Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Weaker Vessel and Those That Care For Them

Today I want to talk about myself.  Not myself specifically, but myself as a husband and husbands in general.  Being a spiritual leader is more than just being a leader in terms of Bible study, prayer, going to church, and leading as a servant leader just as Christ led when He was on Earth.  Being a leader means being an example.  Quite honestly, that is hard sometimes.  I hate those times I react to things in the flesh and need to be corrected by my wife that I should be looking at things differently than I am.  It is not that I am prideful that I should know better than my wife, but it is about me being shameful that I didn't.  It is the same of looking at my flesh or my circumstances and not on Jesus.  When that happens, as happens in many men, we react to situations angrily.  Now there are times to be angry and as humans there are times we will be angry.  Sometimes, that anger is even justified, but we must remember that even in our anger, we are ministers of grace and need to be that example to our wives.  There is never ever a right time to lash out at our wives or act grumpy towards our wives.  There is never a time to raise our voice in anger at our wives.  And there is certainly never a right time to humiliate our wives in public by our bad behavior.  When we do that, we fail as a husband and as a witness. 
Husbands, likewise, dwell with [them] with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as [being] heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.  1 Peter 3:7 NKJV
There are several Scriptures about the husband's responsibility to his wife.  This Scripture is a little different in that is explains how a husband is to treat his wife.  I am so glad that God gives us this passage because it limits how a man can interpret the other Scriptures regarding marriage. There are some Christian husbands (though this is a tiny minority) who justify beating their wives by the Scriptures involving submission.  This passage negates that interpretation.  Some husbands look to their wives as servants and expect them to cater to their every need with little to no concern about their needs.  Again, this verse negates that interpretation.  Some husbands make irrational decisions that hurt the wife or the family financially, emotionally, spiritually, and even sometimes physically and usually these decisions are made selfishly.  The wife goes along as she is submitting to the authority of her husband.  The husband feels justified in his selfish decision as the leader.  Again, this passage negates that interpretation.  Many people like to make a big thing out of the Bible speaking to different people in different ways at different times.  While there is some truth to that statement, we have stretched that small truth into a giant license to make Scripture mean anything we want it to mean.  We should always check our interpretation of Scripture against other Scripture.  One verse does not exist in a vacuum.  All Scripture is God's word and our interpretation of one Scripture must never violate another, otherwise our interpretation is wrong.

So now let us look at what this passage is telling us.  First of all, we are to dwell with our wives.  This may sound like an obvious point, but this does not merely mean we are to live in the same place as our wives.  We are to actively dwell with our wives, being partners in the home.  A home where the husband is regularly doing something in one room while the wife is alone doing something in another room is not a good thing.  Yes. this will happen on occasion, but I am talking about this being the norm rather than the exception.  Husbands, if you insist on going off and doing things your wife has no interest in and whatever that thing is is causing the two of you to spend less time together, please understand what that is saying.  You are telling your wife that your video game, your television show, your time with your friend, or whatever else it is that you are doing is more important and more desirable than spending time with your wife.  You may still share the house, but you are actively abandoning your wife if this becomes your regular routine.  Husbands must do more than just share a house, but they must dwell with their wives.  This means spending time with her and choosing to be with her rather than whatever else it is you think you need to be doing. 

The next part is that we are to dwell with them with understanding.  This is very important,  This negates any idea of making selfish decisions or just ordering your wife to do things whether or not it hurts her.  We can not make rash or selfish decisions if we are taking the time to understand our wives.  We must know them, we must understand how what we do impacts them, and we must act with her interests in mind.  If we are called to understand our wives, it leaves us with only two choice in our actions: We either act in her best interests taking her into account or we harden our hearts and act in overt selfishness and make decisions ignoring what we understand about our wives.  We can not use the excuse that we did not understand how something would affect our wives as that only reveals an even deeper failure on our parts to even take the time to understand our wives.

