Part of rebuilding a marriage culture in the ruins means pointing the magnifying glass to ourselves as husbands. One giant, counter-cultural way that marriages can be built up in Christ is for husbands to honor their wives. What does it mean for a husband to elevate his wife to a place of honor?
First, honor your wife as the weaker vessel.
So often, we talk about women respecting their husbands (Eph. 5:33), which we should, but a gospel-centered, complementarian marriage puts a ginormous spotlight on how men show honor to women. A verse that often gets cracked down on is the unpopular 1 Peter 3:7, which reads, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (emphasis mine). It seems Peter is giving specific application for how roles are to be applied within marriage. Peter calls men to live with their wives in understanding way by showing honor to her as the weaker vessel.
What does this mean, though? Weaker vessel, in this context, means of great value. In other words, men honor your wives because they are in a place of high esteem. They are the fine china, not the plastic cups. Men, think about your most important possession and how you treat and honor it. Now triple your efforts and apply that same carefulness in how you treat and honor your wife.
Second, honor your wife by your gentleness.
When we, as men, walk in the Spirit, we can walk with a spirit of gentleness (Gal. 5:22-23). In marriage, men are leaders, providers, and protectors. Out in the world, men are dominion-takers. On the battlefield, men are warriors. But in the home, men are called to be gentle. In fact, in all of life, mature manhood is the pursuit of a courageous gentleness. A posture that says, “I’m a lion, but I’m tame.” It is with the same posture that men should pursue their wives.
Paul commands men to pursue gentleness, humility, and mature manhood–the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4). In your marriage, this means that you are gentle in how you treat your wife, how you talk to your wife, and how you touch your wife. Remember, she is the weaker vessel–an object of intense value. When you pursue Christ first, and allow the fruit of the Spirt to come alive in your heart, then you are able to clothe yourself with gentleness as a man. Only in Christ can you become a tame lion.
Third, honor your wife by putting her first in all things.
I have conversations often with husbands and wives that are attempting to go 50/50 in their marriages. The husband gives 50%. The wife gives 50%. In this view of marriage, we see marriage as contract. There are no roles. Both parties do all things. We must see marriage, first of all, as a covenant created by God for his glory and given to us for our good (Gen. 1-2; Eph 5). Then, secondly, we live accordingly to how he designed men and women to live within this framework of marriage. If we understand marriage as a covenant, then we come to realize we must both go 100%–not 50/50. And going 100% “all in” means we go “all in” concerning God’s design for men and women within marriage.
This also means we go 100% at putting our wife above us. As men, we are second. This is biblical leadership. Practically, this means you honor your wife by putting her in first place. It means you plan around her and the kids. It means date night is stuff she likes to do. It means vacation is to places she wants to go. It means less hobbies for you, less time with your favorite sport or team, and more time (quality and quantity) with her. This is what honoring her means. It means that she is first place. Everything else is last place compared to her.
It means waking up before she does and praying for her and your children. It means spending money on her. Lavishing her with goods and services. It means pursuing her sexually, making her feel as if she is the esteemed and highly valued object of your affections. And it means so many other things, as well. When we pursue and honor our brides in this way, marriage wins.
I recently read that leadership is 10% process and 90% building culture. Men should take great counsel in these statistics. Process is the easy part for most of us. Building culture is the difficult part. However, when men clothe themselves in Christ and triple their efforts to build a marriage culture in their homes that is counter-cultural and God-honoring, the world will notice.
It will notice your posture of gentleness and honor towards your wife. It will notice how you put her first in all things. And it will notice the spotlight you place on our great King. Let us work as hard as we possibly can, as tamed lions, to honor our wives as we honor the Lord Jesus Christ.