Peter exhorts husbands to “dwell with your wives with understanding.”3:7 Paul added that “husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies” (Ep 5:28). As the husband “nourishes and cherishes” his own body, so he should do the same to his wife (Ep 5:29). The ideal husband would be the man who remains truly faithful to his wife, but at the same time remains as charming to her as if he were not married to her. If courting would continue until “death do us part,” then there would be no greater and fulfilling relationship on earth than what would exist between a husband and wife.
To dwell with one’s wife means to live in harmony with one’s wife while giving honor to her. Sometimes it might be as someone said, “A good husband is one who stands by his wife in troubles she would not have if she had not married him.” There might be some truth to that statement.
A. Husbands are to love their wives.
A husband who does not love and cherish his wife is either indifferent toward his wife or lives as a tyrant. Unloving husbands are usually focused on themselves. And thus, they usually give little attention to their wives. In order to maintain his headship in the family, an unloving husband often seeks to dominate his wife by subjecting her to be in his ownership. The beauty of Christianity over man-made religions is that the man in a Christian marriage considers his wife a maiden to be loved, not as property to be owned.
It is almost without exception throughout the world that man-made religions are identified by the oppression of the woman in some manner in marriage and in society. Husbands in such religions do not see themselves as encouragers of their wives to be the best they can be in the world in which they live. The well-known Billy Sunday once said, “Try praising your wife, even if it frightens her at first.” Unfortunately, because of their own inferiority complexes, the husbands of man-made religions will seek to exalt themselves by oppressing the women of their religion.
In order to maintain a healthy relationship between a husband and wife, someone gave the following good advice that should characterize the attitude of both the husband and wife. Both should be …
… slow to suspect, quick, to trust;
… slow to condemn, quick to justify;
… slow to expose, quick to shield;
… slow to reprimand, quick to forbear;
… slow to demand, quick to give;
… slow to resent, quick to forgive;
… slow to hinder, quick to help;
… slow to belittle, quick to encourage;
… slow to provoke, quick to calm.
B. Husbands are to dwell with their wives.
Husbands must dwell with their wives in a manner that reflects “giving honor to the wife as to the weaker vessel.”3:7 “Dwell” means that the husband and father must at least show up at home enough to be considered dwelling with his family. Those homes that have no “dwelling” fathers are those homes that have no example of how authority cherishes a woman.
Socially dysfunctional boys come out of fatherless homes. They are often dysfunctional in that they do not know how to treat a wife in a marriage relationship. If a young man has grown up in a fatherless family, then it must be assumed that his behavior toward a women in marriage will often be challenged since he had no home life in which to observe how a man should love a woman in marriage. In such cases, it is imperative that the young man learn the love of God as it is carried out in Christian families in order to lovingly dwell with his wife.
From 1957 to 1961, Douglas MacArthur II served as Counselor of the State Department of America in Japan. He served under John F. Dulles. As Dulles, MacArthur was an obsessive worker to rebuild Japan after WW II.
Time Magazine once reported a brief telephone conversation that Dulles had with the wife of MacArthur. Dulles called and asked for Douglas. Mrs. MacArthur, in her frustration of trying to run a family with an absent husband, thought that the phone call was from one of her husband’s aides. She sharply and irritantly replied to Dulles on the phone, “MacArthur is where MacArthur always is weekdays, Saturdays, Sundays and nights … in his office!”
When Dulles hung up the phone, MacArthur received a phone call with the orders from Dulles, “Go home at once, boy! Your home front is crumbling!”
Nevertheless, we remember reading the 8th century Greek mythology entitled the Iliad. It was a story of how Odysseus, the husband of Penelope, remained faithful to her husband in his absence. Odysseus fought in the Trojan War that lasted for ten years, and then, through a ten-year struggled, he sought to make his way home to his beloved Penelope.
During the twenty-year absence of Odysseus, it was assumed back home that he had died in the war. Therefore, assuming that he was dead, numerous unscrupulous suitors competed for the hand of Penelope. However, Penelope would not believe that her husband was dead. In order to keep the suitors at bay, she told them that she would not make her choice concerning which suitor she would choose for marriage until she had completed the weaving of a funeral pall for her father-in-law. Every night she unraveled what she had woven during the day. The suitors were persistent, but their persistence was weak in comparison to her love for her absent husband. Eventually, Odysseus completed his epic journey home and fell into the loving arms of his beloved Penelope. The suitors disappeared.
C. Husbands must be there for their wives.
The woman’s weakness is not in intellect, but physically. In the case of a gentle woman, her weakness is her tenderness and sensitivity in the hostile environment in which she lives. It is the responsibility of the husband to maintain the harmonious relationship of the marriage in order “that your prayers not be hindered.”3:7 His spiritual leadership is manifested in the fact that he maintains a home environment in which all family members may have a spiritual connection with God and a sense of security. The wife leads in the family through her living example of submission to the head of the family (See Ep 5:22,23). The husband leads in his loving consideration for his wife in respecting her thinking. It is like the sign of a frustrated manager of a wallpaper and paint store because he was tried of so much wallpaper and paint being returned: “Husbands choosing colors must have a note from their wives.”
Christians must always assume that the societies in which they live are dysfunctional in some way in reference to what God requires in family relationships. This is true because the world does not use the word of God as the standard by which the family is structured. The world establishes its own function of the family. For this reason, therefore, Christian families must be cautious about structuring their family values and behavior after the social environment in which they live.
Christian families must always assume that in some worldly structured families there is behavior that is contrary to the word of God. The only way Christian families can discover these dysfunctions is to study the word of God. We can never know what is abnormal behavior unless we study in the Bible that which is normal.
If we discover that our family is in some way structured after the ways of the world, then we must make a decision. The descision is to whether we will obey God or man. If we choose to obey the way of man to establish the values and structure of our family, then we must be prepared to live with the consequences that come from living contrary to the word of God. As the head of the Christian family, this responsibility rests primarily on the shoulders of the head of the family.
Those wives who have children, but are married with unbelieving husbands, must be assured that they can be successful in bringing up their children to respect the will of God. Eunice, a Jewish woman, lived with a Greek husband, whom we assume, had no faith in the one true and living God. We are told that the couple were the parents of only one child. Nevertheless, Eunice did her faithful work as a believing mother and wife by instilling in her son a genuine faith that eventually led Timothy, her son, to be a great man of God (At 16:1-3; 2 Tm 1:5; 3:15).
[Next lecture: SURVIVOR DISCSIPLESHIP: January 24]