The Pilgrims’ Guidebook: The principle of submission (4)

I Peter 3:1-7

In Greco-Roman society, the religion of the head of the household was assumed to be the religion of the whole household. This must have caused many problems for Christian women whose husbands rejected the Gospel. But a Christian woman married to a man who is hostile to her faith can bear powerful witness to the transforming power of Jesus Christ simply by persistent Christian behaviour. This may get the message across in situations where words would cause offence.

‘Submit’ cannot mean that a married woman should not think for herself, or never disagree with her husband. If that were so, the situation of a ‘mixed marriage’ would never arise! Rather, it means that a Christian wife should not try to undermine or usurp her husband’s authority.

Christian femininity

There is nothing more distinctively Christian than a woman who is not preoccupied with her appearance! Fashion itself is non-moral; what is wrong or perverse in one culture or generation may be perfectly acceptable in another. Nevertheless, the way we dress makes a statement about our attitude and priorities. Scruffiness or dowdiness honours neither a woman’s husband nor her Lord; but women are more likely to err in the opposite direction, by being ostentatious or extravagant in their clothes, hairstyle, make-up, etc. This is aggravated by cultural pressures: the world puts much emphasis on outward appearance, and currently sets a standard of ‘beauty’ which for most women is unachievable.

Is it appropriate for a Christian woman to be enslaved to the latest fashions, to spend a fortune on clothes and jewellery (or cosmetic surgery), or to draw attention to herself by the way she dresses? These things are vanities; they cannot last. Physical beauty cannot last either, even with all the tricks we use to resist the aging process! But is outer beauty really that important?

“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout                                                                                                         is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” (Proverbs 11:22)

Our inner character need never stop improving – and God sets a high value on modesty, gentleness and inner tranquillity. In this area, as in all others, we should be aiming to please God rather than men! Women who hope in God have an inner strength and confidence; they are free from fear of the future (Proverbs 31:25).

And a word to the men…

In the world, men use their social power and greater physical strength to dominate, abuse and exploit women. But Christian men are also called to walk in gentleness and humility, like Christ; they must therefore treat their wives with consideration and respect. The husband should care for and protect his wife, acknowledging both her physical limitations and her spiritual equality.

Men and women are equal with respect to our Christian inheritance. But the man is the proper head of the household, and the one whom God will hold responsible for its wellbeing. A good relationship with his wife is therefore a prerequisite for a good relationship with God.

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