August 14, 2016
“Traditional marriage has been on a downward trajectory for generations.” Fewer and fewer people are getting married. This is especially true for the millennial generation. One of the primary concerns is not having the financial stability needed for a good marriage. But added to this are changing values when it comes to marriage.
Marriage is a wonderful institution that is very important for the stability of a society. It can be challenging to be married. Men and women often have to work hard to build a solid marriage.
When the Bible addresses husbands and wives it is not pop-psychology or just good common sense for how marriage works. In the Bible we learn how followers of Christ are to live in this world. The Bible can help us have a healthy and strong marriage, but God is more interested in marriages that honor Christ. That will have bearing on how husbands and wives treat each other.
Peter is interested in helping Christian wives and husbands live in the world in a way that brings honor to God and points others to Christ. Christian marriage opens up an avenue for Christian witness to the lordship of Christ. Today we consider the role of a Christian husband. We see that a Christian husband is called to be a blessing to his wife.
I. KNOW YOUR WIFE. 1Pt.3:7a
The first part of v.7 says, “Live with your wives in an understanding way.” While it seems to be a general truth to say that men do not understand women, it is also true that a husband can make great strides in understanding his wife. But why would Peter have to write this? I think it is because dominance often leads to selfishness. Peter lived in a world that catered to men and treated women as second class. Women largely existed to serve men. And even though a great deal has changed since Peter’s day, in many ways it’s still a man’s world. Society is largely patriarchal. I have no desire to enter into a discussion on whether or not that is how it should or shouldn’t be. I am more concerned with thinking about what it means for a man to be a Christian husband. Peter says it means living with your wife in an understanding way.
Now every day is a new day. It is never too late to begin a new approach to living with your wife. Your wife may be a difficult woman to live with. If that is the case, yes, being married will be challenging. Here’s the thing. You cannot make your wife change, but you can bring change to yourself with the help of the Holy Spirit. And one of the important changes that you may have to make is learning to live with your wife in an understanding way.
To live with one’s wife in an understanding way means that you have understanding of your wife. Do you understand something about your wife’s background, her family life while growing up? Do you know what her dreams are? Do you know the goals she has for life? Do you know the things that bother her, the things that she worries about? Do you have knowledge of the things she regrets in her life? Do you have a sense about what brings her joy? Do you know what her favorite foods are? Does she like flowers? Do you have understanding of her spiritual life? Does she know the Lord?
Men, marriage is one of God’s finishing schools for our lives. In marriage we have the opportunity to learn to die to ourselves. The quickest way to finding fulfillment and joy in marriage is die to yourself. But dying to self is not a quick project. So what would the next step be for you to begin living with your wife in an understanding way? The next step might be a heartfelt apology for being self-centered. The next step might be regularly asking the Lord to help you attend to your wife.
One of my regular prayers is that the Lord will help me to be a blessing to Angie each day. I pray this because I can be so into myself. I read and think a lot and in the evenings when my mind is tired I play candy crush. One of my challenges is to attend to Angie when she talks to me.
Maybe there are things about your wife that are dysfunctional. Maybe she has habits that deeply bother you. Is there a way to gain understanding about it? What’s behind the dysfunction or habits? There is nothing easy about these situations. But being resentful isn’t going to help. So maybe you need to take steps to forgive your wife in your heart. Jesus Christ is Lord in your house. If you are a Christian then ultimately the way you treat your wife is about your relationship with the Lord. And if you have destructive habits or ways in which you are dysfunctional, it might be helpful to get counseling. You owe it to yourself and your wife. Peter says, “Live with your wife in an understanding way.” Get to know your wife.
II. HONOR YOUR WIFE. 1Pt.3:7b
The second part of the verse reads, “showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life.” When we honor someone we elevate them. We have regard for them. We respect them. And in marriage I am going say that we serve our spouse because we honor them.
