Explore the Bible: 1 Peter 3:1-12
If Peter’s teaching on our relationship to authorities makes some Christians uncomfortable, his teaching on the relationship between husbands and wives makes some positively squirm. In our society, any thought of a woman being submissive in any way to her husband is viewed as a throwback to a time when women were considered property and husbands could do whatever they wanted to them. Many is Western culture believe that they have transcended the ethics of the Bible with a more enlightened, egalitarian view of marriage.
I find it interesting that while women are told to voluntarily submit themselves (as the Greek verb tense indicates), husbands are told to honor their wives. A submissive wife might be found in the pagan culture, but an honored wife would be hard to find. Peter does not encourage here merely verbal praise; a husband is to actively give his wife respect and honor. This went against everything that society in the first century believed.
Sadly, it also goes against what many in our 21st century society believe. Marriage is looked at as a temporary contract by many. A man and woman may marry, but each can go on living their own life and seeking their own interests. A modern wife would never consider voluntarily submitting to her husband’s authority, and a modern husband would not view his wife as a person deserving of honor. Peter’s words not only shook his first readers, but they shake us today.
In many respects, a wife’s submission depends on her husband’s honor. Peter did not intend for women to subject themselves to abuse or mistreatment, or to engage in sinful activities because their husbands told them to. In the case of a woman with an unbelieving husband, she was to live a life that demonstrated what Jesus had done for her. A wife with a believing husband, one who honored her as he should, would have no impediment to following his leadership.
The Biblical standards for our relationships, including our family relationships, often run counter to our culture’s standards. We would be much more comfortable obeying the Lord if we could make His will match the will of our world. We can’t do this, however. As difficult as it may be to live by God’s standards, we are called to do this to show the world just what the power of Jesus can do in our lives and in our relationships with others.
We may have to stand for something that is unpopular. We may be called names and insulted for our beliefs. Even other Christians may urge us to reconsider, and find a way to live like the rest of the world. In this matter, as in any others where the Biblical teaching opposes our cultural norms, we must choose to follow God rather than man. Yet in doing so, we can become a powerful witness for the Lord and the order He ordained as we live out His will and His Word before the eyes of a watching world.