the considerate husband

January 15, 2017

We are getting a lot of emails about this topic and I want to do more on the role of the husband to make it clear what godly leadership is about.

 

What Considerate Leadership Is Not

 

Peter tells husbands, “Live considerately with your wives” (verse 7, RSV; similarly, NIV), or, more literally, “Live with your wives in an understanding way” (NASB). This is the husband’s counterpart to his wife’s submissive attitude, and Peter here warns husbands against some potential abuses of their leadership role within the marriage. Because this section is the counterpart to Peter’s command to wives to be submissive to their husband’s leadership, we can speak of “considerate leadership” as a summary of the husband’s responsibility.

1. Considerate leadership does not mean harsh or domineering use of authority.

 

 

Peter tells husbands to “be considerate” to their wives and says they should “treat them with respect as the weaker partner” (verse 7). Peter does not specify how he understands the woman to be the “weaker partner,” but the context would make it appropriate for him to have in mind any kind of weakness that husbands would need to be cautioned not to take advantage of. This would certainly include physical strength (most men, if they tried, could overpower their wives physically). But the context also shows that women are weaker in terms of authority in the marriage (verses 1, 5, 6), and Peter therefore tells husbands that, instead of misusing their authority for selfish ends, they should use it to treat their wives with respect. Yet there may also be a third sense of weakness that would fit the context (because it is something husbands should not take advantage of), namely, a greater emotional sensitivity (perhaps hinted at in Peter’s admonition to godly wives, “do not give way to fear,” verse 6). While this is something that is also a great strength, it nonetheless means that wives are often more likely to be hurt deeply by conflict within a marriage or by inconsiderate behavior. Knowing this, Christian husbands should not be “harsh” (Colossians 3:19) or fill their marriage relationship with criticism and conflict, but should rather be positive and affirming, living together in an understanding way and bestowing honor on their wives.

 

The word translated partner in the “weaker partner” is skeuos, which often means “vessel, jar, container,” but is also used in the New Testament to speak of human beings as “vessels” created by God and intended for His use (Acts 9:15; Romans 9:21; 2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Timothy 2:21). There is no derogatory or misogynistic nuance here, since the fact that the woman is called the “weaker vessel” (that is, the weaker of the two) implies that the man is also viewed as a “vessel.” The term recalls God’s creation of all people, both men and women, and is a reminder both of human frailty and of obligation to God our Creator.

2. Considerate leadership does not imply equal sharing of leadership in the family.

 

 

Although Peter tells husbands to act in a thoughtful and understanding way toward their wives, he never tells husbands to submit to their wives or suggests that roles in marriage are interchangeable. Considerate leadership is how the husband exercises leadership in the family; it does not contradict his headship.

 

The phrase “in the same way” in verse 7 has the sense “also” or “continuing in the same area of discussion” (see note above on the word at 3:1; also, Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker, p. 568, and 1 Peter 5:7), for the idea of similarity in submission is excluded by the fact that here (unlike 2:18; 3:1) Peter does not command submission to any authority but rather the considerate use of that authority.

3. Considerate leadership does not imply lesser importance for a wife.

 

 

The fact that husbands are to treat their wives with “respect” does not mean that the wife, who has less authority, is less important. Peter’s telling husbands that their wives are joint heirs of the grace of life reminds them that, even though they have been given greater authority within marriage, their wives are still equal to them in spiritual privilege and eternal importance. Here as elsewhere the New Testament authors couple their treatment of differences in roles of husband and wife with an implicit or explicit affirmation of their equality in status and importance (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:3, 7, 12; Ephesians 5:22, 33; Colossians 3:18, 19).

4. Considerate leadership does not mean always giving in to a wife’s wishes.

 

 

Just as wives are not to obey their husbands when commanded to disobey God, so husbands must never allow love for their wives to become an excuse for sin—a principle tragically ignored by Abraham himself when he followed Sarah’s urging and decided to have a child by Sarah’s maid Hagar (Genesis 16:2, 5). The principle was also ignored by Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-3, 8), Ahab (1 Kings 21:25), and perhaps even Adam (Genesis 3:6). The mere fact that one’s wife—even a godly, believing wife—wants to do something morally wrong does not mean that a husband is free before God to endorse or participate in that wrong. To do so would be to abdicate the leadership God has given the husband and would be the opposite of the righteous leadership God requires him to exercise. In actual practice, it will often take much prayer and knowledge of Scripture for a husband to be able to tell the difference between a morally wrong choice being urged on him by his wife and a morally right choice that just differs from his personal preference or judgment of how things should be done. But there will be times in every marriage when a godly husband simply will have to make decisions that affect the whole family, that go against his wife’s desires and preferences and that he nonetheless is convinced, before God, are right.

