You husbands in the same way, live with [your wives] in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
1 Peter 3:7
Being a husband, I felt the need to stop and consider this verse.
First, I notice that it begins with the phrase in the same way, which indicates that I, as a husband, am to emulating some behavior. The behavior in question is in the verses preceding. In point of fact, it harkens all the way back to 2:11 — Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. —and continues forward in a series of instructions to behave in the same way. Slaves and wives and husbands are all instructed to do something in the same way. More, 2:21 tells me that Jesus left me an example for me to follow in His steps. The slave and the wife and the husband are all to be doing things in the same way, which is to say as Christ does.
I am instructed to live with [my wife] in an understanding way … since she is a woman. I know that the original language of this passage had no punctuation to speak of and that the translators added in all those commas, but let me trust the translators for a moment and lift out the weaker vessel aside and address the idea of living with my wife in an understanding way since she is a woman. Much and more has been made both seriously and comically about the differences between men and women in generality. Individual applicability varies, but one thing is consistent: husbands and their wives are not the same person. My wife is not the same as me. She does not think the same way or address difficulties in the same way or love in the same way or … really much of anything in the same way. She is different. And different is good. But different can also be frustrating. The understanding way mentioned comes from the root word gnosis which means to know. I am to know my wife — her quirks, her strengths, her weaknesses, her hopes and dreams and aspirations — and to live with her in that knowledge. This implies that I must study her. Not the way I studied subjects about which I did not particularly care, but the way I studied subjects about which I was passionate. I can still dive into subjects about which I am passionate and spend hours studying them without noticing the passage of time. Can the same be said of how I study my wife?
Now I circle back to the idea of living with her as with a weaker vessel. Vessels of all types are purpose-built. If we are talking about household vessels like bowls and pitchers and whatnot, then their purpose is readily apparent. And it is household vessels which are implied by the word used. The imagery that comes to mind is twofold. First, I get the image of the fine china versus the daily use flatware. Some people have plates and stuff that they only use for special occasions — the fine china or the “good” china — and other stuff that they use every day. The dishes serve the same purpose, the difference is in when they are used and why there is a disparity. The “good” china is supposed to be saved for special occasions so that it is not worn out or damaged by the daily use. The other dishes are often made of more durable stuff and less likely to be rendered unusable by the abuses of daily uses. There are instances where this is, I think, what God had in mind when He had Peter write this verse. The second image I get is of dishes meant for different purposes, but used with the same frequency — drinking glasses and plates, for example. We, if we are not dying of dehydration, are drinking liquids every day. We are also, if we are not starving ourselves, eating something every day. This generally means that a glass and a plate get used every day. The thing is, I can drop both plates and glasses and the dish survive if it hits in the correct way — or they can shatter. Neither is immune, but a glass is generally considered more fragile.
Lastly, I am told to show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that [my] prayers will not be hindered. She is just as saved as I am. She is just as precious in the sight of God as I am. God loves her just as much as He loves me. And I need to let these truths impact my behavior. The audience to whom this was written would have found this thought revolutionary. The First Century world did not generally think of women in this way. Yet God, through Peter, tells believers to behave in a way that would have seemed strange to the people of the time. And the behavior comes with a promise: my prayers will not be hindered. But the inverse is also true. If I do not behave as I ought toward my wife, then my prayers will be hindered.
This verse tells me that I ought to have two consuming passions in my life: my God and my wife. I ought to study them both so as to be intimately acquainted with who they are and how best to please them. I need to be mindful that my wife is not created for the same things as me. She might be a glass while I am a frying pan — both useful and necessary items, but not equally durable. And I need to give her equal honor so that my prayers are not hindered.
Father God, thank You for this reminder. Thank You that I am not told to understand all women, just the one to whom I am married. Thank You that I have the privilege of making both You and her people whom I can study with a will. I confess that I am not always passionate about studying either You or her and I ask that You would forgive me and kindle anew the fires of that passion to learn about both of you. I confess that I am not always mindful that You have created her for a purpose that is not the same as my own and I ask that You would forgive me and remind me regularly that she and I are not the same make and model. Please teach me to be a better husband to the wife; the good thing in Your eyes that You gave given me to care for.