The question was asked of a class of Catholic girls-"What is
matrimony?" One girl confidently stood and said, "Matrimony is a
state of terrible torment which those who enter are compelled to
undergo for a time to fit them for heaven." "No, no," said the
priest, "You have given the definition of purgatory."
"Let her alone," said the Archbishop, "Maybe she's right." Her
definition of the word was wrong, but her description of the
experience of many in the state of marriage was right. Matrimony
can be a purgatory rather than the paradise God intended it to be.
Marriage can produce a paradise, or it can reduce a paradise to
ashes by means of the fires of conflict. Marriage is a paradox. It
can be the best or the worst state. We commit ourselves in marriage
for better or for worse because both our equally possible. Conflict is
just as real a potential as cooperation. There are those who tell us
that even conflict can have its values, and there is truth in this
perspective. What of the couple who reached the height of their
argument, and the wife exploded, "I wish I'd taken mother's advice
and never married you." The husband said, "Do you mean to say
your mother tried to stop your marrying me?" She nodded. "Well
now," sighed the husband, How I've wronged that woman."
Whatever value was gained, it is doubtful that the quarrel can be
counted a positive factor in marriage bliss, even if there are poets
who claim it is so.
O we fell out, my wife and I,
O we fell out, I know not why,
And kissed again with tears.
And blessing on the falling out
That all the more endears,
When we fall out with those we love,
And kiss again with tears.
The only reason there is any truth to this poetry is because some
mates only show affection to each other when they make up. Just
like some children can only get attention by causing a disturbance,
or by getting in trouble. It is not the conflict that is of any value, but
the peace settlement, and the kiss of peace. Anyone with a taste for
kissing, however, knows that its better without any salty sauce from
the eyes. Kissing again with tears is not a gourmet delight. Far
superior is the relationship where affection does not depend on
I read of a wise man who quarreled with his wife during their
50th year of wedded life. He tucked this note under his wife's
pillow. "My darling bride, let's put off quarreling until after the
honeymoon is over. Your devoted husband." Here was a husband
who took the high road to marital bliss by avoiding quarrels instead
of the low road of squeezing some value out of conflicts. Carlton
And if ever we meet in heaven
I shouldn't think it queer
That we loved each other the better
For the way we quarreled here.
My response is- When we meet in heaven
I should think it odd
If we loves each other better
For disobeying God.
It is always true that God can bring good out of evil, but it is
never wise to do evil in the hopes that good will come of it. Our
objective as Christians and as mates is to live in harmony and never
desire discord. What Paul says to Christians in general applies to
mates in particular. In Eph. 4:31-32 he wrote, "Get rid of all
bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every
form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
Following this path will lead to successful marriage, and Peter
tells husbands how they can be successful in seeing that their
marriage follows this path. Any husband who will follow Peter's
advice will not only be a successful husband, but he will be an
exceedingly happy husband. Any wife whose husband treats her
with the respect involved in what Peter says in this one verse will
lavish upon him more devoted love than all the harem of Solomon.
What does Peter say a husband must do to be successful? He must
I. RESPECT HER EXISTENCE AS A PERSON.
Peter says the husband is to be considerate as he lives with his
wife. This means that a husband is to care about what his wife
needs as a person to make her life fulfilled. She is a person who has
special needs and desires, and it is a husbands obligation to know
what they are. To ignore another's needs is to lack respect for them
as persons. Wives need to be treated as people worth
understanding. Phillips translation puts it, "You husbands should
try to understand the wives you live with." The NEB has it, "You
husbands must conduct your married life with understanding."
Peter clearly implies that it is possible for a man to understand a
woman. Peter has a high view of the perceptive powers of the male.
He says these powers are to be applied in marriage. Someone said
there are two periods in a man's life when he feels it is impossible to
understand a woman. One is before marriage, and the other is after.
Peter does not agree. It may take more than a grain of faith to
remove the mountain of doubt that has accumulated in the minds of
men on this issue, but it can be removed. The Gospel according to
Peter is that wives can be understood, and not only by experts who
study them and write books about them, but even by their husbands.
