The Christian teaching about marriage that was radical (and will certainly enhance your marriage)

27 Jul

Photo by Andrew Itaga on Unsplash

Remember your wedding day?  (Or maybe you are looking forward to it?)  It is an amazing day, filled with crazy, happy, anxiety and joy as you publicly vow to love your spouse for life.  The road before you seems clear and straight and free from any surprises or trouble.

But before you know it, five years, or 10 or 20 have gone by and all those feelings you felt on your wedding day seem like a distant impossible memory.

If you are experiencing difficulty in marriage, know that you are quite normal.  Not that the difficulty is good.  Most times struggle and pain can lead to very good things like growth, maturity, and spiritual depth.  (Check out this excellent podcast episode on Youth Culture Matters to learn more about that.)  In marriage, when a couple is struggling, it is important to work through the struggle.  I am convinced that the earliest Christians were teaching some radical things about marriage in their day.  This radical teaching just might be the key to help you solve struggles in your marriage.

All week we have been looking at 1 Peter 3:1-7 where Peter has been talking on the roles that husbands and wives have in marriage.  Today we get to verse 7 where Peter says something radical to the husbands.  What is this crazy, wild teaching?  It starts when Peter says: “In the same way.” In the same way?  Huh?  How is that radical?  Let me try to explain.

“Husbands,” he says, “in the same way…”  Whatever he is about to say next, he is couching it alongside what he already said to the wives.  He wants the husbands to understand that they need to see a sameness with what he has been teaching their wives.  Just as we saw yesterday when we talked about the trajectory of this passage, Peter is once again laying a foundation for equality in marriage.  There is to be a sameness between husbands and wives.  That alone was unexpected, but he has more surprising things to say to the husbands.

He says, “be considerate with your wives and treat them with respect.”

Husbands treating their wives with consideration and respect is radical.  This would have been totally counter-cultural for the Roman Empire in 65AD.  In an earlier post this week we noted that it was common in both Jewish and Roman culture for men to see their wives as beneath them, even sometimes to the point of seeing their wives as possessions.  Into that patriarchal mindset Peter says, instead, that husbands are to be consider and respectful.  It is teaching that husbands need to hear for their spouses still today.

But as you read the passage, you might question what Peter says next.  He says, “treat [your wives] with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life…”

I think there is a very valid question we could ask: “Well if Peter is being so radical, why does he call the wives ‘weaker partners’?  ‘Weaker’ is so condescending and diminutive.  That sounds like Christian teaching that is promoting chauvinism, not setting a trajectory for equality.”  Very good question.

We might wince at the word “weaker” in 2018, but you need to understand that “weaker” was assumed by every single male in that audience.  That was the prevailing idea.  No one would have questioned that.  But the words “partner” and “heirs” would have raised eyebrows.  The men in the church would have had a really hard time with that, because Peter was clearly putting their wives on the same playing field as the husbands.  This is equality language, and therefore Peter was laying the groundwork, a trajectory, that for Christians means marriage can and should be approached with equality.

And notice the final phrase.  “So that nothing will hinder your prayers.”  That’s powerful. Peter is saying, Husbands, if you don’t treat your wives right, your prayers could be hindered!  Wow.  You want God to hear your prayer, right?  Treat your wives considerately, with respect, as partners and heirs.  We in 2018 need to see how dramatically radical this would have been for men, even Christian men, to hear in 65 AD.

So now is the day to decide what kind of husband and what kind of wife you will be.

First and foremost, make the mission of God your priority.  If you have an unbelieving spouse, win them without words, but with godly behavior.  You might need to stop preaching and start praying.  You might need to stop inviting them to church, and start serving them love right in your house.

Second, remember where true beauty is found.  Not outwardly, but by placing your hope in God and allowing him to transform your spirit.  No matter what you look like on the outside, you are beautiful or handsome or attractive when his fruit of the Spirit flows out of you.  Love, Joy Peace Patience Gentleness Kindness and Self-control.  These are vital for a healthy marriage.  Get the Fruit of the Spirit.  Pray for it.  Work at it.  See help, a mentor, a counselor.  At all costs, get the Fruit of the Spirit.

Third, love and respect and practice kindness and consideration to your spouse.  Wives to husbands and husbands to wives.  Clearly for Peter the issue is not who gets to be the head honcho in the house.  The issue is “make the mission of God your priority, and the best way to do that in marriage is to be a loving spouse.”

I started this week talking about Fred Flintstone’s caveman mentality that “a woman’s place is in the home.”  You can read that post here.  He seems like the classic male chauvinist.  But maybe even Fred Flintstone had a change.  Take a look:

So whether you are a husband or a wife, be loving, sacrificial, kind and considerate to your spouse!

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