Saturday, July 27, 2013

1st Peter 3 - A wife's modesty

"Your adornment must not be [merely] external — braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God." (1 Peter 3:3-4)
Throughout the millennia, people have remained the same. Clement of Alexandria wrote of the women of the second century, "Accordingly they season the flesh like a pernicious sauce; and the day they bestow on the toilet shut up in their rooms, so as not to be caught decking themselves. But in the evening this spurious beauty creeps out to candle-light as out of a hole; for drunkenness and the dimness of the light aid what they have put on. The woman who dyes her hair yellow... stain her cheeks... paint her eyes." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 2) Nor was it only the women who were addicted to their outward appearance. Clement also writes of the men who sought to remove hair from their body, "For their service the towns are full of those who take out hair by pitch-plasters, shave, and pluck out hairs... whose whole body is made smooth by the violent tuggings of pitch-plasters... But the using of pitch to pluck out hair..., and in the act of bending back and bending down, the violence done to nature’s modesty by stepping out and bending backwards in shameful postures" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 3) We live in a culture that pays great praise for a person's outward appearance with little regard to the beauty or ugliness that lies inside.

One of the greatest sins that the early church warned against was that of luxury. The early church writers called believers to be people of modesty, temperance, and simplicity. This outward form of our existence is passing away while it is the character of our inner man and woman that is eternal. "Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day." (2 Corinthians 4:16 NKJV) How different we would be if we paid as much attention to preparing our inner man as we do in beautifying our outer man. It is the inner things, the eternal things, that are pleasing to God and, in marriage, that promotes lasting happiness and blessings. Beauty is fading. A marriage based on outward appearance rarely lasts, but one that is built upon the recognition of the inner beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit will long last. Let this be our goal and pursuit.
"For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear." (1 Peter 3:5-6)
Look at the women honored in the scriptures, both old and new. These were not mousy milk-toast women, they were women of strength, character, faith, and action. In fact, Irenaeus believed that, in some ways, women were actually stronger and superior to men. Speaking of the fall of man, he wrote, "And if thou sayest that it attacked her as being the weaker of the two, [I reply that], on the contrary, she was the stronger, since she appears to have been the helper of the man in the transgression of the commandment. For she did by herself alone resist the serpent, and it was after holding out for a while and making opposition that she ate of the tree, being circumvented by craft; whereas Adam, making no fight whatever, nor refusal, partook of the fruit handed to him by the woman, which is an indication of the utmost imbecility and effeminacy of mind." (Fragments from the Lost Writings of Ireaeus, Chapter 14) Let these be the pattern you aspire to emulate, rather than the woman of the world. These were free women, women of purpose and character, women committed to what was right and good, and women who were not afraid. The Greek word for "fear" is only used in this passage and means "alarm" or "amazement". These were women of faith and courage who were not afraid of anything life could throw at them. Regardless of the circumstances or conditions that presented themselves, they met them with faith and courage banishing all fear and terror. What holy and godly role models for all today.

David Robison

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