DAILY DEVOTION - MAY 26
Listen to excerpts from today's daily devotion on this video.
This Daily Devotion is from A Living Hope, by Sarah Viggiano Wright, published by Bible Study Media, and made available to us through Presbyterian Women.
“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
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 3:1–7
Since chapter 2 verse 13, Peter has been addressing relationships in the Christian community, pointing out the radical witness that servant-like love is to the world.
The example that Jesus left behind for us to follow is submission and a willingness to lay down one’s life for another. This servanthood is entered into out of reverence to God and continued through deep, active, continual trust in the Father. It is descriptive of a new life that has been given to us through the new hope we have in Jesus.
So when we come to a passage like 3:1–7, and we see that Peter is addressing wives, instructing them not to be concerned with outer beauty, encouraging them to call their husband “lord,” and considering them the “weaker vessel,” women readers can have a number of different reactions. We can view this text as archaic and completely dismiss it. We can at least hope it is addressing an issue of antiquity no longer relevant today. We can feel defeated by it, believing it opens the door to being “walked all over” or, even worse, abused. We can read it as blatant misogyny, asking us to mindlessly obey our husbands as though they are masters and we are servants. We can feel slighted at the insinuation that women have vain interests and are weaker than men. All of these and more are possible reactions. We can ask how such instruction can be good, let alone godly.
There’s a lot here to unpack in order to understand the tenderness and true intention of Peter’s message, as well as its continuity with what’s come before—most importantly, its connection to the deep love of God.
First, it is important to understand that this passage is being read aloud in a public arena; it is intended to help bring about a broad social transformation that requires action from people other than just married women. Like us “listening in” to Peter’s instructions to the servants (Week Four, Day 3), this message has implications for everyone because the role of every Christian has service and submission embedded in it. Though Peter is addressing a distinct group here—spouses—a wider application to households, to Christians, and to the world at large is intended.
Second, it is significant to recognize that women were almost never directly addressed in public at all. So, though it may seem that Peter is speaking demeaning language to women, his intention is actually to elevate them by addressing them directly and by referring to them as “joint heirs” (3:7, RSV) of the gift of life.
Third, it cannot be stated enough that reverence to God is the overall goal! Submission and service of the spouses is a “likewise” that happens out of reverence to God. Living for God may even win over a non-believing spouse, just as good conduct could cause non-Christians to glorify God (2:12).
Therefore, wives are to cultivate a captivating holy graciousness, having an inner disposition rooted in, settled by, and calmed by God. It’s not about being quiet (silent). It’s about being quieted (calmed) by God; having your fears stilled by God. A study of the word “gentle” yields the definition of power without harm, or a balance of reserve and strength. It is in this posture that respectful conduct and speech toward one’s husband, as Sarah demonstrated toward Abraham, is honoring and beautiful to God.
Peter points out that in Genesis 18:12, though she knew it was humanly inconceivable for her aged, barren body to bear a child, Sarah spoke tenderly about her husband. Peter’s reference is not a command to call our husbands “lord” or “master;” it is an honoring with kind speech of our husbands even when we are experiencing our own doubt or disbelief. The challenge of this honoring is more difficult when a wife has been converted to Christ but her husband has not. Peter encourages wives, assuring them that their gentleness toward an unbelieving husband may influence him toward Christ far more than any harsh word or demeaning measure.
Fourth, this passage is a call to arrange oneself under another (submission), and to lay one’s life down for the good of another (service). Submission is a part of the relational design God has for Christian marriage; the roles of both husband and wife are to be honored (3:1, 7). Theologians Timothy Keller and Kathy Keller, who are husband and wife, teach on the interplay of the roles and responsibilities married Christians have in relation to each other. Kathy Keller writes:
All of God’s designs are beautiful—sometimes intricate, difficult to master, and affected by sin, but glorious nonetheless. In marriages that embrace God’s design, you both get to ‘play the Jesus role.’ Husbands are told to imitate Jesus as the servant-leader, who will go to any length, even death, to serve and purify his bride.
Wives can look to Jesus as he was worshiped in Philippians 2—submissive to the role of ezer in full knowledge of her equality.
Ezer is a Hebrew word primarily used in the Bible to mean “help,” like God’s help (as referenced in Psalm 70:5, “[Lord,] You are my help and my deliverer”). In full use of her gifts and strengths, this help and service of another is what a wife offers to her husband as they carry out God’s mission together. Peter states in verse 7 that there is no inferiority of wives to husbands, as the interpretation of the Greek instruction to husbands is “rendering the honor due to her as your joint-heir.” Wives are co-inheritors (synkēronomois) with their husbands of new life in Jesus.
Concerning husbands, their call is challenging indeed. Husbands are to lead in service, love, tenderness, and care, being thoughtful and honoring of their wives, using any advantage they receive for her good. Again, their model and example is Jesus, loving as he loved (Ephesians 5:25), serving like Jesus served, and having authority without self-centeredness. The mutual laying down of one’s life for the other makes these calls mutually beneficial, though rarely easy when our own interests are at stake.
There is no doubt that, in the original context, women were understood to be physically weaker than men, but they also experienced a lack of social privileges and power. However, as The Message translation of Scripture illuminates, the intended meaning here is for husbands to use any “advantages” they have been given to benefit their wives, who have less social power, and their home and not for their own self-interest.
Both spouses are to follow the path of Jesus, who came down and emptied himself to serve us and to die for us. As his followers, we are to lay down our self-centeredness, the pursuit of our own happiness, and whatever consumer-based cravings we have to further God’s goodness in our homes and in our communities. This is the way of Jesus.