The concept of joint heirs is not that hard to understand. I, together with another person, have created something–be it a business or a family–in which ‘we’, as an entity, have a joint stake. But we cannot do that, if the ‘I’ does not dissolve. Upon marriage, the husband and wife become a unit. They are joint heirs in what they have created.
When something goes wrong, it is all too easy to play the blame game and allocate responsibility to ‘The Other Person’. In a marriage–especially once there are assets, children and so on–it becomes the responsibility of both parties to ensure that what they have been entrusted with benefits future generations.
In 1 Peter 3, it is said, “Wives, in a similar way, place yourselves under your husbands’ authority.” Looking at this statement, it is easy for the modern reader to reach the conclusion that this is a sexist sentiment. Whose authority should we obey? It is God’s, right?
Let me tell you, it dawned on me the other day, that it is the sin of pride that leads many down the path of organised and institutionalised religion. It is neither piety and nor is it a love for God or one’s neighbour. It is the sin of pride. It renders a human beyond reproach, beyond discussion and beyond democratic decision making. I am on God’s side and you are not. End of story.
In either case, St. Peter continues on and says, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” There is the concept of a reciprocal relationship here. The notion that both parties will have to adhere to a certain modus operandi for a marriage to work.
Why did St. Peter call women ‘the weaker partner‘? Is it because women are actually weaker? Not necessarily. During that time and in that society, men were usually considerably older than their wives, more educated and more experienced. Women married in their early teens, did not complete their studies and worked in the home. It is this state of affairs that leads Peter to call women ‘the weaker sex’.
Why preach this egalitarianism, then? Because husband and wife are joint heirs with each other in the gracious gift of life. Once they become husband and wife, they must dissolve certain aspects of the concept of ‘I’ so that they may function as an entity and as a unit. The appeal, thus, is not to say that you have God by your side; but rather, it is an appeal for a good conscience where the details have to be worked upon by both parties.
If you practise the good faith that is required to make a marriage work, it is not possible to fail or fall. Does it mean that you will not have difficulties? Obviously not. But it will mean that you treat each other with respect and you model that virtue for the generations to come.