Men, Love and Lead Your Wives

Let’s do the men, and then maybe we’ll take another break. The men only get a verse. Why is that? I really wonder why that is. It’s a pretty dense verse. My guess is because the women were more imperiled. Culturally, they’re in a harder situation than men, and they need more guidance, more encouragement, or help because they’re — I mean, they’re going to follow Jesus in a situation where the husband’s not following Jesus. They need help, but what does that mean? Maybe. But anyway.

“Husbands, likewise.” That’s an important word. It’s the same thing we saw back with the masters in Ephesians 6, where it says, “Masters, do the same. Do the same.” So here’s “likewise.” Wait a minute, she’s submitting to me. “Now, likewise.” What does that mean? “Likewise, husbands live with your wives in an understanding way” (1 Peter 3:7). Literally, it’s according to knowledge. We’ll come back to that. That’s the first thing, so that’s number one. Live or dwell with your wives according to knowledge.

Number two: “Showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel.” So “honor as weaker vessel” may offend you, but we’ll see if it should offend you. Since — three, “they are heirs with you of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7). Then motive, so that your prayers may not be hindered. Let’s take those one at a time.

Likewise, Husbands: Living with Understanding

Live together with your wife according to knowledge. Knowledge of what? Understanding of what? Everything relevant — her, you, God, his word, the world, the situation, the kids. “Men, gird up the loins of your mind!” You got stuff to think about here.

I’m reading a biography right now of John Knox, brand new one by Jane Dawson, real heavy-duty biography. Knox married Margery in 1556. Heads back to Geneva. Her mother leaves her father because he’s not a Protestant. Goes to Geneva with her daughter who just married John Knox. John Knox has been this renegade preacher traveling all over Europe to preach, and now he’s got a wife, and she’s pregnant within a few months.

Jane Dawson, as she’s writing this biography, is describing what a shock this was for him to now have to think about a woman in his house that she might have needs. She might have expectations that this is different. “I’ve just done whatever I feel like doing, and now there’s a woman in my bedroom, and kitchen, and living room all day and night with a brain and a real soul, and a consciousness outside of myself that I must interact with.”

You see that? I mean, that’s really big. I mean, marriage is big. It is. Nothing’s more life-changing, perhaps, than conversion to Jesus, than being married to somebody forever.

Studying Your Spouse: Marriage as a Sanctifying Anvil

As long as you live, as long as you both shall live, we’re together. You must start studying her. I mean, continue studying her. Don’t start at marriage, start before. Study her. Study your responses to her. Nothing will bring out your sin more than your wife or husband.

Marriage is a great sanctifying anvil. We discover the sediment in the clear, sweet beaker of our life when she shakes it. Right? Marriage is wonderful if you can live with constant conviction of sin. Because, if I were alone and Noël weren’t an independent consciousness drawing out of me things, I’d probably think I was a pretty good fellow.

But, my children and my wife are human beings and they elicit responses, which I must often repent of. I need to know me, and I will get to know me in marriage. I need to know her. I need to know the word. Men, you can’t lead her without the word.

This is a call, men, to read, study, think, meditate, and ponder, and talk to her. She knows her better than you know her, at least at first. Maybe not in the end. That’s an interesting thought, but it’s not a marriage seminar. At least it didn’t used to be. She knows her. Talk to her, really. Ask her what she feels about this or that. Ask her about that response.

Ask her. Ask her. Ask her. Constantly learn from her about her, and about her view of you, and about her view of the kids, and date your wife. There’s a whole book by that name, right? Date Your Wife. We did it on Mondays.

Monday was our date called “the state of the marriage date.” “How are we doing?” Monday noon. “How are we doing in ministry? Schedule okay? Anything you want me to change?” I offered my wife my life for change every Monday. I felt like that’s the way that the church needs Christ, right?

Love your wife as Christ loved the church. I’m not Christ, and so I need help to know how to be Christ to her. That is, how to serve her, love her, die for her, and so I’m offering myself anything in my life or our lives right now that you would like to see different so that you could flourish.

