You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honour as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kind-hearted, and humble in spirit (I Pet.3:7-8).
The orchestra conductor has to be a person who understands and appreciates his musicians, and their instruments. If he dislikes the trombone, and excludes the player and his instrument from the performances, the overall outcome for the symphony’s listeners will be diminished.
Every family and church is like this. The individual differences that make up a family are there for a reason; God has made us different, because in our differences we can show forth the multi-faceted aspects of His purpose in the family, the Church, the community and the world. If we were all the same, how boring!
The above text emphasises the importance of husbands “understanding.” The reason that Peter directs husbands in is, is that we are primarily responsible. We must be the leader of the family in this regard. Men don’t always understand, and need to make an effort to do so, or else they and their family will suffer. Derek Prince comments that
The primary, characteristic sin of men is a sin of omission, not of commission. They fail in their responsibility-first to their wives, then to their whole families.
Gender differences are real, and are far more than biological. Parents who have had both boys and girls tend to say that “boys and girls are so different.” Men and women are designed by God to be so fundamentally different, and this is not a matter of cultural indoctrination. Men tend to say that “Knowledge is power,” whereas women will tend to emphasise that “Wisdom is power.”
Of course they are both right, and it does no good to reject or minimise the view of the opposite sex. God has made the wife to complement (not necessarily to compliment) the husband. And if she is to complement, she will have to be different to him.
Gender differences can be intensely frustrating, but this is merely a result of individuals not being able to see the wood for the trees. Thus it is a great mistake for a husband to say to his wife, “God said that I’m in charge, so if you always only ever do things my way, all will be well.” He’s really making the same mistake as the foolish conductor who only ever wants to shut down the trombone. While it is generally true that wives should submit to their husband, every husband will do himself and his wife a favour, when he will “…show her honour as a fellow heir of the grace of life…” (I Pet.3:7).
That means husbands must ensure that they take the time to listen to their wife, because the talents she has from God are there for a reason. Derek Prince writes that
The husband should always make room for his wife to speak her mind freely and be sensitive to what she is thinking or feeling, even when she does not express it in words. Her unspoken feelings are often her deepest, and the ones of which her husband needs to be the most aware. Communication failure between husband and wife is probably the most common single factor in the breakdown of a marriage.
A one-dimensional view of authority quickly leads to husbands becoming tyrants, which was never God’s plan. God knew from the beginning that Adam needed a helper, and that’s what he got. But men have to let their wife help them, and there are innumerable aspects to this, as any godly wife will know. His wife in helping him may not gratify his ego, but she isn’t there for that, for she is God’s servant primarily, not his slave. She has obligations before God to meet to the whole family.
Rushdoony has commented that
the Puritan wives were not given to servile obedience, and they provided the strong-willed help meets necessary to the conquest of a continent. The Puritan men held that the Kingship of Christ was the only absolute power, and they acted on that principle.3
A husband’s willingness to give his wife the dignity of contributing to the household the way God has designed her to do, leads to greater harmony and joy in the household, as every member of the household is contributing to the whole.
The number one problem of Western civilisation, in my view, is delinquent men, just as the number one problem of delinquent children is delinquent parents.
It’s time we husbands abandoned one-dimensional notions of authority in the family. Our authority will be increased when we grow in understanding of our wife, appreciating the great contribution she can make in the home. Appreciating and making room for her, along with the rest of the household, will lead to harmony and blessing in the household: the whole symphony playing!
And isn’t that something we all should be seeking?