This opens up a great hope for marriage from a Christian
perspective. For most of history men have not been able to treat
women as equals because they could never accept them as persons.
They never tried to understand the needs of wives, but only the
function whereby wives met the needs of husbands. Christianity
raised the level of women from possessions to persons who are
created in the image of God, and endowed with intelligence, and
great potential as children of God. Understanding this makes a
Christian husband desire to treat his wife in a manner worthy of a
person made in the image of God.
D. H. Lawrence in one of his assorted articles wrote, "Man is
willing to accept woman as an equal, as a man in skirts, as an angel,
a devil, a baby-face, a machine, an instrument, a bosom, a womb, a
pair of legs, a servant, an encyclopedia, and ideal or an obscenity;
the one thing he won't accept her as is a human being, a real human
being of the feminine sex." Peter says a Christian husband is
obligated to rise above this historical hang up of men.
Before marriage men tend to see women as persons, and they
treat them as such. They are aware of the needs of the female to be
appreciated. They are free with compliments, and they give them
undivided attention. Marriage, however, often causes a man to
regress. He ceases to think of his wife as a real person. He ceases to
live with her with a considerate attitude. He takes her for granted
as part of the total machinery of life. She keeps the wheels of life
rolling in the home. He forgets that she is a person who needs to feel
loved and appreciated. She needs to talk and be heard. Helen
Rowland complained, "Before marriage a man will lie awake all
night thinking about something you said; after marriage he'll fall
asleep before you finish saying it. Its as hard to get a man to stay
home after you've married him as it was to get him to go home
before your married him."
When husbands do this it is because they have ceased to be
considerate. They are not thinking of their wife as a person but as a
possession. Peter says don't do that, but respect her as a person.
Everything you gain in terms of fulfillment in the world of your job
she must gain through you, and this is often just as true for wives
who work. A wife needs a husband who makes her feel important.
She needs compliments and encouragement. She needs to feel she
has value, and only a husband can adequately meet these needs.
Listen to the tribute of a wife to her husband who succeeded in
doing this. Jessie Rittenhouse wrote,
My debt to you, beloved,
Is one I cannot pay,
In any coin of any realm
On any reckoning day:
For where is he shall figure
The debt, when all is said,
To one who makes you dream again
When all the dreams were dead?
Or where is the appraiser
Who shall the claim compute,
Of one who makes you sing again
When all the songs were mute?
When we respect individuals as persons we make an effort to be
interested in them, and in their interests and problems. Often a
husband tends to lose interest in anything his wife does. It is often
just boring to him. He's like the man standing at a fork in the road
when a woman tourist stopped and asked if it made any difference
which road she took to Vermont? He replied, "Not to me."
Indifference like this towards one's mate is a common fault of
husbands. The saying is true that a wife with good horse sense
doesn't nag, but often her nagging is a desperate attempt to break
through her husband's wall of indifference.
If a husband lives in respect for his wife as a person he will avoid
many of those problems that develop because of indifference. In a
moment of bitterness a husband said to his wife, "You should have
married a better man." She replied, "I did." If a husband will
respect his wife the way he did before they married he will be a
successful husband. The way to get ahead is to go back to how you
were when you first met. The second thing he must do is-
II. RESPECT HER EQUALITY AS A PARTNER.
Peter says you are joint heirs of the gracious gift of life. There is
equality of the sexes as partners in the business of life. A husband
cannot produce life by himself, nor does he receive more grace from
God than does his wife. She is an equal partner in both. The
inequality she has of being the weaker sex physically is not a
disadvantage for her, for Peter says that her weakness is to call forth
greater honor from the husband. Just as you treat your china better
than you do your everyday dishes, so a wife is to be treated with
greater care because of her delicacy. Peter says that wives are
marked as fragile, and husbands should handle them with care. The
greater strength of a man is for the protection of the female, and not
The inequalities of the sexes are only temporary, and are for the
purpose of fulfilling different functions, but the equalities of the
sexes are permanent. It is like the trinity. Each of the three Persons
in the Godhead have different roles to play in the plan of salvation.