I think that’s leadership. That’s leadership. You might think, “Wait a minute. You just made her the leader.” No, I didn’t, and she knows I didn’t. I’m informing my leadership with her perception of life, which is a perception that on some things is more accurate than mine.

We got some stuff going on in our family right now that I can’t talk to you about. It’s so difficult, and I am taking Noël into account on every step I make in these relationships. I’m sending her my emails before I send them to anybody else. I’m asking, and she usually comes back to me with golden insight — golden — that makes my email to such and such better. That’s what wives are for, and husbands. Knowledge, men. We need her brain. We need her thoughts. We need to know her, know ourselves, know the word.

Showing Honor: The Concept of Weaker Vessel

Second, “showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7). Not one single sport in the Olympics is men against women. Why? Not one. I mean, not even diving. Come on. These women can dive as well as men. Not a splash. Not a splash. Just the men made a little splash. Why don’t they compete in diving? They do. Did I get it wrong?

Well, anyway, most sports. The reason there’s no NBA for men and women together is that men are stronger, faster. They’d knock them down too often they’re banging into each other. I mean, basketball’s a new sport.

When I was a young person, it was a foul to touch somebody, and now you’re supposed to weigh 300 pounds so you can push people around and that’s called basketball. But, I know the playoffs are coming, and I’ll probably watch them. The reason is because the woman is the weaker vessel that this is just a simple anatomical, biological fact.

It’s not a statement about woman’s weak faith, or weak mind, or weak soul. That’s been dispelled in 1 Peter 3:1–6. This woman is fearless. This woman is hoping in God. This woman has a deep tranquility of spirit that probably runs circles around her husband’s anxieties. That’s not the point. The point is, if there’s a thief, guy, step up.

I’ll give you an illustration. Now this will sound almost contradictory, but if a guy — I gave this illustration to the students at Bethel. In those days, back in the seventies, my views were obscene to a lot of people. These views that I’m giving you here of complementarity, I was giving them to the students, “What about this? What about this,” and the women, “What about this?”

I said, “Look, if a guy invites a woman to go to McDonald’s over there across the highway, and you’re walking and it’s dusk, and you’re walking together and he happens to learn from her that she has got a black belt in karate and he’s never even fought anybody, and a guy jumps out from behind a bush with a knife to threaten them. I say to the guys, I don’t care what kind of training she has to disarm him. You step out first.”

That’s what it means to be a man. I don’t give a rip about competencies here. You step up, get her behind you, and say to that jerk, “Over my dead body will you touch her.” That’s man talking. That is what men are supposed to do. He tries to wrestle with the guy, he gets cut, thrown on the ground and she disarms the guy, levels him out flat. Okay, that’s just fine with me.

That is just fine, because in principle, this honor to the woman as the weaker vessel is a principle of honor that is written, I believe, into the heart of men and into the heart of women to receive, and lest for sin distorting it, it gets played out beautifully with default behaviors like that.

Even if she happens to be in that point, on that point, more competent in disarming a guy because of training or whatever. The honor here, I think, is built into the fact that from time immemorial, the men are the warriors who have to defend the village against the attacking troops. They’re not going to put their women out there to do that for them. They know that if they put the women out against male warriors coming at them, the women are going to be overrun. The village will be destroyed. This is not what we do.

Frankly, I got strong opinions about women in combat, but you didn’t sign up for that, so I won’t go there any more than I just did.

Joint Heirs: Sharing in the Grace of Life

Number three, “since they are heirs” (1 Peter 3:7). So let me say one more word, sum up word.

Number two, I think means that men are not only the spiritual default initiative takers and leaders in the family, they are the protectors. They bear the weight of protection. Even if the wife might at certain points might be more competent in certain ways, to know what kind of bars to put on the window, or locks to put on the door, or how to get out the back door when the thief came in the front door. I mean, she may be way ahead of him in a lot of ways. His mindset is, “I protect this woman. I don’t expect her to protect me. I protect her.”

