Do you have an unreasonable or harsh spouse? Does God’s Word have anything to say about how you should respond? What about other difficult relationships? How should you respond to mistreatment, harshness or a lack of loving behavior?
Ezekiel 45 & 46
1 Peter 3.1-22
Responding to an Unreasonable Spouse
1 Peter 3.1-22:
In the Same Way …
Yesterday as we looked at chapter 2, we began talking about how we should respond to persecution and harsh treatment, especially from those who are in authority over us.
Here in chapter 3, Peter continues addressing the same issue in regard to the husband and wife relationship:
¹ Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.
“Wives, likewise …” Another translation says, “Wives, in the same way …” In the same way as what?
Let’s look back at chapter 2, beginning in verse 13:
13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.
Notice first that we do this “for the Lord’s sake” and one of the purposes is that “by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.”
Peter gives some examples of submission, beginning with servants:
18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.
Servants were to submit, not only to good masters but to those who were harsh.
19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
22 “Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;
23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;
Christ was to be their example (and ours). He didn’t return reviling for reviling or threaten when he was suffering. Instead, He entrusted Himself to His Father.
Romans 12.19 says:
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
When we’re mistreated, we need to leave the judgment and consequences to God. He is the only One who knows the hearts of the people involved and just how much judgment is due.
Before we go on, we need to remember that this was not originally written with chapter divisions, but was one continuous letter.
Now here in chapter 3 Peter gives another example, “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands …”
Likewise …. in the same way … as servants were to submit to masters, we wives are to submit to our husbands, even those who are harsh, who don’t obey the Word, or one translation says, those who are “unreasonable.”
Ladies, our behavior is to be respectful and God-honoring even with a husband who does not obey the Word, whether he is unsaved or a disobedient believer. And, like Jesus, we are to entrust ourselves to God and leave any necessary judgment to God.
And the purpose is the same, that “by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.” Or as chapter 3 says, “they might be won without a word by the behavior of their wives.”
But wives are not the only ones who are to submit. Verse 7:
7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
While husbands are not called to submit to their wives’ leadership, they are to submit their selfish desires to the needs of their wives. They do that by spending time with them, seeking to really know them, and by honoring and preferring them above themselves (Phil. 2.2-4).
And husbands are not the only ones who can be harsh, unreasonable, even ungodly. So can wives and the principle of not returning evil for evil applies to both spouses and to every other relationship.
Note: If your spouse is being physically abusive or doing something illegal or immoral, you may need to call the authorities or go to a pastor, church leader, or godly counselor (Matt. 18.16-17). There are other passages such as Romans 13.1-5 which may come into play. Submission does not mean covering up someone else’s sin or getting in the way of the consequences.
Praying through the Bible:
Lord, help me to be submissive to my husband, to conduct myself in ways that please You. Help me not to focus on my husband’s behavior, but to focus on responding in Christlike ways. Lord, let me develop the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that is precious in your sight (based on 1 Pet. 3.1-4).
Today’s Other Readings:
Ezekiel 45 & 46:
The Millennial Temple
As we are nearing the end of this book, the prophet lays out the plans for the Millennial Temple. Be sure to read John MacArthur’s notes about the presence of sin during the Millennium. I think you’ll find it very interesting.
All for Our Good & His Glory
Verse 6, “Whatever the Lord pleases He does …”
Our God is all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), everywhere-present (omnipresent), and in control of everything! Just to name a few of His characteristics!
He alone is the Sovereign Ruler of the universe. And everything He has allowed in our lives He has allowed for our good and His glory! Nothing happens by accident. He will use difficult circumstances, trials, even the sins of others for good if we will keep our eyes on Him and respond in a God-honoring way. No person, thing, or circumstance can make you or me sin (1 Cor. 10.13). Instead, we can call on God to enable us to respond in a way that leads to peace and brings Him glory (Rom. 12.17-21).
Will We Be Scoffers or Peacemakers?
Verse 8, “Scoffers set a city aflame, but wise men turn away wrath.”
Scornful men and women do what they want to do. They resent any kind of restraint … especially anything that sounds like religion. They sow discord and strife if it serves their purpose and take no thought to the consequences of their actions.
Wise men and women, however, seek peace and pursue it. Romans 12 says, “As much as it lies within you be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12.18). Though that does not mean peace at all costs. There are times when we must take a stand for righteousness in spite of any opposition.
How has God spoken to you today? Did you see a passage in a new light? Did you see an area where you need to grow and change? Did you find a promise to hold on to? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In the next few days, we’ll talk about false teachers, friendship, judgment and how to respond when we’re struggling to trust God. We’ll also discuss the question, “Is the Bible enough in a complex world?”
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Getting ready for 2018
The holidays are just around the corner and the new year will be on us before we know it. What will you do to make Bible reading and prayer an ongoing habit in the coming year? I’d like to encourage you to set a goal to read through the Bible. And this year I’ll be adding Scripture-based prayers from each day’s reading.
I hope you’ll sign up for my daily email. It can serve as a gentle reminder to stay on track. I try to make comments that are relevant to the daily struggles and questions that I hear in my counseling and discipleship ministries.
Start today so you can begin the habit and it will be a regular part of your day come January.
You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Google+. Just click on the social media icons. But nothing replaces having the daily devotion pop up in your inbox each day. It, usually (once in a while life gets in the way), goes out at 3 a.m. MST, so it’s there for early risers no matter what time zone you’re in.
So will you join me and, possibly, encourage someone else to do the same. (Why not email or call them right now?) Let’s get ready and grow in our relationship with Him together.
For more information about responding biblically toward an unloving or harsh spouse, you might want to read:
Experience the Blessings of an Imperfect Marriage. We all–at one time or another–have the opportunity to act right when our spouse acts wrong. There are no perfect marriages or perfect spouses. We know that having a good marriage requires effort and hard work. Yet we often don’t know how to continue to love when we are angry, hurt, scared, or just plain irritated. Nor are we sure what that kind of love is supposed to look like. Should we be patient? Forgive and forget? Do something else entirely?
Acting right when your spouse acts wrong will not necessarily guarantee a more satisfying marital relationship, nor will it automatically make your spouse change his or her ways–although both could occur. It will, however, help you see how God is stretching you in the midst of your marital difficulties, teach you to respond wisely when wronged, and lead you into a deeper relationship with Christ as you yield your will to his plan for your life and learn to be more like him.