July 24, 2016
The circumstances of our lives help to shape our priorities for living life. If you are a university student looking to prepare for a career, your priority will be to study hard. If you have recently lost your job your priority will be to find a job.
Now what if you become a Christian, a follower of Christ? A person who follows Christ will have a priority of living for Christ. In 1Pt.2-3, Peter speaks about what it means to follow Christ in the various circumstances of life. In chapter 3 he speaks about marriage. First he addresses wives. Christian wives, with Christian priorities will point their husbands to Jesus.
I. SEE THE PRIORITY OF THE GOSPEL. 3:1
First Peter focuses on the impact that the gospel has in a person’s life while living in a hostile world. In chapter one Peter writes about the great benefits of receiving salvation through faith in Christ. Not only are our sins forgiven, but we are given a living hope. There is a glorious inheritance being kept for us that will be revealed when Christ returns. What is more, when we turn to Christ in faith we are given new eternal life. And this eternal life is given to us while we still live in our earthly bodies.
Again, when we embrace the gospel, we become part of the people of God, the church. In 2:9, Peter writes, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
The church proclaims to the world the excellencies of God revealed in the person of Jesus. The world in which the believers of Peter’s day were living was hostile to the gospel and to followers of Jesus. And so beginning in 2:13 Peter refers to specific scenarios in which believers must live as Christians. He talks about how Christians engage government. In 2:18 Peter has a word for how Christian slaves are to engage their masters. And beginning in 3:1 Peter speaks to Christian wives and husbands.
In each of these scenarios Peter calls believers to live in such a way that will promote the gospel in society and silence those who would try to malign believers.
But at this point I must raise the question. Have you embraced the good news, the gospel of forgiveness, life, and love in Christ? The problem for all of us is that we are filled with self-will to the point that we do not want to live under the good will of God. We want our way over his ways. Self-will, disregard for God’s good commands has brought disobedience, brokenness, and sadness into our lives, our relationships, and our world because our self-will separates us from God. In the Christian worldview, only Christ can restore our lives and our world to the good that God originally intended for us. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God offers forgiveness and eternal life to all who will turn from their own way and by faith embrace Jesus. When we embrace Jesus and become his follower we enter into a relationship with God in the Kingdom of God and are filled with the life and love of Jesus. And the brokenness of our own lives begins to be healed by Jesus. As we follow Jesus our lives are transformed and we become part of the solution for healing, reconciliation, and restoration in this world.
Well you can see that turning to Jesus makes a big difference in how we live. It makes a big difference in how Christian wives live with their husbands. Peter’s hope is that the way Christian wives live with their unbelieving husbands will win their husbands to Christ. So do you know Christ? Have you turned to him for forgiveness and life?
II. SEE THE PRIORITY OF CHRISTIAN CONDUCT. 3:1-2
Just as we are to be subject to government authorities and slaves are to be subject to their masters, so Peter writes that wives are to be subject to their husbands. When we considered our relationship to government we had to adapt Peter’s words to our situation. We don’t live in the Roman Empire; we live in a democracy. So we said that Christians are to do their best to live under whatever government is in place. Christians are to live under the laws as long as the laws do not compromise their loyalty and obedience to Jesus. When we considered Peter’s words to slaves, we pointed out that slavery in the ancient world was quite a bit different from slavery in our own country and since we no longer have slavery we applied Peter’s words to employees. When we think about how to apply Peter’s imperative for Christian wives we recognize that while our society is still patriarchal, much has changed. The strong patriarchy that once dominated and greatly restricted women in Judaism and the Roman-Greco societies has given way to a much more egalitarian approach to marriage. In fact, most of us would say that the Bible in no way promotes the strong, controlling and dismissive treatment of women that once characterized societies and marriages. Whereas in the old country a husband might feel well within his rights to hit or slap his wife, today we would say this is not what God desires. In fact, in the face of physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse within marriage, which is still a huge problem, many pastors today would encourage the wife to leave the husband for her own welfare.
So in applying Peter’s admonition to Christian wives, I would say that Christian wives are to graciously live with their husbands according to the freedoms and restrictions generally embraced by society. Of course I am not talking about any sinful behavior. If our lives are characterized by gospel living that is going to be seen in our conduct. Here Peter refers to respectful and pure conduct.
In your marriage you want to live like Jesus would live if he were in your shoes. That is the goal for every believer. Peter points out that this is especially true if your husband or wife is an unbeliever. Notice that Peter refers to winning your husband without words. In other words, I believe Peter is saying that in our marriages conduct is more important than gospel conversation. We don’t badger people to embrace Christ by continually telling them they need to be saved. A Christian wife who continually tries to get her husband to become a believer by always talking about it is probably doing more harm than good, especially if your gospel words are not backed up by Christian living.
