1 Peter 3:1-7
1. Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that leven if some do not obey the word, mthey may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your nrespectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external - the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear - 4 but let your adorning be pthe hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, qcalling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and rdo not fear anything that is frightening. 7 Likewise, shusbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker tvessel, since they are heirs with you1 of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
At various times, in different cultures and for numerous reasons, God’s word has proved to be controversial. However, far from diminishing its authority, this fact, that it critiques and challenges every culture in some way at some point, only lends to its transcendent, universal nature. And we come to a passage today that remains as controversial as it ever has been. Different cultures, around the world, in different ways will continue to find this section of 1 Peter challenging.
I should underline at this point that the Bible does not condone or seek to advance any form of subjugation on whatever grounds at all; be it gender, race, ethnicity or whatever other twisted way people may seek to treat other human beings, created in the very image of God, as inferior to themselves. That is certainly not what Peter is saying here. No form of economic, domestic or racial abuse can be supported or tolerated by God’s church.
At the same time, Peter does not want these Christians running to the opposite extreme and of disregarding all earthly authorities and institutions simply because they have been born again and are to think of themselves as exiles in this world. Rather, as we have said before, since they understand they are loved by God, they are now free to love and serve others for the sake of the gospel. They are free to be the best citizens, the best servants, the best spouses they can be. They no longer need to use people. They no longer need to fear people. They no longer need to hate anyone. As Paul says, “it was while we were God’s enemies that he loved us”. Should we treat others differently than how we have been treated ourselves?
So, this passage will certainly challenge every person in different ways, depending on your own cultural experiences and expectations of marriage. But Peter clearly wants to guard the institution as one that is between one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others, for as long as both of them shall live. The wife therefore who has just become a new Christian, without submitting universally to every man, as far as it is safe for her to do so, is to be subject to her husband, meaning that she is to grow in her respect and purity of conduct before him. This is to be the case even, or perhaps especially if the husband of the Christian wife is not yet a believer. The true grace of God has given her a new identity, a new purpose, and a new way of looking at herself; but her new life has not given her grounds to seek a new marriage with anyone else. She is no longer to be defined by the external fads and fashions of her culture (be they cosmetic or conventional). She is now to be defined by what eternity values. If she is married to a husband who is yet, himself to submit and obey the truth of Jesus, she has now a new mission field and a very great calling indeed.
Certainly, we must say the true grace of God does not make life any easier as we seek to stand firm in it.
For their part, husbands receive a shorter exhortation, but this is perhaps because men cannot take on board as much as women - I betray my own cultural conditioning. But husbands equally are to demonstrate understanding - this takes patience and consideration. Regardless as to why Peter describes a woman as weaker, let us not lose sight that the husband is to honour his wife - that takes time, insight and great, great care. His wife is equally loved by God as she is a co-heir of the grace of life. And his care, concern and cherishing of his wife only serves to expand his capacity to deepen in his dependency on God.
Let us pray for our spouses, for those in difficult marriages, for the dangers of idolising marriage and at the same time for redefining it. Above all let us encourage one another, whether single or married to adorn our hearts with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
Blessed are you, O Lord, and blessed are those who observe and keep your law: Help us to seek you with our whole heart, to delight in your commandments and to walk in the glorious liberty given us by your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.