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 (I Pet.3:7).
This passage is clear: when husbands show their wife honour as a “fellow heir,” it leads to improvement in their relationship, and blessing in the home.
What is it that stops husbands honouring their wife? When they neglect to love her, and focus on their own status and power, rather than integrity, responsibility, faithfulness and being a team player. Status and power are not wrong in themselves, but the single-minded pursuit of them always leads to distortions in people’s behaviour: sin.
Fallen man’s exercise of power is demonic (Rushdoony).
The Bible gives us a different approach.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus… (Phil.2:3-5).
Jesus described Israel in the 1st century as an “evil and adulterous generation…” (Mat.16:4). Consider the occasions in the Gospels when Jesus, in this unbiblical, misogynist culture, spoke (directly or indirectly) to women. His mother Mary at the wedding in Cana (Jn.2:1-5), when she comes to visit Him (Mk.3:31-35), from the cross (Jn.19:25-27), the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn.4:7-42), the woman caught in adultery (Jn.8:1-11), Mary and Martha, when Martha was frustrated with Mary (Luke 10:38-42), when Lazarus died (Jn.11:1-46), and at Jesus’ tomb (Jn.20:9-18), the woman with a haemorrhage (Mat.9:20-22); the Syrophoenician woman (Matt.15:21-28); and the daughters of Jerusalem (Luke 23:26-31).
Jesus endorsed their faith in God. On one occasion when a dead man was resurrected, he was the only son of a widow (Luke 7:11-17). He invariably looked after the best interests of these women. The man’s resurrection had huge economic implications for his mother.
Status and power seemed immaterial to Jesus. As the Son of God they were His, and He would receive much more at His enthronement. But He made it clear:
…The one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves (Luke 22:26-27).
What should always govern husband and wife relationships, is the motivation of godly service. The idea that this relationship should ever degenerate into some kind of power struggle, has no place in scripture. People locked into a power struggle will never serve one another.
How should we view the scriptural role of women, especially when we consider the popular notions of equality? Firstly, neither males or females are superior to one another. As the Bible says,
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave or free man, there is neither male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal.3:28).
Equality of worth is not the same as equality of role, or function. Just as the Son is subject to the Father, and the Father sent the Son, the husband is responsible as the head of the family. Paul explained that “…Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ” (I Cor.11:3).
Paul, in alluding to the relationship within the Trinity, uses that relationship to explain how a husband and wife should operate. Just as there is equality of worth within the Trinity, there is equality of worth or dignity, between the husband and wife. Men are not superior to women, but in God’s chain of command, He has placed husbands in authority over their wives.
As one helpful minister said:
Women are redemptively equal, functionally different.
You don’t need a degree in biology to know that a man cannot fulfil a woman’s role in reproduction, and neither can a woman fulfil a man’s. But our differences go much deeper than that.
These differences can be frustrating to us. But what was it like for Adam and Eve in the Garden? Seeing the differences from God’s perspective should lead us to understand that different does not mean wrong. On the contrary, differences challenge us to harmonise.
If the members of the orchestra cannot accept that they all have a different but valuable contribution in the performance, how will they ever produce a harmonious sound? We must learn to respect and appreciate gender differences as God designed, and not war against them as though they are some kind of evil conspiracy against our sex.
The recognition that our God-given makeups are entirely different should lead to greater understanding and appreciation for our spouse, and to this conclusion: consultation and harmony between husband and wife is the name of the game. And the Bible speaks of this:
Prepare plans by consultation, and make war by wise guidance (Prov.20:18).
Consultation requires a number of things, beginning with setting aside our pride and individualism. And there are other things required like time, patience and understanding of one another. But it pays off. When a couple are unified and of one mind, it elevates the role of both husband and wife, so that
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life (Prov.31:11-12).
And there’s more:
House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord (Prov.19:14).
He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from the Lord (Prov.18:22).
So, you really want to make headway with your wife?
Do what the Bible says, and live with her “…in an understanding way.” Then you’ll really be able to make some good music!