A Family Circle Series: The Weaker Vessel
In very generic terms Peter admonishes husbands regarding their treatment of wives. He says, "Ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life" (1 Pet. 3:7). Paul very specifically states that "the head of the woman is the man" (1 Cor. 11:3). This is God's arrangement. It was not imposed upon humanity by some despotic ruler nor by some backward society. Neither was it imposed by some religious system. Indeed it is clear that "neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man" (1 Cor. 11:9). In God's infinite wisdom he arranged that "the husband is the head of the wife" (Eph. 5:23).
But before some modern women are completely "turned off" by the above remarks, let us be reminded that "neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord" (1 Cor. 11:11). God's arrangements for man and woman are not arbitrary or one-sided. It is His desire that our relationship be bi-lateral, that is reciprocal. So we can briefly outline the husband's duty as follows:
1. The husband is the head of the family circle and must not neglect nor decline his responsibility. Let him think of this arrangement as an assignment of duty, not just a grant of power. He must not rule his house as an autocrat, a dictator, or a tyrant, but he is to rule by guiding, by giving direction to the family, by good stewardship of his opportunity. He should exercise exemplary and dynamic leadership in the home: that is, he should guide his household by his own model behavior and with enthusiasm.
2. In his treatment of his wife he will recognize that she is indeed physically weaker than he. He will therefore not impose undue hardship upon her that would unnecessarily burden or break her body. Thus, he will nurse her when she is sick, he will shield her before and after child-birth and he will guard and protect her against evil people and wicked ways. He will treat her as a tender and fragile plant, as a delicate and precious flower. He will give her strength to lean upon and courage to imitate. He will try , to satisfy her every emotional need and will not withhold from her the joys and satisfactions that are a very real part of the marriage relationship (see .1 Cor. 7:3-5).
3. The husband will recognize that he and his wife may share the most precious relationship of all: their mutual fellowship with God. They are "heirs together of the grace of life." He is not superior to her in God's sight. For her Jesus dies, as well as for him. They have an equal hope for eternity. Their God-given responsibilities are not identical, their physical capacities are different and their functions in the family circle are definite and distinguishable. But in a very real and significant sense they are truly equal. They are full partners in God's design for human development and happiness. Neither is superior nor inferior; neither is better nor worse; neither is more or less important. They are equal beneficiaries of God's grace of life and equal participants in his plan for humanity.
Christ: The Husband's Example
Yes, Christ is married, too (Rom. 7:4). The church is the bride of Christ, and He loved the bride so much that He gave Himself for her (Eph. 5:25). Paul says that husbands should love their wives even as Christ loved the church. But some may say that wives are not always so loveable. It is true. In fact, they are so much like husbands in that respect! Indeed, we are all human beings, and often hard to love because we become quite unlovable. But Christ loved all of us, even though we are human and even when we deserve no love. In spite of our un-loved natures, He loved us, so surely we can love our companions even with their imperfections, and especially when we realize we have so many imperfections ourselves.
If husbands would love their wives as whole-heartedly and as totally as Christ loved the church, this attitude alone would probably solve most of the difficulties in family circles. Out of his love for her, and as a consequence of his devotion to her, would probably come a reciprocal affection from her. Thus, both would demonstrate mutual love, and not merely declare it; thus, peace and joy would be reflected in the home. The parade to the divorce courts could be significantly decreased, I believe, if each companion would nourish and cherish the affection of the other instead of taking it for granted.
Most discontented husbands who complain of too little attention from their wives and who yearn for more affection from their companions would probably not need to see a lawyer if they would recognize the principles of this chapter and would give cheerful response to these ideals. Just as he desires his wife to continue to be attractive to him and to charm him with affection, romance and love, he must respond to her needs and appeal to her emotions with gentleness, kindness and with expressions of appreciation for her. If a husband counts his marriage precious, then he will not be wasting time when he frequently shows the same tenderness in later years that he did on the honeymoon. One woman expressed it like this:
"I know your love is greater now,
Than ever in our courtship days:
Somehow you show it in a thousand different ways;
But sometimes I think wistfully,
Of how nice it was when you loved me less,
And told me so more frequently."
In our next chapter we shall consider some pitfalls that vex many families and that thus become very real factors in the crisis at the crossroads. Next: "Home Wreckers."
Truth Magazine XXII: 6, p. 98