Peter gives two reasons why we are to honor our wives. First he say we honor our wives because they are the weaker vessel. The obvious meaning is that men are physically stronger than women. When it comes to brute force, men have it over women. This is not to say that women are not strong. I have watched African women carry heavy objects on their heads and spend long hours working in the fields. And I wouldn’t want to play rugby with our US women’s rugby team. But generally men are stronger than women. Unfortunately there are a good number of men, including Christian men, who use their strength in harmful ways. Physical, sexual abuse is common in our society. And when Christian men abuse their wives that is deeply sinful and so destructive.
When we value something that we can easily break, we treat that thing with great care. Again I’m speaking in a general way. Husbands, we have no right as Christians to overpower our wives. The use of force is not the way of Jesus. In fact, as Christians our goal ought to be to offer ourselves in service to our wives, especially because they are the weaker vessel. Our goal ought to be to protect our wives because they are the weaker vessel. Would you give your life for your wife?
Then Peter says that we are to honor our wives because they are fellow heirs of the grace of life. Clearly God views men and women as having equal value. It was a woman, Mary, who bore Jesus our Savior into the world. Women are just as much heirs of God’s grace as any man. And because of this Christian husbands are to honor and serve their wives as joint heirs of life in Christ. God gives the same blessings of his grace and mercy to men and women who enter into life with Christ. Husbands, how do you think an heir of the grace of life should be treated? Whether or not your wife is a Christian you should treat her as Jesus would treat her.
It is true that honoring and serving our wives can be challenging. It’s one thing to volunteer at the church or some other ministry once a week or once a month, it’s quite another to honor and serve our wives 24 hours a day. Many of us will struggle to do this. Like everyone else, we wrestle with temptation and sin. We get worried; we get angry; we make dumb decisions; we are human. But you know what? As you seek to honor and serve your wife I imagine that most wives will take note and be very grateful. Honor your wife. What can you do to serve your wife today? What would help her? What would bless her? If it is difficult to do it for your wife than do it for the Lord. Do not stop serving. Do not give up.
III. PRIORITIZE PRAYER. 1Pt.3:7c
The last part of the verse says, “so that your prayers may not be hindered.” Well this comes as a bit of a surprise. I can’t think of another verse like this in the Bible, except maybe Ps.66:18 which says, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” But when I read this verse in 1Pt.3 it always comes as a surprise because prayer is not in the context of these verses. It seems to come out of the blue.
How important is prayer to us? Brothers could you get along without prayer? Do you get along without prayer? Quite frankly I know many people who seem to do just fine without an active prayer life, but then they are not trying to live as followers of Christ. The role of prayer in our lives says something about our faith. If Jesus Christ is little more than someone who keeps us from going to hell then we have misunderstood the gospel. Jesus is not an insurance policy. Jesus is the giver of new life in the kingdom of God. We put our faith in Jesus not as a hedge against death and hell, but as the Savior, Lord and King who gives us his righteous, eternal life to live. Anyone who seeks to live as a follower of Jesus will be seeking the Lord in prayer on a regular basis because this world does not embrace Jesus. Being a follower of Christ is challenging. It effects everything we do and say.
It can be challenging to live with our wives without ongoing disagreement and arguing. It calls for regular prayer wouldn’t you agree? But Peter tells us that if we do not live with our wives in an understanding way, showing honor to them, then our prayers will be hindered. I don’t know exactly what that means and I don’t really want to find out. I can’t afford to have my prayers hindered. Can you?
Now this isn’t meant to be a burden to us. Who wants to live in disagreement and conflict? That doesn’t make for a happy life. The goal of Peter’s admonition is for our good and the good of our marriage and for the glory of God.
When a man and a woman get married, it is usually a very joyous occasion. We often cry at weddings. We eat and dance and celebrate with the happy couple. We want the best for them. We want the best for them because we know that it isn’t always easy. Every marriage experiences seasons of happiness and difficulty. For the husbands who are here this morning, I want to encourage you to do your best to be a blessing to your wife. Ask the Lord to help you be gracious. Amen.