1 Peter 3:7 is one of the Bible’s electric verses. Just insert “weaker vessel” into a search engine and see what you find. Some women see it as a root of chauvinism, others see it is flat-out wrong. What do you feel when you read it?
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. – 1 Peter 3:7
Can I show you what comes to my mind? Will you take six minutes to see this verse living and breathing on your computer screen?
Did you notice her body get weak? And then did you see her grandfather hold her tightly to his chest? Did you see her brothers take turns holding her gently but securely in their strong arms? Were they patronizing? Was that chauvinism?
I saw chivalry as it should be. I saw a group of men surrounding a woman they cared deeply for and honoring her as the weaker vessel. I saw a picture of God dancing with His trembling bride. I saw what I think Peter meant when God used him to write those beautiful words.
This verse isn’t about women, or equality, or hierarchy.
This verse is an admonition, an instruction, a challenge.
This is a verse men should memorize, then deeply internalize, and then allow to affect how they think and behave.
I think Peter is absolutely referring to physical strength in this verse. It’s clear from the phrase, “since they are heirs with you of the grace of life,” the verse makes no distinction of quality or dignity. Women and men are both heirs, equal in the sight of God. But equal does not mean same.
This verse is seasoned with the truth of our unique design and specific roles, but I don’t believe it was written to make those points. I think it’s simpler than that. This verse points to what could be while demanding what should be.
See if the following doesn’t describe what Peter warned could be, and what exists in our culture today.
Husbands aren’t living with their wives in understanding ways. Shoot, many husbands just stop living with their wives at all. Many males refuse to honor the women of this world, hitting them, making them objects of selfish sexual perversions, speaking harshly at them, degrading them, and oppressing them. Instead of recognizing them as the weaker vessel, males are speaking and behaving around women with no awareness, no sensitivity, no tenderness, treating them like one of the guys.
The existence of this behavior is tragic, but the way we’ve tried to address it is not only wrong, it’s perpetuating the problem.
We’ve worked to reject our unique design, dressing sameness in the costume of equality and pushed men further from who they are supposed to be. Instead of calling males to recognize the soft beauty that is the feminine form, we’ve tried to overstate her form through sexuality or hide her form beneath faux-masculinity. One leads to objectification. The other leads to confusion. Both tend to end in violence. Our culture is telling males, “don’t you dare honor women as the weaker vessel!” And they aren’t.
But that’s not how things should be, and this is exactly the point God was using Peter to make. My wife is deserving of honor. The same is true for my mom, my mother-in-law, my sisters, my sisters-in-law, my female friends, my neighbors, the daughters posing in magazines, and the girls presenting their bodies on the altar of sexuality. If men were honoring women as weaker vessels Playboy wouldn’t exist, neither would sex trafficking, prostitution, abuse, or rape. Divorce would be almost non-existent, if not eradicated completely. There would be no teenage pregnancy. Our culture would be unrecognizable.
The way we will see change in our culture is not to strip men of their masculinity, but to affirm it and call them to live it out. We need our males to become men and treat the women in their lives as weaker vessels, with honor and respect.
Women, you have nothing to prove to anyone. God has instilled in you dignity and worth that transcends your ability, accomplishment, or ambition. You worth is inherent. It cannot be separated from you. You are worthy or love and honor because you are you.
Men, you need to man up. You need to see each woman in your life as that trembling bride in the video – elegant, strong, able, but also vulnerable, delicate, and in need of protection. True strength is reveled in your capacity to be gentle, to be meek, to tenderly lead, and when the time comes, utilize your strength to go Braveheart on any man who would threaten the women in your care.
Men, God calls us to love our wives as Christ loved the church. The biggest, strongest, most powerful, most masculine being to ever grace this ball of dust we call Earth revealed those truths by honoring us, His bride, as the weaker vessel and meekly, courageously dying for us.
Dance with her, men. Wrap your strong arms of protection around the women in your lives. Vow to never harm with your words or actions. Embrace the high calling to honor her as the weaker vessel. Not because she’s lower than you, but because she is a co-heir of God’s grace and God expects you to love as Christ loved, to die as Christ died.