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God is with you - Part 19

1 Peter 3v1-7

Wives and Husbands, Part 2

21st July 2017

Last week we began to think about this very challenging passage, which is so contrary to what fashionable opinion in Britain will tell us:

1 Peter 3v1-7
Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes. Instead, 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 make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

Some modern-day Christians would like to ignore what God says through Peter when He tells Christian wives to be submissive to your husbands. Others apply these words unthinkingly, as if this passage gives husbands the right to mistreat their wives. I hope that last week we saw that these words must not be ignored, but they should be understood more intelligently than some evangelical preachers care to think.

This week let's consider these words:

1 Peter 3v1a-4
... so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes. Instead, 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.

I would say this principle applies to all Christians all the time. It's not just applicable to Christian wives of non-Christian husbands in northern Turkey in the first century. The principle is this: no-one gets saved because you argue them into it. They get saved because you love them into it.

If you see anybody truly living the godly life, it will change your life. If a non-Christian, pagan, Roman husband sees a Christian woman with the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, it will touch his heart, and it might bring him to Jesus. But that's also true of you in the bus queue, or at work, or with your friends at the pub, or out for a walk. If they see the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit in you in any context, whether you're male or female, it will touch their lives. A gentle and quiet spirit is vital for Christian community, and vital for Christian evangelism.

Put simply: more people will get saved if you're nice.

There's no guarantee, of course, that all non-Christian husbands of Christian wives will come to faith. But there's more chance (if I can use that word) they'll get saved if you're filled with the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit than if you're not. And, again, the same is true of the person you go out cycling with, or the person you go to a book club with, or whatever it is you do. Your gentle and quiet spirit will touch their hearts. Some will get saved and some won't but it'll make a difference. Even if they don't catch your faith, they might catch some of your gentleness and quietness, some of your unfading beauty.

But, again, Peter is saying something particular about Christian wives of non-Christian husbands. It can be difficult being married to a non-Christian, because we see things so differently. Some marriages between Christians and non-Christians work quite well, but some really don't work very well at all. Wouldn't it be lovely if we could say that if you're a perfect wife he will turn into the perfect husband? But it's not always true. It's worth a shot. Sometimes it works. And anyway, being nice is better than being horrible, so give it a shot. But don't be a doormat. Don't compromise your Christian ethics because your husband's giving you a hard time, or even because he isn't. We must do what we know to be right. We have a higher loyalty than to our marriage partner. Our ultimate loyalty is to God.

A word now about literalism.

If you want to read a short passage of scripture literally, without reference to the context, you could read these words literally: "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment". But can I point out that clothing is adornment? Please don't go to church naked next week.

There are scriptures that we take too naively, and perhaps that's how the evangelical churches have developed this idea that it's OK to be a very macho, domineering husband, which we have had to repent of in our generation.

Here are a couple of other examples:

Jesus said in Matthew Chapter 5, "if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away". How many one-handed Christians do you see? You know not to take it literally.

In Matthew Chapter 19, in the NIV, Jesus says "Some are eunuchs because they were born that way, others were made that way by men, and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven" but this is not what the Greek says. The Greek says "...and others have made eunuchs of themselves because of the kingdom of heaven". Do you want to take that literally? The third century theologian Origen did take it literally. He loved the Lord, and he loved the Scriptures, and he read that passage, so he castrated himself.

Taking the Scriptures literally is not always a smart thing to do. Sometimes it's physically painful, often it's emotionally painful, to take the scripture too literally or too simplistically. And in particular, to imagine that "Wives... be submissive to your husbands" means "let them dominate you", is crazy.

More next time.