Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)
Given the plethora of resources available about love, sex, and marriage, it is a sad and tragic irony that there are over 750,000 divorces in America each year. What the Lord intended to be holy wedlock has become an unholy deadlock for about half of all marriages. The statistics are the same for both believers and unbelievers, which reveals the depth that secular ideology has permeated the church.
Scripture makes it clear that God's will for husbands and wives is that they be together what they could never be apart. Therefore, is it any surprise that Satan’s chief strategy is to alienate husbands from their wives? If he wins that battle, the church is weakened and the cause of Christ hindered since the church is only as strong as the families which comprise its membership.
Last Monday, Judith and I celebrated 47 years of marriage, and I cannot think of anything better to share with you than a few ponderings about the biblical mandate for men to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25).
Not that I am one to talk. As a man comes to know himself in light of the glorious God he calls Father, he realizes that all that he is and all that he has is solely by grace. He finds nothing in which to boast except in the cross of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is humbling to know that Judith would, and did, share her life with the likes of me. I certainly hope that you who read these words feel the same way about yourself. “He that finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor of the Lord.” (Proverbs 18:22)
Peter’s exhortation above provides an excellent description of a husband’s sacrificial love. There are four requirements of the man who would love his wife as Christ loved the church:
1. The Physical Requirement
The word “dwell” implies more than just location and refers to an investment of time. I once read a study that stated the average couple spends 37 minutes a week in meaningful communication. (If you’re first thought was “that much?” you’re in trouble.) Under Mosaic law, a newly married man was to be “free at home for one year.” Sacrificially loving your wife may require giving up that time you’ve reserved for self in order to share greater intimacy with her.
2. The Intellectual Requirement
In my years of marriage counseling, I’ve learned that women are much more inclined to read the books I recommend. And getting men to attend marriage seminars is like pulling teeth. Usually, it’s because they don’t see the need or don’t want to invest the time (see No.1).
God requires a man to relate to his wife in an understanding way. In marriage, ignorance is not bliss! The intellectual requirement of sacrificial love for our wives means we’re willing to learn from them and about them. That is, we listen with an open heart, seeking to understand. It also means we’re willing to read good, solid material to enhance that understanding.
3. The Psychological Requirement
When Peter exhorts us to “give honor to the wife,” he’s referring to the worth and value we’ve placed on her. If chivalry is dead in today’s culture, and to a great extent it is, I say let’s resurrect it. Guys, strive to be the knight in shining armor for that fair maiden you call wife. Happiness in marriage is composed of small kindnesses, and big resentments can grow out of little hurts.
It's been said that in marriage, the wife is the thermometer and the husband the thermostat. To a great degree you determine the atmosphere at home through the respect and honor you show her on a daily basis. Let it be an atmosphere that demonstrates that the value you place on your spouse is “far above rubies.”
4. The Spiritual Requirement
Peter states that a man’s failure to give honor to his wife can hinder him spiritually. In fact, some scholars suggest he may well be referring to the prayer for the salvation of an unbelieving spouse. Sacrificial love will always concern itself with the spiritual well-being of others, particularly a wife. When a man loves his wife sacrificially, giving up time for her, growing in his understanding of her needs, and showing her how much he values her, the payoff is grace.
The phrase “fellow heirs of the grace of life” is difficult to interpret and scholars are not set on just one answer. But as I ponder my own life, and how good the Lord has been to Judith and me over these 47 years, I think Peter is referring to God’s promise of grace for a blessed future. The man who love his wife as Christ loved the church, and the wife who joyfully submits to that husband will experience great blessing as they journey through life. Marriage is God’s most precious gift in life.
Homework: Write down the three things your spouse most enjoys doing.
Matters for Marital Meditation:
1. Is there a spirit of competition in your marriage?
2. Are you encouraging your wife spiritually?
3. Do you emphasize externals over the eternal?
4. Do you actively seek to understand your wife?
5. Do you express gratitude to God for your wife?
6. Do you experience answers to your prayers?
7. Is your life enriched by her?