Friday, July 26, 2013

1st Peter 3 - A wife's submission

"In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior." (1 Peter 3:1-2)
In most churches you don't hear a lot of sermons on this verse for this verse is like vinegar to many; setting their teeth on edge. Many people protest against this scripture by denouncing what they think it says, even thought it does not, or by reacting to how people obey this scripture, even though they do not. Much has been reviled and rejected of this scripture based on a false understanding of what it says and/or commands. Peter just finished exhorting us to submit our selves to every human institution, and then says, "in the same way..." We readily submit to our government and their laws; their laws being a kind of final arbiter of our behavior. However, in what way are we to submit to our government? As free people voluntarily submitting to what is good and right. In this same way, Peter calls wives to submit to their husbands, as free people voluntarily submitting to what is good. This is not an absolute submission, but a submission to want is right.

This scripture does not teach that only men are to make the decisions or that women do not, or should not, have a say in those decisions. Consider Abraham and Sarah. Sarah was no silent mouse and was not afraid to speak her mind to Abraham. It was Sarah who convinced Abraham to sleep with Hagar, a time when he should not have listened to his wife, and it was also Sarah who advised Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away, a time when he should have listened to her. On this occasion, God said, "whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her." (Genesis 21:12) There are also plenty of scriptures that describe a wife's role in a marriage, that she should be governing, industrious, and generous. Consider just a few verses from Proverbs 31. "She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong... She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies belts to the tradesmen. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future." (Proverbs 31:16-17, 24-25) This is not often what we think of when we think of a submissive wife, but it is what God thinks of.

The whole matter of submission, in my opinion, centers around authority. My boss is a woman and a woman owns our company. I am free to state my opinion and to vigorously lobby for the direction I believe is best for the company, but when a decision is made, I need to submit to it and pull together with the other workers in trying to achieve the direction set by that decision. In any given human organization, there needs to be one who is ultimately responsible for making a decision and it is the responsibility of others to accept and follow that decision. I can probably count on one hand the number of times my wife and I were at opposite positions on what was best for our family, and at those times, I had to make the final decision and the blame or praise for that decision fell directly to me. Sometimes they were good decisions, sometimes, not so good, but they were my decisions and we all proceeded on.

I hope this suffices to briefly explain what my position is on submission in the home. Authority does not infer merit, but without it, anarchy and chaos can ensure, and God is a God of order. "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace." (1 Corinthians 14:33 NIV)

Finally, let's be certain about the purpose of submission. Our submission to governments is mean to demonstrate the nature of God by our commitment to what is right, holy, and good. It is also to silence those ignorant fools who slander the way of God without understanding the way of God. Our good behavior is to be a beacon to some and a rebuke to others. The same is true with submission in marriage; a wife's good behavior can demonstrate the nature of God to her children and unbelieving husband to draw them to Christ. Where words are plentiful, their meaning diminishes, but actions speak louder than words. We submit, not because we are inferior, but freely that we might represent God to those around us and to those in the world.

David Robison

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