This week’s lesson in 1 Peter: Finding Encouragement in Troubling Times focuses on 1 Peter 3:1-7. If you take a moment to read these few verses, you will see that this is one of those passages that produces so much thought and discussion. And yet, I’m having trouble knowing exactly how to put my thoughts on this lesson into coherent form.
So, I’m going to divert a little bit.
The primary focus of the lesson is the “look” of a godly wife, whether her husband is a believer or not. In all situations, our godliness or lack thereof speaks volumes to our husbands, and to any other men in our lives. Do we walk in purity and reverence, or are we more concerned about maintaining our external appearance and our rights?
First, a side note thought. One thing that occurred to me while working through lesson five was this: Maintaining our external appearance does not always mean dressing to the nines and making sure our hair and face are perfect. In our society women are urged to fight for equality. Even those of us who recognize that God made men and women to have certain differences often find ourselves caught up in the pursuit of societal success based on equality. Physical appearances are important, true, but our society tends to rank success even higher than physical beauty. If you have both the pretty face and the societal success, then you’ve truly made it to the top of the ladder! So, the adornment that Peter refers to in 3:3 might not be able to be summed up for us just in how we look physically. It might have to be extended a bit to cover our societal appearance as a whole. How do we measure up to what our culture imagines a perfectly adorned woman to look? And what do we need to do to make sure we are more concerned about the beauty of 1 Peter 3 than the beauty perceived by our society?
And now, back to my primary thought.
As I moved through this lesson, I couldn’t help but see specific and precious faces in my mind. These were the faces of Filipina ladies married to Muslim Jordanian men. Many of them had been Christians in name only before their marriages, ladies who were swept off their feet by the gifts, romance, and promises of these handsome Jordanian men. But, when they went from the girlfriend of a handsome Jordanian to the wife of a Muslim man, life changed dramatically and they suddenly needed something more to cling to. They began searching for that deeper and truer faith in Christ. The permissiveness of their husbands ranged greatly. Some were permitted to live as active Christians as long as they willingly raised their children as Muslims and did not stir up trouble in the extended family. They were able to fellowship with other Christians and carry on a relatively free life. Others, however, were highly limited. Some were not even permitted to leave their homes. Occasionally those wives were allowed to have approved female visitors, and often that was the only Christian fellowship – or even non-family fellowship – that existed for them.
I had the amazing privilege of joining my mother in ministry to a handful of these women, and what she taught them remains burned into my mind to this day. My mother is a strong-willed woman who does not back down from a challenge. Yet here she was teaching these precious women the truths of godly submission. She taught them what it meant to be truly submissive to their husbands without compromising their own faith in Christ. For the meeker ones who often confused submissiveness with being a doormat, this meant teaching them how to stand firm and strong while still being gentle. For the strong-willed ones who would verbally argue with and stand up to their husbands, this meant teaching them to hold their tongues and pray instead. The thought that their husbands might convert to Christianity in a nation where such conversions are technically illegal seemed such a far-fetched dream. But, their faithfulness was essential.
Those ladies could identify with Peter’s initial audience more profoundly than any of us in the western world ever could imagine. They lived what many of the believing wives of Peter’s day lived. If we could learn by choice to be the submissive and graceful wives that they were trying to be out of necessity, how amazing could our marriages be?