If you find yourself in a difficult marriage, and many of us feel we are, this is a very important command to understand and embrace. But it may not be what exactly you think!
Context: we live in a world increasingly hostile to followers of Jesus: in effect, we are exiles here.
Three Affirmations of Submission
- It is a strategy with imperfect husbands
If you find yourself, as a married woman, in a situation where you are having to be submissive to a man who is ungodly or an unbeliever, there are few things more discouraging and scary than the hopeless sense of living with someone who is not on the same page or perhaps even trying to discourage you in your walk with the Lord. The Bible is calling you to not be afraid, and instead to follow the Lord in how you demonstrate Christ-likeness by doing your very best to be a godly, submissive woman. Don’t go down the path of bitterness, resentment, criticism or disobedience to the Lord. Instead, follow the example of Jesus and entrust yourself to the one who judges justly, realizing that submission is an effective strategy to reach an imperfect husband. Wives, your submission is the most strategic and powerful way that you live as an exile.
- It is the essence of true beauty
There are plenty of pretty women who have nasty hearts, but Peter (1 Peter 3:1-6) is focusing on a group of women who live in the world as Christian exiles – whose identity doesn’t rest on if she’s the prettiest girl in the room, but rather rests on who she is in Christ! Peter in effect says “that’s the kind of woman who is really attractive”, and frankly, that is the woman who wields an enormous amount of power! She’s lovely because she is modeling a counter-cultural and transformational way of living.
- It is a legacy of godly hope
In order to embrace a mindset of biblical submission you have to hope in God. How so? Submission requires you to believe that God’s definition of beauty is better than the world’s definition. You can’t believe in the definition of beauty if you don’t hope in God. Second, submission is only pursued with intentionality when someone truly believes that God’s glory is worth pursuing. A woman who seeks to learn how to be submissive must hope in God. And third, submission as a strategy for a disobedient or unbelieving husband requires a great amount of hope in God.
Men, what kind of beauty and attractiveness do you praise? Do you have daughters in your home? Do you only compliment physical beauty or do you importantly affirm the nature of what is happening in the heart? And single men, what kind of woman are you looking for and attracted to? Where does a submissive and quiet spirit fall in the order of priority for you? How are you helping your wife, your daughters, or your sisters in Christ to cherish and love a beauty that isn’t just external, but is heart-based?
Women, what kind of beauty and attractiveness is valuable to you? Do you find your security first in your external appearance or is there something more foundational? Do you love godliness and a “gentle and quiet” heart of do you just want to be known as “hot”? Do you think about how to be careful with your appearance so that you are sending the right message about what is really important to you and even what you really love? Is modesty something that you consider as you ready yourself for the day?
Older women, how are you helping the younger generation understand how to live in a way that fits with this text? We need godly, older women who can model the unfading beauty of a submissive, godly heart expressed over decades. We need you to help push back the tsunami of a culture that defines beauty in categories that do not fit with 1 Peter 3. We need women like you to help affirm the attractiveness of godly submission.
“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. ~1 Peter 3:1–6 (ESV)