By Hoyt Wilson
Pastor, Flatwoods Baptist Church, Holladay
We have names for the ways we are connected with other people. Father, mother, brother, sister, husband, wife, son, daughter, boss, and many other terms express our relationships. We live connected to others. Each connection we have with others brings with it a responsibility to learn how to live in that relationship. I Peter 3:1-8 shares vital guidance for the primary family relationship of husband and wife.
It is no coincidence that Peter instructs wives first and with six times more verses than he devotes to husbands. In the social structure of Peter’s time women were most vulnerable in the marriage relationship. “In the same way” verse 1 may reflect back to I Peter: 2:18 in which Peter says: “Slaves, in reverent fear of God, submit yourselves to your masters … .” That would fit Peter’s use of Sarah as an example of holy women in verse 6: “… submitting to their own husbands, just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.” Submit is not a dirty word despite current social understanding. Since most people in privacy concerns and political correctness have an “I” problem, we resist submitting to anyone or anything — even God. Yet, the Bible tells us to submit to other Christian workers (I Corinthians 16:16); wives are to submit to their own husbands (Ephesians 5:22, Colossians 3:18); everyone is to submit to authorities (Hebrews 13:7); everyone is to submit to God (James 4:7); and all of us are to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21). Living in relationship with others is challenging.
One of the concerns of Peter is that Christian women live to win their lost husbands to Christ. That will not be done by vanity, but by behavior that reflects spiritual purity and reverence for God. In I Peter 3:3 he is not forbidding women from making themselves physically attractive to their husbands, but is encouraging development of character and disposition. Peter said: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment … rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit … ” (vv. 3-5). Having instructed wives how to live in relationship with their husbands, Peter, in one verse, revealed a new responsibility of how husbands were to relate to their wives.
“Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives with an understanding … showing them honor as coheirs of the grace of life (v. 7). That was revolutionary! The “Amens” given the first seven verses ended. A new rule of Christian men living as husbands was introduced. Women were proclaimed equals to men in spiritual matters. Men had to learn significantly new ways to live in relationship with their wives if they were to understand them and to honor them. Christian women ceased being the property of their husbands and a new oneness began. A young couple bought two trees for three dollars that never would have sold since they were full on one side but scraggly on the other. They invited the seller to visit and see their trees. He was walking in their area one evening and saw a gorgeous Christmas tree in their window. Somewhat angry that they had bought another tree from someone else, he knocked on their door and was admitted. What he saw staggered him. They had wired the two scraggly trees together so that they formed one beautiful tree. Isn’t that what God intended? In Genesis 2:24 God said: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Living in Christian relationship is desirable for all. Peter wrote: “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble” (I Peter 3:8, NIV).
We will be blessed and our world will be changed through living in godly relationship.