1. UNDERSTAND YOUR WIFE
When Peter encourages husbands, he begins with a call to simply understand them, writing, “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way” (1 Peter 3:7). The word for understanding is often translated as knowledge in the New Testament. So, we’re left with this call to simply know our wives: to know her needs, to know her heart, and to continue to pursue her.
Far too often, there seems to be a tendency for husbands to get on the other side of, “I Do,” and then put the relationship on “cruise control.” The dates stop. The long conversations and sweet text messages stop. The flowers stop, and wives are left wanting. I’ve seen this play out to the point of wives seeking emotional support from another man, hoping that an emotional affair or an ongoing relationship through social media might fill the emotional void. Men who love their wives will keep pursuing her and strive to understand her heart.
2. HONOR YOUR WIFE
Peter continues his Spirit-inspired wisdom with these words: “Husbands, show honor to the woman as the weaker vessel since they are heirs with you of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7). We are to honor our wives, recognizing that a believing wife is an heir of the grace of life. Here, Peter is picking up on what he wrote earlier, when he said that followers of Christ are born again, “To an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4).
I think the point is that when we remember that our wives are heirs of an imperishable inheritance and daughters of the King, that affects how we treat them. When we remember that the Lord of Lords is preparing a place for her while we’re sharing life with her, suddenly we become acutely aware of the inappropriateness of disrespecting, dishonoring, or ignoring this incredible woman of God. The fact that our believing wives find their identity in Christ and have the Spirit of the Lord within them should move us to honor them in our words, actions, and attitudes, even when they’re not around.
3. PROTECT YOUR WIFE
As Peter is reminding husbands of the inheritance that awaits our wives, he, in the same breath, reminds us that our wives are the “weaker vessel.” Now at first glance, this almost seems like an insult, for we usually associate weakness with inability or inferiority. However, I actually believe this is a beautiful description of wives that should move husbands into action. The Bible is very clear that God made all people, both men and women, and that He created them equal in His image. And the Bible is very clear that God beautifully blessed husbands and wives with unique roles and ministries within marriage and within the home. We read about these different roles in passages like 1 Peter 3, Ephesians 5, and Colossians 3.
So when Peter refers to our wives as the “weaker vessel,” I don’t think he is saying that wives are weaker or inferior mentally, spiritually, or emotionally in any way. He’s pointing out that women are usually biologically weaker than men and that it should be common sense for husbands to, therefore, protect their wives in a way that recognizes their needs.
Now, full disclosure, I am writing as a man who is unable to beat his wife in one-on-one basketball and who finished a half-marathon a week ago only because my wife basically carried me on her back.
Even still, Peter is calling for men to take care of their wives and to avoid taking advantage of their role as the spiritual leader within the home. As Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Colossians 3:19).
When I think about how this is fleshed out within the gospel family, I remember a story I read years ago:
In July 2012, there was a theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado during a showing of the Batman movie, The Dark Knight. The Huffington Post reported the story of three couples that were in the theater that night: 26-year-old, Jon Blunk, who was watching the movie with his girlfriend, Jansen Young; 27-year-old Matt McQuinn who was with his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler; and 24-year-old Alex Teves, who was watching the movie with his girlfriend Amanda Lindgren.
As the gunman entered the movie theater and began firing his weapon, all three couples dove to the floor and hid underneath the chairs. And in each case, one shielded the other. One used their body to cover their date and protect them.
Even if you have never heard this story, and even if I never told you who shielded whom, I believe you immediately picture the men protecting the women. Intuitively, we picture Jon shielding Jansen, Matt covering Samantha, and Alex protecting Amanda. And, if I told you it was the other way around, that women pushed the men underneath the seats and used their bodies to defend the men, something within you would think that wasn’t the way it should be.
The story of all three couples found the men instinctively saving their girlfriends, using their bodies to keep them from the bullets. All three men were shot and killed, and all three women survived.
This story is tragic and heroic and resonates somewhere deep within us, for we all intuitively know that in that situation, none of us expect the girlfriends to shield their boyfriends. We all, deep down, no matter where you land on feminism or gender roles, we all imagine those men protecting those women before we ever even hear the end of the story. I think it’s this deep place within us that Peter is speaking to here when he calls husbands to protect their wives as the weaker vessel.
4. PRAY WITH YOUR WIFE
Peter tells husbands to understand, honor, and protect their wives, “So that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). Somehow, there is a connection between the health of our marriages and the health of our prayers.
While we know that our prayers affect how we live, we see the opposite is true as well. Peter writes about prayer three times in 1 Peter, and every time, he highlights the biblical truth that how we live affects our prayers (see 1 Peter 3:12; 4:7). Wayne Grudem reflects on this passage, writing, “So concerned is God that Christian husbands live in an understanding and loving way with their wives, that he interrupts his relationship with them when they are not doing so.”
Specifically here, I believe Peter is talking, not just about the husband’s private, personal prayer time, but about corporate prayer between a husband and a wife.
Donald Whitney champions this view as he discusses this passage, writing, “Have you realized that the prayers here are those prayed together by husbands and wives? The text speaks of mutual prayer. Peter assumes that Christian couples pray together. He expected Christian husbands to conduct family worship.”
Likewise, Charles Spurgeon writes, “This text would be most appropriately used to stimulate Christians to diligence in family prayer…I esteem it so highly that no language of mine can adequately express my sense of its value.”
Men have just been called to lead their families as their wives submit to them. But we’re not to be just any sort of leaders. We are to live as shepherd-leaders who spiritually lead their wives by cultivating family worship, family prayer, and family devotions within the home.
What an opportunity, whether you’ve ever led in family prayer or not, to begin today praying with your wife, seeking to understand her heart, enjoying her Spirit-led prayers as a fellow heir of the grace of life, and protecting her as you lead her to the one who can replace her depression with joy, her anxiety with peace, her needs with abundance, her complaining with contentment, her exhaustion with rest, and her insecurities with boldness!
Click here to download the free chapter on Shepherds in the Home from Jonathan’s book, Gospel Family.
Jonathan Williams is the founder of Gospel Family Ministries. He is also the author of Gospel Family. Jonathan enjoys this ministry alongside his wife, Jessica, and their three children, Gracie, Silas & Elijah. With a heart for families and the church, Jonathan also serves as the pastor of Wilcrest Baptist Church in Houston, Texas.