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Friday, February 7, 2014

Intimacy in Marriage - Dwelling Together With Understanding

If we are expected to have an intimate relationship with our spouse, does Scripture give us help? Of course! And to answer that, I want to look at just one verse – 1st Peter 3:7 – which states:
“Husbands, likewise, dwell with them (our wives) 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.”
Wait a minute! Why is this addressed to just husbands? Isn’t marriage a joint venture? Yes! Is it solely the husband’s responsibility? No! But wives just seem to do this intimacy stuff more naturally than us guys. God wired them that way, while something must have short-circuited in us guys. But more than that, it is primarily the husband’s responsibility since God left us on charge.

As in so many areas in the home, the husband must be the thermostat setting the emotional and spiritual temperature. The wife is the thermometer letting the husbands know what the temperature is. Men, have you ever noticed things getting a little chilly in your relationship with your wife? That’s your wife acting as the thermometer letting you know the intimacy has cooled down. It’s time to turn up the heat. So both the thermostat and thermometer are necessary.

What are the husbands to do? From 1st Peter 3:7, they are to “dwell with them with understanding.” Dwell with them? Doesn’t that mean” Live with them? That’s easy. We already do. We get our mail in the same mail box, and we eat at the same table. We even share the same bedroom. How’s that for intimacy?

Ah, but the term means more – oh, so much more. In its Greek usage, it means to be completely at home. In other words, home is priority number one.

What is most important to you, husbands? Is it your career? Is it your bank account? Some of you who are Christians will say that God is your highest priority, but then what? If it is not your wife and your family, you have the wrong priority.

How many Christians are there, Mission Boards even, that get it wrong. They so often think families are expendable. Send the kids away to boarding school so they don’t interfere with your work. That’s wrong!

Howard Hendricks used to do something in his classes at Dallas Seminary. He would say, “Gentlemen, your family is not vital to your ministry.” Then he would pause for a few moments before he ended, “Your family is your ministry.”

That is illustrated in the qualifications for elders/pastors in 1st Timothy 3:4-5, when it declares an elder is:

“one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?).”

Rule? I like the New International Version translation better, which substitutes the word “manage.” To “rule” the home in Scripture means to lead it. Men are to lead their homes, not to Lord it over their families. We are not to be despots. But it does show where the responsibility lies – it lies with the husband.

But this is intimately related to the next phrase from 1st Peter 3:7, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them (our wives) with understanding.” Or, as the King James Version puts it, “according to knowledge.” Men, this is the truth – the success of your dwelling with your wife will be in direct proportion to your knowledge (your understanding) of your wife. And I don’t mean to be insulting, but let’s face it, most of us men are blockheads when it comes to understanding our wives.

Do you know your wife? Do you know her fears, cares, dreams, and expectations? Can you read her moods? Do you know her inside and out? Are you a student of your wife? Do you study her to know her better? That’s what we men must do, we must make a study of our wives in order to live with them with understanding.

Men, marriage is too rewarding to let it be static. You will eventually fail if you simply float down stream. Marriages must grow. And yours can, yours will, if you do the hard work. The first years might seem wonderful, but as a decade goes by, love only grows, until as elderly people married for fifty years, it only keeps getting better. You can be closer, more intimate, and more in love on your fiftieth anniversary than you were on your first. That is, if you continually work at it.

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