Truth be told, Christian conduct, Christian living is more challenging than gospel conversation. It is in our conduct that Christ is revealed. Are you married to an unbelieving husband? What does he see day in and day out as you live together? Are you critical? Do you nag and find fault? Or do you seek to encourage and build up? Are you selfish, putting yourself first? What about your language? Do you yell and curse? When you are upset are you quick to anger? Do you hold onto resentments or are you quick to forgive? Do you complain and grumble at your lot in life? Do you lie? Are you more concerned with having a certain standard of living than living to the standard of Christ? Do you purposely do things that will irritate your husband? Do you apologize when you hurt him? Do you withhold yourself from your husband? I get it. Marriage is not easy. But if you are a Christian it should make a difference in the way you treat your husband whether he is a believer or not.
Peter says to respect your husband. That means to have regard for your husband’s unique personality, preferences and needs. Does he have a favorite meal? Is he discouraged? Do you try to please your husband? I know of a husband who likes to have his feet rubbed. It’s not me. But would you be willing to do that if he were your husband? You might be thinking, “Wait a minute! It can’t be all about him.” I understand, but this is the man you are married to. This is the man you show Christ to in your conduct. The goal in marriage is to love and serve one’s spouse not one’s self. When the focus is on loving and serving, talk about submission is usually unnecessary. A Christian wife is going to seek to love her husband and be grateful for him.
Now there are some very unloving, lazy, and disrespectful husbands. And, of course that will make it very difficult for a Christian wife to respect and serve her husband. However, God will work through you to reach your husband as you follow and obey Christ.
And then Peter refers to pure conduct. This refers to being morally pure, sincere and blameless. Every believer struggles with sin and temptation, but because we are followers of Christ, our desire is to keep our focus on Jesus and his ways and turn away from selfishness and sin. The temptation in marriage is to keep the focus on our spouse’s short comings while giving our own shortcomings a pass. You cannot change your husband, but with God’s help you can change your behavior over time as you focus on Christ. And changed behavior is a powerful testimony to the reality of Christ in us.
III. SEE THE PRIORITY OF CHRISTIAN BEAUTY. 3:3-6
For women, external beauty is a big business in every part of the world. To be sure, standards of beauty vary from culture to culture, but wherever you go the beauty and fashion industries are bringing in big bucks.
Why is this? Well it’s because in our world, women are considered the fairer sex and men value beautiful women. And women vie with each other to become more beautiful, calling attention to their appearance. Of course, those who are wealthy can spend more money on clothes, make-up, perfumes, etc. And today, because the ideal body image is thin, but shapely, many women are not able to measure up and they feel bad about themselves because in their minds they can’t be beautiful. Again, if you are wealthy you can always have surgery to enhance this or that part of your body. For every woman age eventually diminishes the luster of beauty. Wealthy women are often willing to spend more money to hold onto every last ounce of their youthful beauty.
In Peter’s day the standard of feminine beauty included braided hair, gold jewelry, and fine clothes. Paul writes the same thing. In 1Tim.2:9 Paul says that Christian women should not adorn themselves with “braided hair, and gold or pearls or costly attire.” Let me say that there is nothing wrong with braided hair, gold jewelry, pearls, or nice clothing. If you received a strand of pearls from your grandmother, Paul is not saying, “It is sinful to wear those pearls.” I don’t believe Peter and Paul are saying a women should not wear makeup or dress nicely. Rather, they are saying that Christian women should not make an idol out of their outward appearance. Christian women should not depend upon outward beauty to secure their sense of wellbeing. If you focus on your outward appearance you will never be truly happy or content with yourself.
So how should Christian women make themselves beautiful? Peter encourages Christian wives to focus on cultivating inner beauty, the inner beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. The word for gentle is sometimes translated with the English word, “meek.” This is a person who is considerate and humble. This person does not demand their way. She is not pushy. The word quiet refers to an inward, quiet calmness.
Notice that Peter says this kind of beauty is imperishable. Cultivating an inner, Christ like beauty will only enhance one’s marriage relationship. But there is more to this than meets the eye. Our body and soul are deeply integrated. What happens in our soul eventually shows itself in the body. And what happens to the body eventually shapes the soul. The woman who is constantly seeking outward beauty begins to develop inner pride and or, dissatisfaction. This woman is often comparing herself with other women and this in turn creates a critical spirit. On the other hand, the woman who is seeking to cultivate the inner beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, will find that in time her body will be at rest and peace. Contentment and grace have their effect on the body. This is true for everyone, not just women. And please do not think that Christian women should look frumpy and old fashioned. Rather as Paul writes in 1Tim.2:9, “women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control.”
When a man and woman are married, they cast their lot together. If in the course of the marriage the wife becomes a Christian, the marriage relationship may be strained because the husband is not a believer. The husband might do things that the wife doesn’t approve of. You remember that Abraham told his wife Sara to tell Pharaoh that she was Abraham’s sister. Sara was beautiful and Abraham was afraid that Pharaoh would kill him in order to take Sara. But God protected Sara. If you are a Christian wife married to an unbeliever, do all you can to show the righteousness, love, grace, and mercy of Christ in your conduct and cultivate deep trust in God. Entrust your life to God and he will help you in difficult circumstances. There is more hope for your husband to turn to Christ as you adopt this plan for living. Your husband will see how your life is being transformed and God will use you to point him to Jesus. Amen