We’re going through I Peter in the college class at Lehman Avenue and we most recently studied part of chapter three. This chapter further discusses the theme of submission (giving up our power willingly to another) frequently appearing throughout the book. Christians are essentially told, “It’s not about me,” that we should get rid of certain behaviors, and an explanation for why we give up certain behaviors or power is given.
For example, we should get rid of hatred, taking advantage of others, hypocrisy, jealousy, and character assassination (2.1), because we know that God has shown us mercy (2.9, 10). That’s hard. We should listen to our government, even when we disagree with them (as long as it doesn’t violate God’s word), because God uses them to maintain some semblance of law and order (2.13-17). That’s hard. We should be good employees, even when our bosses aren’t fair, because Christ suffered, too, and God looks at us favorably when we suffer for doing the right thing (2.18ff). That’s hard.
In the same way – that is, keeping with the theme of surrendering our own power and doing something difficult for the sake of goodness – Peter addresses women and men specifically in chapter three.
This is an interesting study because it sheds light on a controversial topic: wives being submissive to their husbands. Let’s look at the text:
Γυναίκες (wives/women): Submit to ιδιοις (your own) husbands. Not all men, just husbands. Peter is not saying that women are inferior and should submit for that reason.
Ινα (in order that): For the purpose of cultivating godliness and influencing a fallen husband. It’s not for the purpose of manifesting inferiority, but to influence a lost husband! This involves a difficult task – as in 2.18 – which demonstrates the power of the word.
Δια (through/by): γυναικών αναστροφής (womanly or “wifely” conduct). Through her submission to her husband and through an emphasis on timeless inner beauty, she can save his soul. “Men and women have different ways of expressing godliness. Peter is showing how women can powerfully influence their husbands, which is by submitting to them” (Edwin Jones).
This sensitive topic is nonetheless a powerful one. Wives are not told to submit because it’s “just what women should do,” or because of a belief that women are somehow inferior, but are told to submit because it can save souls. Men are told to assign value to their wives and to be respectful and considerate with them if they want to be right with God (3.7), followed by a general set of commands for all Christians to act a certain way for the sake of godliness (3.8ff).
We submit and suffer as Christians to save souls and to remember that, “It’s not about me.”
It was such a joy to accompany the BVBII students on campaign to Greensboro, Georgia. Chuck Ramseur, one of our graduates, is doing a great job with Brianna and their four children, and the church was so warm and hospitable. Yet, one of the things I’ll remember the most from this trip was the continual service displayed by Bonnie Saldana. Her husband, Mario, is a freshman and we had the same host family. Throughout the week, Bonnie would jump up and clear the dishes from the table and clean the kitchen. Our hosts, Dean and Karen, would urge her to sit down, but you could tell how much they truly appreciated it. She made no fanfare about it, but quietly and diligently worked.
Mario is a joy to be around, but his wife’s willingness to jump in and get involved will help raise his “stock” when he graduates and looks for a place to preach. Increasingly, I have seen women married to preachers who, in apparent protest at the thought of being part of a “package deal,” do little if anything to be involved (clean up, teach classes, otherwise volunteer, etc.) in the local church. This sends a powerfully clear message to the other ladies (and men) in the congregation. Rather than greatness, it shows gross selfishness.
Jesus proclaimed service as the way heaven esteems greatness (cf. Mat. 20:26-28). I wonder how He feels when He sees those unaware and unwilling to look around and assist where work is to be done. The particulars of the problem are not given at Philippi between the divided women, Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2), but an overarching solution to “church trouble” is to “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).
What is to be eliminated? (1) Selfishness (Louw/Nida—“What they do is just for themselves,” 88.167), (2) Empty conceit (“A state of pride which is without justification,” ibid.), (3) Personal interests (A selfish preoccupation with with one’s own affairs, O’Brien, NIGTC, np). What is encouraged? (1) Humility of mind, (2) Higher regard for others, (3) Looking out for the interests of others. Apply this to cleaning up after fellowship activities, babysitting, helping with workdays, providing transportation, practicing hospitality, listening to others’ ideas and input, doing security, greeting visitors, providing meals for those in need, visiting the hospitals and nursing homes, taking an interest in the youth through the elderly, teaching a class, nurturing a new Christian, and using your training and talents however you can to help the church grow.
There are many Christian women and men out there like Bonnie. May each of us look at examples like these and eagerly imitate them. In noticing them, we are following heaven’s example. In following them, we are following heaven’s advice.