1 Peterby David Burge
Near our front door at home, we have a wedding photo. When I look at my wife in that photo, I am filled with a sense of wonder that she would entrust herself and so much of her future happiness to me. When a bride says ″I do″, it is an incredible honour for a man to receive.
But tragically, a husband may forget or even deliberately trample on the honour and trust given him by his wife. It must grieve God to see a precious daughter mistreated by the man who should be most committed to her flourishing.
In 1 Peter 3:1 and 7, Peter uses the phrase ″in the same way″ to link what he says here to husbands and wives, with the way all of us are to submit to authorities (2:13, 18; 3:8) and to imitate Jesus (see 3:13-18).
God gives two instructions to guide husbands. First, ″be considerate as you live with your wives″ (v. 7). The word ″considerate″ is literally ″according to knowledge″ or ″in an understanding way″. What is this knowledge? Is it knowledge of God, or knowledge of women more generally, or knowledge of one's wife in particular? It is probably all of these. Living according to knowledge is to live wisely with your wife.
Peter refers to the wife as ″the weaker vessel″ (v. 7 ESV). The word ″vessel″ suggests that it may be her body and physical strength he is primarily referring to. Certainly, Peter is not suggesting less intelligence, wisdom, or capability, as some Christians have wrongly thought at different times.
Being physically weaker can put wives in a vulnerable position in marriage. Is this a reason for a husband to disrespect one's wife? On the contrary, Peter adds a second instruction that is the opposite of abuse or degradation. Husbands are to ″treat them with respect″ (v. 7), or more literally, to ″grant her honour″. Many wives appreciate having an understanding husband-one who honours her and respects the ways her needs and desires may differ from his.
The honour due to every Christian wife comes not only through her created dignity as a human, but also as God's child. Wives are ″heirs with you of the gracious gift of life″ (v. 7), and are never to be treated with less respect than a fellow heir of this gift. A wife is to be cherished as a child of the King and as a dear sister in Christ.
A further motivation Peter adds is ″so that nothing will hinder your prayers″ (v. 7). This may refer primarily to the husbands' prayers, since God's ears are open to the prayers of the righteous (v. 12). A cruel or degrading husband should not presume to have God's ear. Such a husband will also struggle to pray with his wife, and so miss the marital strengthening that praying together brings.
How might you or your church better promote a healthy view of manhood and womanhood?
How might you or your church promote healthy marriages?