If you’re a wife, Peter tells you how not to win over your husband—with words. And he tells you how to win over your husband—with godly conduct. 1 Peter 3:1-2 says:
Wives submit to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, you may win over your husband without a word by your actions, when he sees your respectful and godly conduct.
Win Over Your Husband the Right Way
Wives, Peter says you will not win over your husband by what you say, but you might win over your husband by your lifestyle. The gracious submission of a Christian woman to her unsaved husband is the strongest evangelistic tool she has. Just what does this look like in practical terms? Comparing 1 Peter 2:18 with 1 Peter 3:1–2 can help with the answer because of the parallel language between the verses:
- “Servants, be submissive to your masters” is similar to “Wives . . . be submissive to your own husbands.”
- “Not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh” is similar to “even if some do not obey the word.”
- “With all fear” is similar to “your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.”
In both verses, it is important to understand that this is not speaking of servants or wives submitting out of fear of their masters or husbands, but submitting out of fear and reverence for God. When an unbelieving husband sees this heart for God it will be a powerful witness. His wife’s godly behavior will convict him to be a godlier husband. Her life will speak louder to him than any words.
Let the Holy Spirit Win Over Your Husband
If a wife wants her husband to read God’s Word more, pray more, or be a godlier man, rather than nagging him, she herself should read God’s Word more, pray more, and be a godlier woman. Wives should be encouraged by Jesus’s promise to send the Holy Spirit in John 16:8:
“When [the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin.”
Notice the emphasis is on the Holy Spirit doing the convicting. This includes husbands, unbelieving or otherwise! Wives are not supposed to take over the Holy Spirit’s role in their husbands’ lives. Wives should pray, and then trust the Holy Spirit to do the work Jesus promised He would do.
No husband can sit at home being unspiritual and lame while watching his spiritual wife without feeling ashamed. A husband might pretend that he is not convicted, and his wife might not be able to tell by looking at him that he feels convicted, but he does. In contrast, when a wife is unsubmissive, angry, and nagging, the husband does not see God through her and as a result avoids feeling convicted at all.
What It Looks Like to Win Over Your Husband the Wrong Way
A wife can win over her husband, but not necessarily in a positive way. Two examples of this are:
- Sarah convinced Abraham to take Hagar as a concubine.
- Jezebel convinced Ahab to steal Naboth’s vineyard.
Scripture gives another example of a man who made a habit of allowing the women in his life to win him over with their words, and it resulted in disastrous consequences. Ironically Samson was the strongest man in history, but he was overcome by the persistence of two women who could be termed the Queens of Nagging.
Samson chose a Philistine for a wife. During the wedding festivities, he posed a riddle to thirty men from his bride’s town. If they did not solve the riddle, each of them would have to supply him with a set of clothing. If they solved it, he would supply each of them with a set. Wanting the answer, the men went to Samson’s wife, who agreed to help her fellow Philistines obtain the answer from her husband. For seven days she wept and complained:
“You only hate me, and do not love me! You have posed a riddle to the sons of my people, but you have not explained it to me” (Judges 14:16).
Samson’s new bride “pressed him so much” (Judges 14:17) that he finally told her the answer, and she told the Philistine men. Feeling betrayed, Samson rejected his wife and she married one of the thirty men (Judges 14:20).
Sadly, Samson did not learn from his mistake. Sometime later he fell in love with another Philistine woman named Delilah (Judges 16:4). By this time the Philistines were furious over Samson’s successful attacks against them. They offered Delilah a large reward if she would find out the source of his great strength so they could defeat him.
Delilah nagged Samson and he told her lies on three separate occasions (Judges 16:6–14). Each time she would wait until Samson was asleep, then she would call the Philistines and act on the lie he had told her. Since Samson was lying, he was able to easily defeat the Philistines. Finally, Delilah played the victim:
“How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and have not told me where your great strength lies” (Judges 16:15).
Does this sound familiar? It is almost identical to Samson’s first wife:
Delilah pestered [Samson] daily with her words and pressed him so that his soul was vexed to death (Judges 16:16).
She made him so miserable with her nagging that he wished he were dead. In Judges 16:17 he finally admitted:
“No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”
Samson knew that Delilah would turn him over to the Philistines, but he told her anyway and it is a strong testament to the power of a woman’s nagging. In a scene that is painful even to read, Delilah cut off Samson’s hair while he slept and his strength was gone. The Philistines captured him, put his eyes out, and turned him into a slave. He remained in captivity until his last-ditch stand that resulted in his death along with three thousand Philistines.
The lesson is some wives manipulate their husbands like the two women in Samson’s life. They play the victim and act as though they are being mistreated. They nag until their husbands’ souls, like Samson’s, are vexed to the point where death feels a better alternative. The wife’s words finally wear down the husband until he gives in.
Jesus Sets the Example of Godly Conduct Versus Words
The greatest example, not just for wives, but for all of us, is Jesus Himself. In the apostle Peter’s discussion of submission, he emphasized the way Jesus demonstrated godly conduct through actions and not words:
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps . . . 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 (1 Peter 2:21–23).
The specific example Peter was referring to was Jesus’s conduct during His trials leading up to the crucifixion. He was silent before His accusers, answering them not a word (Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 27:12; Acts 8:32). He was willing to endure the shame and eventually the cross itself for our sakes. While we were yet unbelieving and lost in our sins, Jesus was willing to lay down His life to win our salvation. This is the example to which we are called, whether wives or husbands, in being willing to live in such a way that unbelieving spouses may be won to salvation through the conduct of a believing spouse.
- How does a couple lose when a wife manipulates and/or wears down her husband?
- How can you demonstrate godly conduct instead of words to your spouse?
- In what ways can we be like Christ when we are reviled and when we suffer?
- To give your wife confidence in the Holy Spirit’s work in your life, what has He convicted you of regarding being a husband?
- When do you feel like your wife was manipulating you and/or wearing you down?
- Does your wife model what she would like you to do by her godly conduct?Does she faithfully avoid behavior she doesn’t want in your life?
- Do you model what you would like your husband to do through your godly conduct? Do you faithfully avoid behavior you don’t want to see in your husband’s life?
- What do you need to trust the Holy Spirit to convict your husband of?
- Do you recognize you were manipulating your husband and/or wearing him down?