Finally–this will be the final post of the series–headship requires that men treat their wives with understanding and honor:
You husbands, likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7).
What does it mean for a man to live with his wife in an understanding way? I can tell you it takes work. Most wives seem to have ample knowledge of their husbands as well as insight into their thoughts and behaviors. They seem more naturally skilled at empathy, whereas men must work hard to listen. Women pay attention to what goes on around them, while men are masters at tuning out what they wish to ignore. Men understand women far less than vice-versa, and for this reason they must work harder than women in that area. Women want to be understood, which is why they are forever telling us men that we don’t get it. They are more than willing to tell you what they are feeling and thinking if they know you are listening—and even when they suspect you aren’t.
In my opinion, when Peter says women are weaker vessels he is referring to more than physical weakness. Here I think he might be hinting at the emotional sensitivity of females in general. Have you ever noticed how a wife can freely and often bluntly speak her mind to her husband? For example, she tells him his choice of clothes looks terrible? He responds by shrugging it off, asking what she thinks would look good, and changing the ensemble accordingly. However if the roles were reversed and he told her an outfit she had selected looked bad, she might interpret his comment to mean that she was unattractive. When she disagrees with his opinion or tells him an idea of his sounds bad, he is less likely to turn his focus inward and see himself as stupid—or assume she sees him as stupid. I have heard it said that the effect of a wife’s criticism of her husband can be likened to the ripples created by throwing a pebble into a pond, whereas the effect of a husbands criticism of his wife is more like the ripple created by a large boulder. This goes for dads and daughters too. Just recently I was dealing with a family in which the dad yells angrily at his kids when he is frustrated. His teenage sons blow it off because they know he never backs up his threats with any kind of action. But his sixteen year-old daughter is very hurt by her dad’s tone. I will need to spend some time with this man and help him find more effective ways of communicating with the girl.
A good husband listens to his wife; he realizes God put her there because he needs her. He will be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. He will listen with both ears, not just for the literal sense of what she says, but to genuinely understand what she is thinking and feeling. If and when he does speak he will remember his mother’s wisdom—that it isn’t what you say but how you say it that matters most. A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1). The wise old preacher who did our premarital sessions back in 1976 told me that any man who refuses to listen to his wife is an idiot. His counsel has served me well over the years—although I won’t lie and say I have always heeded it. I pass it on advisedly to you younger men, for it cannot be improved upon.
Like it or lump it, God’s method is men. God created a man to be the head of the human race. When that race fell into sin, God foretold of another man who would one day crush she serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15). The Old Testament tells us that from that time onward God operated through patriarchal system of laws, covenants, and religious observances led by men. God used men to record His mighty deeds in Scripture in both testaments. In the fullness of time He sent a mediator—the man Christ Jesus (1Timothy 2:5). All twelve apostles of Christ were men, and they reinforced the concepts of male headship in the home and male leadership in the church. Men are God’s method, and there is no backup plan.
If we believe in the true and living God of the Bible and it is our desire to glorify and enjoy Him, we can no more ignore His pattern of male headship than we can refuse to eat and drink and expect to live. Ours is not the option of making the rules as we go and then expecting God to rubber stamp our aberrations from His Word. Here is why I spent no time discussing the intricate dynamics of marriage and family relationships; for to have done so would have been like building a beautiful house on quicksand. Manliness is next to godliness, and the sooner we admit it the sooner we will seek to purge ourselves from the insidious contagion of godless feminist dogma. We will then be free to focus our attention not on the niceties of political correctness, but on hard biblical truth, developing strong male leaders to stand in the gap in our homes and churches. That is the only solid foundation on which to build, under the Lordship of Christ.