Jesus took on the weakness of human flesh, and He gave up equality
with the Father. This was only temporary, however, for He was
then restored again to the equality that is eternal. In the things that
really matter for eternity husbands and wives are equal. When a
child is born they are parents as equal partners. They are equal as
joint heirs in the kingdom of God. In Christ there is neither male or
female. God does not have one standard of salvation and rewards
for wives, and another for husbands. They are one in Christ, and
husbands are to respect this equality and treat her as an equal
When two become one in marriage they become a new whole. It
is not a 50-50 relationship, but each is a 100% partner. There is no
division for you cannot divide a living thing. Solomon was going to
cut the baby in half and give each of the feuding mothers a half.
That was a 50-50 compromise. If you are dealing with butter or
milk or anything that is a matter of quantity you can divide it, but
qualities of life are indivisible and cannot be divided. The true
mother knew that half a baby is no baby at all, and so she prevented
the division. In marriage the partners must see they are one in such
a way that there can be no division. Mathematics does not apply in
the realm of quality. In marriage one plus one does not equal two,
but one. As in the trinity there is a oneness of unity where one plus
one plus one equals one, and not three.
If two people enjoy the same music they do not share it 50-50.
The husbands does not enjoy 50% of it, and the wife another 50%.
They each enjoy the whole of it, and are 100% partners in the
qualities they enjoy. There oneness and partnership is such that any
failure in the marriage is a failure of the whole, and not just of one
partner. If a fuse burns out, you do not try and figure out which
side of the seal is to blame. It is a one piece and only has two sides
because it burned out. If husbands will respect the equality of their
wives as partners, and treat them accordingly, there will be greater
communication and a deeper sense of oneness. A wife who is
respected as a person and as a partner will not find it hard to obey
her role of being submissive. It will, in fact, be pure pleasure. A
successful husband is one whose wife enjoys her role in the
partnership of marriage. If she doesn't there is something missing
that robs her of that joy, and likely it is the lack of respect she
receives from her husband. Thirdly Peter says,
III. RESPECT HER EXCELLENCE AS A PRAYER PARTNER.
Peter implies that mates are so much one that a husband cannot
even be successful in his spiritual life without his wife. A husband
who assumes that he can serve God and go forward in the service of
Christ without reference to the way he treats his wife has an
inadequate concept of marriage. Peter says a right relationship to
your wife is essential to a right relationship to God. If you do not
communicate with your wife, and live with her according to these
principles, God may refuse to answer your prayers. God will not
listen to the prayers of a man who will not listen to the pleas of his
God is a God of justice, and He does not reward injustice. If you
refuse to meet the needs of your wife as a person, and as a partner, it
would be wrong for God to reward you by meeting the needs you
look to Him to meet. You need your wife as a prayer partner to be
effective in prayer. Marriage is not a mere secular matter unrelated
to the spiritual life of the believer. Marriage is a religious
experience, and it affects your relationship to God. Prayer is no
automatic matter like a machine where you put in your money and
get what your request with no questions asked. Before God
responds to your requests He takes a look at your relationship to
your wife. If you disrespect the image of God in her, it will hinder
God may want to grant many requests of men, but He will not do
it because their home life is not worthy of such favor. Unanswered
prayer is not always because God does not want it to be, but because
it would be unfair to grant it to one who has little or no respect for
the needs and desires of his wife. If, for example, you refuse to
forgive your wife for some folly whereby she has offended you, you
have no ground of hope in Scripture to believe that God will forgive
you as long as you withhold it from your mate.
God will not put His stamp of approval on the husband who lives
like the man in the moon. The moon shines bright on one side, but is
dark and cold on the other. If a man is all bright and smiles before
the world, but dark and cold toward his wife in the home, he injures
his relationship to God, and is the stumbling block in the road to
having his own prayers answered. Few husbands ever think of it,
but Peter says a good relationship to your wife is essential to a good
relationship with God. The bottom line of all that Peter is saying is
that a man who respects his wife in the same way that he respected
her when they first met will be a successful husband.