5. Considerate leadership is not optional for husbands.

 

 

Just as submission to one’s husband is not optional for Christian wives, so the considerate leadership that Peter commands is not optional for Christian husbands. Husbands cannot rightly opt out of family leadership and become passive non-participants in decisions and activities. Neither can they rightly make the opposite mistake and exercise harsh, selfish, domineering authority in their families. They are rather to live considerately and bestow honor. Yet in doing this they cannot escape the responsibility to lead that is implicit in the command for their wives to submit to them.

 

B. What Considerate Leadership Is

 

“[B]e considerate as you live with your wives” is literally, “living together according to knowledge.” Peter does not specify what kind of knowledge he means by “according to knowledge,” so some general phrase like “in an understanding way” (NASB) is a good translation. The RSV’s “considerately” (similarly, NIV) is generally acceptable, but it probably gives too much emphasis to a considerate attitude while neglecting the focus on actual “knowledge” or information that is implied by Peter’s word. The knowledge Peter intends here may include any knowledge that would be beneficial to the husband-wife relationship: of God’s purposes and principles for marriage; of the wife’s desires, goals, and frustrations; of her strengths and weaknesses in the physical, emotional and spiritual realms, etc. A husband who lives according to such knowledge will greatly enrich his marriage—yet such knowledge can only be gained through regular study of God’s Word and regular, unhurried times of private fellowship together as husband and wife.

 

“[G]rant her honor” as “a weaker vessel” (NASB) affirms a theme found frequently in the New Testament. God is often pleased to honor those who are weaker or less honored in the eyes of the world (cf. Matthew 5:3-12; 1 Corinthians 1:26-30; 12:22-25; James 2:5; 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). In this case, such honor may include kind and affirming words both in private and in public, as well as the highest human priority in allocation of time and money. (The NIV’s “treat them with respect” is too weak—one can treat another person with detached, formal respect and yet give no special honor.)

 

In the phrase, “Bestowing honor on the woman” (RSV), the word “woman” translates to gunaikeio, a rare word that is used only here in the New Testament. It means more literally “the feminine one,” and suggests that Peter is looking to the characteristic nature of womanhood or femininity and seeing in it an appropriateness for receiving honor. It is appropriate that those who are “feminine,” those who give characteristic expression to “womanhood,” should receive special honor, for this is what God has directed.

 

C. The Reasons for Considerate Leadership

 

The first reason for such considerate leadership is that there are differences between husband and wife: the wife is the “weaker vessel” (NASB) or “weaker partner” (NIV) and thus more vulnerable to being hurt by a selfish, domineering husband.

 

The second reason for considerate leadership is the equality between husband and wife: “since you are joint heirs of the grace of life” (RSV). One who has equal standing in God’s kingdom is certainly worthy of equal honor and thoughtful, loving attention.

 

D. The Rewards of Considerate Leadership

 

At the end of this passage Peter indicates a reward for husbands who live considerately with their wives, but he does so by giving a warning of what will happen if they do not live this way: “so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” The implication is that if they do live in a considerate way with their wives, their prayers will not be hindered but helped, and God will answer them (compare 1 Peter 3:12, where Peter says, “… the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer”).

 

Some think that “your prayers” in this verse refers only to times when the husband and wife pray together, but this view is unpersuasive because Peter is addressing this sentence to husbands only, not to both husbands and wives. “Your” must refer to the “you” to whom Peter is writing: the husbands. The reference therefore is to the husbands’ prayers generally. This hindering of prayers is a form of God’s fatherly discipline, which Hebrews 12:3-11 reminds us is for our good and is given to those whom God loves. So concerned is God that Christian husbands live in an understanding and loving way with their wives that He interrupts His relationship with them when they do not do so! No Christian husband should presume to think that any spiritual good will be accomplished by his life without an effective ministry of prayer. And no husband may expect an effective prayer life unless he lives with his wife “in an understanding way, bestowing honor” on her. To take the time to maintain a good marriage is God’s will; it is serving God; it is a spiritual activity pleasing in His sight.

 

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

 

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