This has been an incredible year in the life of the church I pastor and in my family. We’ve seen God use Fireproof to touch millions with the gospel and to impact millions of marriages. The emails have flooded in, and every week we hear stories of restoration, redemption, grace and second chances. No, this is not sloppy agape—it’s genuine love that demands confession, repentance and a turning away from bad habits, attitudes, and actions.
A few weeks ago I was sitting in a conference with a brother in Christ who brought these Scriptures to mind. “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 honor 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, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:7-9).
One of my heroes, and a dear friend, is Warren Wiersbe. I love his ability to cut to the chase and give deep insight into texts. This is what he says about these verses:
“As Peter wrote to the Christian husbands, he reminded them of four areas of responsibility in their relationship with their mates.
Physical – “dwell with them.” This implies much more than sharing the same address. Marriage is fundamentally a physical relationship: “They two shall be one flesh” (Eph 5:31). Of course, Christian mates enjoy a deeper spiritual relationship, but the two go together (1 Cor 7:1-5). A truly spiritual husband will fulfill his marital duties and love his wife.
The husband must make time to be home with his wife. Christian workers and church officers who get too busy running around solving other people’s problems, may end up creating problems of their own at home. One survey revealed that the average husband and wife had thirty-seven minutes a week together in actual communication! Is it any wonder that marriages fall apart after the children grow up and leave home? The husband and wife are left alone—to live with strangers!
“Dwell with them” also suggests that the husband provide for the physical and material needs of the home. While it is not wrong for a wife to have a job or career, her first responsibility is to care for the home (Titus 2:4-5). It is the husband who should provide (1 Tim 5:8).
Intellectual – “according to knowledge.” Somebody asked Mrs. Albert Einstein if she understood Dr. Einstein’s theory of relativity, and she replied, “No, but I understand the Doctor.” In my premarital counseling as a pastor, I often gave the couple pads of paper and asked them to write down the three things each one thinks the other enjoys doing the most. Usually, the prospective bride made her list immediately; the man would sit and ponder. And usually the girl was right but the man wrong! What a beginning for a marriage!
It is amazing that two married people can live together and not really know each other! Ignorance is dangerous in any area of life, but it is especially dangerous in marriage. A Christian husband needs to know his wife’s moods, feelings, needs, fears, and hopes. He needs to “listen with his heart” and share meaningful communication with her. There must be in the home such a protective atmosphere of love and submission that the husband and wife can disagree and still be happy together.
“Speaking the truth in love” is the solution to the communications problem (Eph 4:15). It has well been said that love without truth is hypocrisy, and truth without love is brutality. We need both truth and love if we are to grow in our understanding of one another. How can a husband show consideration for his wife if he does not understand her needs or problems? To say, “I never knew you felt that way!” is to confess that, at some point, one mate excommunicated the other. When either mate is afraid to be open and honest about a matter, then he or she is building walls and not bridges.
Emotional – “giving honor unto the wife.” Chivalry may be dead, but every husband must be a “knight in shining armor” who treats his wife like a princess. (By the way, the name Sarah means “princess.”) Peter did not suggest that a wife is “the weaker vessel” mentally, morally, or spiritually, but rather physically. There are exceptions, of course, but generally speaking, the man is the stronger of the two when it comes to physical accomplishments. The husband should treat his wife like an expensive, beautiful, fragile vase, in which is a precious treasure.
When a young couple starts dating, the boy is courteous and thoughtful. After they get engaged, he shows even more courtesy and always acts as a gentleman. Sad to say, soon after they get married, many a husband forgets to be kind and gentlemanly and starts taking his wife for granted. He forgets that happiness in a home is made up of many little things, including the small courtesies of life.
Big resentments often grow out of small hurts. Husbands and wives need to be honest with each other, admit hurts, and seek forgiveness and healing. “Giving honor unto the wife” does not mean “giving in to the wife.” A husband can disagree with his wife and still respect and honor her. As the spiritual leader in the home, the husband must sometimes make decisions that are not popular; but he can still act with courtesy and respect.
“Giving honor” means that the husband respects his wife’s feelings, thinking, and desires. He may not agree with her ideas, but he respects them. Often God balances a marriage so that the husband needs what the wife has in her personality, and she likewise needs his good qualities. An impulsive husband often has a patient wife, and this helps to keep him out of trouble!
The husband must be the “thermostat” in the home, setting the emotional and spiritual temperature. The wife often is the “thermometer,” letting him know what that temperature is! Both are necessary. The husband who is sensitive to his wife’s feelings will not only make her happy, but will also grow himself and help his children live in a home that honors God.
Spiritual – “that your prayers be not hindered.” Peter assumed that husbands and wives would pray together. Often, they do not; and this is the reason for much failure and unhappiness. If unconverted people can have happy homes without prayer (and they do), how much happier Christian homes would be with prayer! In fact, it is the prayer life of a couple that indicates how things are going in the home. If something is wrong, their prayers will be hindered.
A husband and wife need to have their own private, individual prayer time each day. They also need to pray together and to have a time of “family devotion.” How this is organized will change from home to home, and even from time to time as the children grow up and schedules change. The Word of God and prayer are basic to a happy, holy home (Acts 6:4).
A husband and wife are “heirs together.” If the wife shows submission and the husband consideration, and if both submit to Christ and follow His example, then they will have an enriching experience in their marriage. If not, they will miss God’s best and rob each other of blessing and growth. “The grace of life” may refer to children, who certainly are a heritage from God (Ps 127:3); but even childless couples can enjoy spiritual riches if they will obey Peter’s admonitions.
It might be good if husbands and wives occasionally took inventory of their marriages. Here are some questions, based on what Peter wrote.
1. Are we partners or competitors?
2. Are we helping each other become more spiritual?
3. Are we depending on the externals or the eternals? The artificial or the real?
4. Do we understand each other better?
5. Are we sensitive to each other’s feelings and ideas, or taking each other for granted?
6. Are we seeing God answer our prayers?
7. Are we enriched because of our marriage, or robbing each other of God’s blessing?
Honest answers to these questions might make a difference!”
(The Bible Exposition Commentary, 1989, Chariot Victor Publishing and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)
I’ve been blessed to be married to the same woman for nearly 40 years (we married when we were children, that’s why we look so young). She is my best friend. She is a great pastor’s wife. She is an encourager. She’s a great mom to our girls. I loved watching her plan Erin’s wedding. She made the day special for our oldest daughter and special for our family. She’s a second-mile woman. Just getting by isn’t good enough for her. She does the little something more.
As a preacher, I’ve watched what happens when men don’t do the right thing. We’ve seen the devastating results of divorce and adultery in our family and in our church. It’s not easy. It’s a picture of torn flesh. Flesh torn because of selfishness and self-centeredness. Flesh torn because of sin. Flesh torn because we want our way instead of God’s way.
It is my prayer that God will use tools like Fireproof, The Love Dare and marriage ministries around the world to help turn the tide back to the “in sickness and health, in poverty and wealth, till death do us part” kind of homes. When we do, our kids will be healthier and happier, gangs will decline in influence, crime will decrease, and all without government intervention or police action. Just because two decide to live as one under the authority of God’s Word.