Have you noticed the strain that troubled times can put on a marriage?
In a good marriage, a couple weathers life’s difficulties, and the relationship becomes stronger. But that’s only the case when both husband and wife come to the point of affirming (or reaffirming, as the case may be) their respective marital responsibilities.
1 Peter 3 deals with couples enduring troubled times, reminding them of those basic, marriage-saving duties.
For the wife’s part, she is to demonstrate submission to her husband’s leadership in the home (vv. 1-6). The attitude of submission—largely scorned in modern culture—is not demonstrated by a mindless groveling before a heartless brute.
Instead, it is respectfulness of the husband’s fundamental position as the home’s leader, realizing that this imperfect man will make mistakes, sometimes leading in wrong directions. Nevertheless, but he is the one to whom God has given the decision-making responsibility. Some wives reluctantly accept that role, but do so kicking and screaming.
The Scripture calls for a different approach—a meek and quiet spirit. If the wife graciously accepts this fundamental responsibility, troubled times can be weathered well.
But for this relationship truly to thrive, the husband must accept his duty as well.
In v. 7, Peter exhorts the men to live with their wives intelligently (“according to knowledge”). Not only does this mean he must know what she is like, but the good husband will also want to know what she likes. That is, before making a decision, for example, he’ll take the time to sound out his wife’s opinion and get her viewpoint, which will be seriously weighed before a final decision is made.
He will also treat her with great respect, “giving honor unto the wife as unto the weaker vessel.” This statement has been variously misunderstood as men have tried to enumerate all the ways in which women are “weaker.”
But that’s not what Peter’s emphasizing.
The “weaker vessel” is the more delicate, hence, more valuable, vessel. Some men treat their wives like they’re an everyday plastic pitcher that can be tossed around, carelessly handled, and still expected to function at peak performance. The biblical and wise husband instead treats his wife like an Austrian crystal pitcher—with thoughtfulness and carefulness because of her great value.
In practical terms, that means treating her with loving respect—again, getting her viewpoint, opinions, and desires; making decisions with her welfare in mind; personally sacrificing for her comfort and well-being; treating her like a most valuable partner.
This kind of relationship can weather any storm the sea of life churns up.