In no small way, the voices calling for women’s rights and gender equality today have long been louder than the voices of the church. Gloria Steinem, a spokeswoman for the feminist movement in the 1960s, said “we are becoming the men we wanted to marry.” What a devastating statement and tragic suggestion. Many of us would agree that most of the conversations surrounding gender rights, the feminist movement, equal pay, etc. are controversial, to say the least.
Well, the Bible is no stranger to controversy. I submit to you now, 1 Peter 3, and a topic more crucial now than ever to understand, believe and live out. By the time Peter gets to the third chapter in his first letter, he’s already called us to submit to all human authority, not shying away from hot topics (see Nero and last week’s blog). You’d think he would take a break, but then comes 1 Peter 3:1-7. Peter calls the men and women of the early church to a radical kind of living in relationship to one another. In chapter three, that relationship is marriage. He calls men and women alike to follow, to pursue true beauty, and to lead.
Many of the women converted in the early church were still married to nonbelievers. These women had found for the first time, freedom, value, and honor in Christ remained married to men who had not yet trust Christ. In verses 1 and 2, Peter calls them to remain married and faithful; he calls them to be a living testimony of God’s grace to their husbands. Not an easy task – especially for a woman with few rights in that day and age.
More than that, though, Peter is teaching a valuable principle to those who are single and searching. The principle for women is to choose to follow men who are already following He whom is worth following. Simply put: Date the guys who are pursuing Christ.
Submission in dating looks like a man and a woman both fully submitting first to Christ. Peter calls women to submit to their own husbands. In short, he’s saying submit as a wife to your own husband alone, an important note for women who are not yet married. Don’t submit as a wife to your boyfriend, to someone else’s husband, but to Christ in your pursuit of faith, love, and purity.
Ladies, wondering if that guy is a good leader? Inspect these areas outlined for us in 1 Timothy 4:12. Is he leading in how he’s pursuing Christ, and maintaining purity? This may sound old-fashioned, but here’s the deal – I see a lot of relationships. I see the ones that work and the ones that don’t. I see the foolishness of people who think the Bible teaches old ideas while they embrace a MISERABLE dating track record.
In God’s created order, men lead. Godly submission in marriage means wives should follow their husbands, as their husbands follow Christ. Here is the truth: when men are living out their roles, to the best of their Spirit-led ability, women thrive and submission is easy. Similarly, when women, to their best of their Spirit-led ability, live out their roles, the men are supported, properly helped, and made better, which allows for the further thriving of women. It’s what we like to call a win-win, and it’s what God called “very good.”
In verses 3-4 Peter begins to address the issue of beauty. Ladies, before you write off his words as outdated and extreme, he is not calling you to put away your bronzer and throw out your curling iron. Rather, he is saying that you should spend MUCH more time and energy on becoming truly beautiful, which is to say, godly. When you prioritize physical beauty over inner beauty, you are selling yourself short of the more full and true beauty found in walking with Christ. Spend time with Him and his Word, allow him to transform your heart and mind to look more like his… He is the great Origin and Creator of beauty. That sounds like a more strategic way to spend your morning routine. Worst case scenario: you continue to have mixed up priorities, get with a guy who is as confused as you, and you have a few short-lived, good-looking-on-the-outside-miserable-on-the-inside years.
Men, you are to pursue women who are truly beautiful, which is to say, godly. Before you write off Peter’s words as outdated and extreme, realize that he is not telling you to pursue women you aren’t attracted to, but rather to consider whether or not you are attracted to what God says is attractive. If you are not attracted to what God says is attractive, it would be worth taking some time to think about why that’s the case. Pornography, for example, will ruin your attractions. If you know it has, stop “pursuing” altogether and prioritize your healing.
As Todd often says, bodies deteriorate (that’s science) – people should develop, invest in, and pursue that which lasts. That’s the person on the inside, not the outside.
Finally, Peter in verse 7 speaks to husbands. In this verse he is calling men to self-sacrificial leadership. He warns them that anything short of honoring their wives will hinder their communion with God. Wait…What?!
And all the ladies said “amen.” Like I said before, women in the ancient world had no rights. They couldn’t own property, they couldn’t speak in public, and their opinion meant nothing. Peter called men to use their strength to bless women, rather than oppress or undress them. In Ephesians 5:25-33, Paul is calling men to the same ideal. He calls men to leadership rooted in love, inspired by the First and Greatest Love. A man surrendered, submitted to Jesus, leading in love, is a man worth following.
God desires His people to live in peace and unity. He desires His people to be an example to the watching world of His intended design. The beauty and goodness of God’s design is found when things are working together, according to their God-ordained purpose.
But to quote Shakespeare, therein lies the rub. In today’s world our God-ordained purpose and our God-ordained roles as men and women are constantly being manipulated, maligned, and misrepresented. God Himself exists with purpose and in relationship in the Trinity: God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Equal in rank, different in role. Likewise, men and women are equal in rank, in dignity, in value, but different in God-ordained role. You will not find true purpose and joy apart from living within the roles God has intended for us. When men and women live submitted first to God, then within their God-given roles, each thrives, and the world looks on with awe and wonder. Controversial or good? You decide.
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