The next part is that we are to honor our wives.  Husbands, these means we will not take our anger out on them if we had a bad day.  For the few who think you have some Scriptural right to beat your wife, please tell me how that can possibly be seen as honoring her.  This also means that as we understand our wives, we must honor them.  In other words, when we make decisions that affect our family, it is not just enough to know how it will affect our wives in that we understand them, but we must honor how it may affect her.  It must be an important part of any decision we make.  This also negates any idea of humiliating our wives.  Some husbands like to criticize their wives.  Some do it constantly.  Some do it in public or around friends and family.  Please explain how criticizing your wife honors her.  Please tell me how cutting down her abilities or behavior in front of other people brings any honor to her.  That answer is that it does not.  We are called to honor our wives, that means we raise them up at home and in front of others.  We honor who they are and what God is doing in their lives. We honor their contributions to the family do not just write them off with any lack of appreciation.  Even if we do need to correct our wives, we must do so in a way that honors her. 

Now Peter tells us why this is so important.  The first reason is that our wives are the weaker vessel.  This means that she is weaker emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  I know that is not always the case nowadays, but that is more of a reflection of women who marry men who have not yet grown up (or who refuse to grow up) more than anything else.  Men, you are supposed to be stronger and you are supposed to protect your wife (even from yourself) as the weaker vessel.  I know you have the physical part down.  It is an inborn part of a man to defend his wife and to be her protector.  But it is so much more than that!  You also must be stronger emotionally.  Again, men are generally more stoic and emotionally stable than women are.  It is not always the case (for the same reasons as previously mentioned), but that is God's design.  Men are called to be the emotional rock of the relationship.  Women are also supposed to be the weaker vessel spiritually.  This is where we fail the most.  Even in healthy marriages, women sometimes and for a time take on this role, but that should be the exception rather than the rule.  Men are called to be stronger spiritually than their wives.  That is why men are called to be the spiritual leaders of their wives.  Women should not have to cringe as a man sins over and over again or acts like a fool instead of a leader.  A woman should not have to constantly seek other men or women to explain spiritual things that she does not understand.  A man should not rely on his wife to be the more spiritual one.  If that is the case, you are failing as the spiritual leader of your home.  Husband, it is you who is called to protect your wife physically, emotionally, and, most importantly, spiritually.  She is the weaker vessel, you are the stronger one. 

Next, it is important to treat your wife as such because you are coheirs with Christ.  She may be the weaker vessel, but you are coequal with her before Christ.  You have no more or less a salvation than she does.  You are no more or less important or loved or less loved by God than she is.  You have no better or worse reward than she does based on your gender roles.  That should be humbling.  Being the leader temps one into thinking they are better or more important.  Your role as a husband is no more important than your wife's role as a wife.  You are not better than she is, you just have a different role.  The only reason you have that role is because God has given it to you.  God did not create the gender roles because you somehow deserved it, but just because that is how He decided to make it.  This is why we do not lord it over our wives, abuse our wives, or act selfishly towards our wives, because all of those actions imply that somehow you are more important than your wife.  You are not. 

And, finally, we treat our wives as such so that our prayers are not hindered.  Does God hinder the prayers of a husband who does not treat his wife properly?  Yes, He does.  If you are not treating your wife well, you are acting in rebellion to God.  Before God begins to answer your prayers, God first wants you to settle the issue of rebellion.  You and your wife are one flesh and that relationship is a picture for Christ's relationship to the church.  Before anything else, God wants you to reconcile that relationship.  Furthermore, if there is disharmony in your home, it is going to affect your prayer life.  If you are not praying with your wife on a very regular and frequent basis, then there is a problem.  You are your wife are one flesh and should pray as such, in one accord.  If you are not agreeing in prayer, then God is not going to answer.  You are one flesh, God will want that one flesh to sort out whatever differences there may be first.  If you can't sort it out, then that should be your prayer, but there should never be discord in your prayers. 

And so, husbands, your wife is a delicate flower (something my own wife loves to say).  Even if she is not a delicate flower as far as you can see, you are still called to treat her as one.  Protect her, care for her, and treat her as the delicate and precious gift of God that she is.  All of what I spoke of today work together as one leads to another.  You can not honor your wife if you do not take the time to understand your wife.  You can not take the time to understand your wife if you are not dwelling with your wife.   If you see your wife as a coheir with Christ, you will understand that being stronger than your wife means that your job is to protect her and not to rule over her.  In other words, the strength God gives you is to protect and care for his child and not to force your will upon her.  Husbands, love your wives even as Christ loved the church.  That is what the Bible calls us to, and Peter today explains what that means in how we treat our wives.  If you truly love your wife with a Godly love, all I just wrote will be a natural expression of that love. 
Love suffers long [and] is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NKJV

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