Number three, “since they are heirs with you of the grace of life.” So that your heirs with you of the grace of life. Men, let this sink in and dwell on it long and hard. Fellow heir, so heir comes from the inheritance back in 1 Peter 1. We are born again to a living hope, to an inheritance, undefiled, unfading, imperishable kept in heaven for you, and she’s got the same one.

She’s going to be a queen of the universe someday. You sleep with a queen. You sleep with an heiress of the world. That’s not an exaggeration. You sleep with an heiress of the world, the earth. That should have an effect on you in terms of kindness, respect, tenderness, listening, marveling at what you have in this house. We are not amazed enough at the marvel of who we are. Representing Christ, representing the church, fellow heir the grace of life. We don’t marvel enough at the wonder of our wives or our husbands.

Motive for Harmony: Unhindered Prayers

If you don’t do those, your prayers get hindered. What does that mean? We’re almost done. We’re going to take a break here in just a few minutes. What does that mean? “So that your prayers may not be hindered”?

I’m not sure, because it might mean “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them to do special things.” You got two, and if you are not together, then the agreement won’t happen, and the prayer won’t get answered.

Where two are gathered together in my name, and if you’re at odds like this and you’re not living together according to knowledge, and showing honor, and esteeming her as a fellow heir of the grace of life so that there’s some sweet spiritual harmony there, then when you try to come together in prayer, the agreement won’t be there. It might mean something like that, or I think two other possible meanings. Maybe they’re all true.

Another one would be, when a husband is selfish and is just all wrapped up in himself and not living in an understanding way, and when he’s not honoring her, and when he’s not marveling at the fact that she is an heir with him, he’s sinning, and sinning people find a hard time praying.

I mean, just think of the last time you were at odds with each other and it was your fault. You were mouthy, or you were neglectful or something and your conscience was bothering you, and how sweet was your prayer time?

Submission and Leadership

Finally, it might mean that it’s almost the same as number one, I suppose, but this is the one that’s most immediately relevant to my 46 years. It might mean you can’t pray together, kneel down together, pray freely together because there’s such tension between you.

Let me encourage you here to do what we’ve tried to do. I think that a husband and wife should pray together daily, besides praying with the kids at meal times or devotion times. I don’t want to make anybody feel terrible. Just if you think this is a good idea, start doing it.

I mean, at night before you go to bed or some other time during the day, it’s just the two of you and you commit your life, your kids, your finances, your home, your health, everything, you’re just daily saying, “We are here for you. We submit to you. Our marriage is for you,” and pray. If there’s lots of things to pray about, pray longer. But you don’t have to pray long but together.

One of the reasons I suggest that, besides the fact that God will act for you and do wonderful things, is because it is a wonderful barometer of the marriage. We have, for years and years and years, knelt beside our bed before we go to bed. As the leader, I kneel first to invite her to kneel, and there have been times when we can scarcely talk to each other, haven’t had sex for three or four weeks. It’s bad, and I kneel. My wife is submissive, she kneels, and we can’t talk.

Now, you can view that as pure hypocrisy, right? How can you come before the throne? First, go get your matter settled, and then come and offer your gift. We’ve tried — 33 months in counseling. How long do you have to try before you start praying again? No, we won’t go there. We will get down on our knees, and John Piper — the leader — will say one word: “Help. Amen.” And we’ll get into bed and put our backs to each other.

I’m glad because we’re through those times. We’re through. Why are we through? Probably for one reason — because we did that. That was pure obedience to my God. I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to talk to her. I didn’t want to look vulnerable. I didn’t want to admit I was wrong, or she didn’t want to admit she was wrong. We’re on our knees.

And I say, men, do this because it’ll be a barometer of how it’s going, and it was a barometer. It’s going bad. But what a — I mean, there’d be times I can remember. I just didn’t want to say anything. I’m just kneeling there, and you’re the leader. You’ve taught everybody in the world that you’re supposed to lead. Do it. All I could do was say, “God, help us. We need your help. Amen.” That’s leadership. Crummy, lousy, no good, inadequate leadership, but real necessary at that moment leadership.