Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. —1 Peter 3:1-6
When I was a young wife, this passage raised my hackles. But as I have now lived more than two decades with my unbelieving spouse, I testify to the power and truth behind this wisdom.
I know that there remains great confusion in the “church” over what Peter intends here. I’ve known women who were told to submit to men who were abusive and evil. Although I think in general, church leadership has steered away from this kind of demand in the past decade. I know that within homes, especially marriages of the unequally yoked, husbands have quoted this verse to their believing wives in order to manipulate and control them. Let me be clear, if a man quotes this to his wife he is speaking out of fear and arrogance. His intent is not love but to control.
A husband of integrity would never need to speak this verse to his wife. And a wife should never acquiesce to a man who holds scripture over her to control her. And wives you don’t get off easy either. Mutual respect and love should reign supreme in your relationship and thus a husband would never think of manipulating his wife in such a way. Love and respect must be the core of every marriage. Of course, people aren’t perfect and most of us are somewhere on the path learning to love and respect our spouse well.
Reading back through 1 Peter 3, I can only offer what I have learned in the two plus decades that I have tried to apply this passage to my life. Trying to win my husband with my words of confrontation, condemnation, conviction, manipulation, fear, and begging, well….. it just doesn’t work. Period. The end.
You know what works? The behavior of purity and reverence of my life. What does that look like? Well, my husband CANNOT deny that I believe. He sees the hours I spend with my Lord. He has witnessed my years of praying for him and our family. He sees that I am clothed with hope. He sees that I possess a relentless well spring of joy and that I am a person of profound faith.
I am adorned with a grace that allows me to forgive the unforgivable and I have modeled that to him and our children. I have been honored with an unfading beauty which is the Spirit of the Living God. My husband may not understand it, but our home is a peaceful place. It is a sanctuary that allows him, our children and myself to live authentically. I have friends who call and want to visit just because our house is and I quote, “so peaceful.” My faith changes the atmosphere of my home and often improves the atmosphere wherever I go. (More stories for another day)
I have willingly laid down many dreams and hopes in support of this one man because God said he is worth it. I’ve cried at times and then I’ve prayed with power. I’ve lived the best that I can within the love and power of Jesus. I have adorned myself with humility, most of the time *grin*, and have done the right thing by loving him with a full heart. The dreams I had as a young wife may have been lost but in return God has given me abundantly more than I could have hoped, conceived or dreamed. And God is not finished yet.
At the end of this particular passage Peter urges wives to do what is right and when we do, we will walk in the legacy of Godly women who have gone before us. How beautiful is that? I want to pass this legacy on to my daughter.
And finally Peter says, “Do not give way to fear.”
Submission is not fear. Submission is love and respect. And by the way, it goes both ways between a husband and a wife. Now, this is where the rubber meets the road: Submission is meeting the needs of our spouse. As a believer it means meeting his/her needs even when yours remain unmet. But do not fear because over time, just like me, you will discover that your husband will begin to meet your needs and he will treat you with respect because you modeled it first. And my dear wives, if there are needs in your heart that are never met by your earthly husband, Jesus will more than meet them all.
I leave you now with a story of ultimate submission. I pray this story wrecks you in every good way because this man's submission was for us:
Jesus Christ, who, though he was God, did not demand and cling to his rights as God, but laid aside his mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men. And he humbled himself even further, going so far as actually to die a criminal’s death on a cross.
Yet it was because of this that God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name which is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Wives, do not fear, let Christ raise you up. Because when He does, your husband will fall to his knees and acknowledge that you were right all along and he will proclaim that Jesus is Lord! Never stop praying. Never stop hoping and never stop re-presenting Christ in your marriage, home, family and to the world!