Thursday we discussed the fourth requirement for a strong husband from 1 Peter 3:7. A strong husband shows honor to his wife. Today let’s consider a final requirement: if you want to be a strong husband, you must BE GENTLE WITH YOUR WIFE.
This is taught in 1 Peter 3:7, which says: Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
The husband who submits to God, commits to his wife, studies her, and shows her honor must do so knowing that his wife is “the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life.” Now I know what some of you ladies are thinking: “weaker vessel? REALLY? Do you know my husband?”
We can’t look at this phrase without wondering if Peter has, once again, put his foot in his mouth as he did so brilliantly during his years walking throughout Galilee with Jesus. “Peter, don’t you know you’re not supposed to talk about women like that?”
If we’re careful to examine what Peter is saying, I think we’ll find that Peter’s words are not as troubling as they may first appear. First, notice the two letters at the end of that troubling word “weaker.” Peter is not saying that women are weak, but that they are “weaker” than men. But in what sense? How are women weaker than their male counterparts?
Peter certainly doesn’t believe that women are weaker intellectually. There is no hint in the entire Scriptures that women are considered intellectually inferior to men. I spent ten years after college working on post-secondary degrees. I’ve got a master’s degree, a PhD, and I wrote a 300-page dissertation to prove it. But guess who has a higher IQ? And by the way, we didn’t take some phony test on the internet, we were tested by a certified psychologist as part of our adoption process. Holly is a genius! Women aren’t weaker intellectually.
Peter isn’t saying that women are weaker emotionally. Some have argued this in year’s past because women are often more expressive of their emotions than we men. But isn’t that a sign of emotional strength? Our newly launched men’s ministry has had two morning meetings over the past few months, and we’ve been encouraged to ask each other a list of questions. Answering some of those questions requires men to talk about how they feel. Listening to us blather about trying to express our feelings would probably be hysterical to you ladies. The truth is, the average man is probably weaker emotionally than his wife.
Peter isn’t saying that women are weaker spiritually. We know that for certain because our passage last week was all about these godly women who were married to unbelieving husbands. If one spouse is going to attend church without the other, who is it usually that attends church the husband or the wife? It’s usually the wife. And that’s not a recent American phenomenon, it’s been true at many times throughout church history.
So in what sense are women weaker than men? I believe Peter is recognizing the obvious, that men are typically physically stronger than women. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but it’s generally true. Just last week The Economist, a very influential periodical out of the United Kingdom, reported on a developing story about transgender athletes in World Rugby. The report said this: "On October 9th World Rugby, the global governing body for rugby union, decided to bar trans women—people who are biologically male, but identify as women—from playing in the international women’s game, on the grounds that it is unsafe.”
A few sentences later, the writers shared their own opinions on this decision, writing this: “World Rugby’s decision to exclude them was the right one. Other sports should follow its lead.” But why would a secular periodical in full support of the LGBTQ+ Revolution support a decision like this? They said this: “Most males are bigger, faster and stronger than most females; some males are bigger, faster or stronger than any female. . . . Suppressing testosterone appears to have only a minor impact on strength—too small to undo the advantages bestowed by male puberty. And no amount of hormone therapy can shrink skeletons.”[i]
Brothers, sisters, and friends this isn’t that complicated. It’s only in our confused age where something this so fundamental becomes so confusing. God created men with greater physical strength than women. But why would Peter mention that here? Because he doesn’t want husband to abuse that strength. A strong husband is a gentle husband.
Sadly, this hasn’t always been upheld by the church. So in order for me to be as clear as I can possibly be on this painful and sensitive matter, I’m going to read a statement on abuse from The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood that is endorsed by your elders:
Husbands, you need to know that we will forgive you, but we will not tolerate the abuse of a woman or a child. If any of these things are true of you, we plead with you to repent. Wives, know that your elders will listen to you and support you if you come to us for help. We believe, as Peter says, that you are “heirs with [us] of the grace of life.” You matter. You are our sisters. We promise to listen and help you however we can. Men, if we believe these things to be true, let’s love our wives well and be gentle with them. Being a strong husband requires you to be gentle with your wife.
I recently heard the true story about a man who made a private vow to be a loving, giving, unselfish husband for the two weeks of the family’s vacation. He worked hard at noticing his wife, attending to her needs, doing what she wanted to do, even if he would rather do something else. And it went great.
Toward the end of their vacation, he made a vow to keep on choosing to love his wife like this. But on the last night of the vacation, his wife was obviously upset. And finally, she blurted out: “Tom do you know something I don’t?”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
She responded, “Well that check-up I had several weeks ago . . our doctor, did he tell you something about me? Tom, you’ve been so good to me. Am I dying?”
It took a moment for it all to sink in. And then Tom burst out laughing. He took her in his arms and said, “No honey, you’re not dying. I’m just starting to live.”[iii]
May the same be said of you husbands, as you labor to apply God’s Word to your heart and life.
[i] “Letting Trans Women Play in Women’s Sports Is Often Unfair,” The Economist, October 17, 2020, https://www.economist.com/leaders/2020/10/17/letting-trans-women-play-in-womens-sports-is-often-unfair.
[ii] “Statement on Abuse,” Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, March 12, 2018, https://cbmw.org/about/statement-on-abuse/.
[iii] As told in a sermon by C. J. Mahaney, A Humble Husband (Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, 2017), https://www.sgclouisville.org/sovereign-grace-church-louisville-sermons/sermon/2017-07-02/a-humble-husband-c-j-mahaney-1-peter-3:7.