according to his knowledge of how God has designed her, and more importantly, according to his knowledge of God. Questions for husbands to ask themselves (and their wives):
- Do I seek to understand God’s unique design of my wife, and try to live with her accordingly?
- Am I considerate of my wife?
- Do I understand God’s call on my life to love my wife as Christ loves His bride, the church?
- What examples can I give of living with my wife according to this knowledge?
- What examples might she give to the contrary?
Secondly, husbands are called to “show honor” to their wives, and all women, “as the weaker vessel.” (Peter uses the word for “female” or “woman” here, gynaikeios, instead of the word for “wife”.) The term “weaker vessel” is commonly misunderstood and misapplied to imply some kind of inferiority, but Peter isn’t implying that at all. A “vessel” in Peter’s day would have been universally understood as some type of container. In 2 Timothy 2:20-21, Paul speaks of types of household vessels made of gold and silver and vessels made of wood and clay – vessels of honor and vessels of dishonor.
Think of the difference between the honor shown for the everyday dishes in a home versus the respect shown for the fine china. In my home, we have the everyday dishes that we eat off of most of the time. We’ve been through several sets of those dishes in our marriage, as various plates, cups and bowls have gotten chipped, cracked and broken from everyday use. But we also have the really fancy plates, bowls and cups that we were given when we got married. We only bring those out on special occasions, and we treat them very carefully, because we wouldn’t be able to replace them if something happened to them and they are special to us because they were wedding gifts. In view of this consideration of women as “weaker vessels,” husbands should not be harsh with them (Colossians 3:19), but gentle.
A 3:7 husband treats his wife (and all women) with honor, as precious fine china – irreplaceable, priceless, and worthy of special care. Questions for husbands to ask themselves (and their wives):
- Does my wife feel irreplaceable and highly valued to me?
- Does she feel more like the everyday dishes, or the fine china?
- In what ways do I honor her?
- In what ways do I take her for granted?
- What examples would she give?
- Would she feel safe mentioning that she does not feel honored?
- How do I respond when she shares concerns with me?
Finally, husbands are to treat their wives with respect – as equals in value, worth and dignity, “since they are heirs with you of the grace of life.” This teaching would have been very counter-cultural when Peter wrote it, during a time when gender inequality was considered the norm. But Jesus and the New Testament writers taught a radically different view of gender roles than was commonly held, recognizing the intrinsic worth of women as individuals and granting them respect and dignity that they were not accorded in society at-large. There is no place in the Christian home for one spouse to look down upon the other in any way. Such a view would be completely antithetical to the Christian view of marriage as a one-flesh relationship.
A 3:7 husband recognizes his wife as equal to him in value, worth and dignity and treats her with the respect that she deserves as a co-heir with him of the grace of life. Questions for husbands to ask themselves (and their wives):
- Does my wife feel respected as an equal partner in this marriage?
- Is responsibility shared in our marriage?
- Do I invite and honestly value my wife’s feedback on how I am doing as a husband?
- Can my wife disagree with me without punishment or retribution?
- Do I apologize to my wife when I am wrong? Does she believe that her opinions matter?
The 3:7 Husband Knows, Honors and Respects His Wife – Regardless
The 3:7 husband will grow steadily in these three areas: knowing God and God’s unique design for his wife, honoring his wife as a precious and irreplaceable gift from God, and respecting his wife as a co-heir with him of the grace of life. His growth in these areas will often be of the two-steps-forward-one-step-back variety, but steady growth will ensue if he continually reminds himself of the seven truths of Christ and the gospel given in 1 Peter 2:22-25, and if he is willing to humble himself, submit himself to God and repent when he fails. The 3:7 husband may not get a happy marriage, or a reconciled marriage if his marriage is already broken. But he will know Christ more deeply and image Him more truly.
Posted on June 16, 2016