Many women in the world use these verses as the reason to believe the Bible and Christianity are patriarchal, anti-women, and likewise. The truth is, the Bible is quite up on equality. God sees all people equally, He shows no partiality (Galatians 3:28, Acts 10:34). But He does see the wonderful fact that though equal, we are unique. Men and women are different, with differing strengths, personalities, and roles. I personally think that it is wrong of the world to force women to give up the distinctiveness of their roles and the essence of their femininity to be equal. Should a woman have to give up what makes her a woman and make men redundant in order to be considered strong? In the world this is often the case, women are not free to be feminine because the moment they are, they give up the equality that the workplace and the men have told them they have achieved. In Jesus Christ, I know who grants me freedom and who makes me who I am. I know who I am in Christ, in God’s kingdom, in the church, and in the family, not because men or rules grant me that identity but because God grants me my life, name, abilities, talents, aptitudes and blessings. He wants me to use every one of those gifts to live up to the potential He has made. There is no glass ceiling, there isn’t even a ceiling. Our potential is much more than the world thinks is possible.
Men are men and women are women. We are who we are, we have inclinations for a reason. A man enjoying lifting weights to show off his muscles is natural. A woman enjoying having that man’s strong arms around her is natural. I would guess not too many men would want the muscular arms of a woman holding them. In the kingdom of God, men are allowed to be men and women allowed to be women. Women played key roles in Israel’s history, in Jesus’ ministry, and the early church. The Bible and Christianity are not misogynistic, quite opposite, women are held in high regard, encouraged to be powerful, and encouraged to be who we are meant to be.
When Peter and Paul wrote their instructions to husbands and wives it was to foster true relationships, to nurture Christ-like behavior, and to be different than the world where pride, arrogance, and self-glory are more important than submission to the heart of another or loving a person with kindness and sacrifice. Let’s get today’s passage. 1 Peter 3:1-7. Verses 1-2 read,
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, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
Firstly, the likewise reminds us there is something before this. Just before this clause, Peter had told the Christians who had been exiled because of the terrible persecution of Nero that they must be subject to him and endure. Now, he says in the same way as you submit to authority as Christians who love Jesus and want to glorify Him, so you will also be subject to your own husbands. It doesn’t read women be subject to men. It reads” wives, be subject to your own husbands.” The cultures the exiles were now exposed to were very different than the Jewish culture they had lived their entire lives. Though people married, marriage didn’t mean the same thing. Sex with people who were not your spouse was a part of idolatry. Men lorded their power over all women and could easily force a woman to kneel to his sexual desire and call it worship or freedom or a need. Does that sound familiar? If you’re a woman, it probably does.
Both men and women use sex for power still today. Men in the world feel more powerful when they lower a woman to nothing more than a sexual object. Women feel more powerful when they give up femininity and lord their sexuality over a man, bringing him down to his basal desires. Peter said not to give in to the worldly way of thinking. Wives were not to be subject to any man except her husband and a few verses later verse 7 tells men,
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
Men are to honor their wives, protect them and not allow the men of the world to take them in any way they crave, to demean or debase them. Husbands were are commanded to honor their wives. Honor means to value, to give the highest esteem, and to consider the most precious and costly.
So, wives are commanded to be subject to their own husbands and husbands are commanded to live with their wives in understanding. Understanding in this verse means knowledge, wisdom, and comprehension, specifically knowledge of the Christian religion. Remember at this time, women were not allowed to be educated in their religion. Women could go to the Temple on the Sabbath and sit in the women’s section, but the Temple was not a place where teaching was done, it was a place of worship and reading the scrolls. Teaching was done by the rabbis, it was done when men gathered in the courtyard and discussed and listened. The men had been allowed to study ,but until Jesus came, no one taught women what Judaism was about, except the husband. So naturally men understood more of The Way of Christianity than women, so part of esteeming the wife was to teach her and guide her in the discipline and practice of their religion.
Women are called the weaker vessel because they had not grown up being free to learn the scriptures. Jesus gave them that freedom and husbands could nurture it. Women are the weaker vessel because they do not have the brute strength of men and need protection from the predatory nature of some men.
Peter also reminds husbands the reason for this spiritual guidance and physical protection of wives is that they are co-heirs to grace and eternal life. For a man to somehow think he was better than his wife, more special in some way would hinder his prayers. He would pray from a position of pride and not from love. He would pray with the lie that grace was not for everyone and then what would Jesus life, death, and resurrection mean? How could he pray if he didn’t believe in the Gospel, grace, and Godly love?
Both husbands and wives can by their behavior as the image of Christ being spiritual benefit to the other. The husband by his knowledge, his understanding and honor of the wife, and the wife by her conduct. 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 in The Message has this to say,
For the rest of you who are in mixed marriages—Christian married to non-Christian—we have no explicit command from the Master. So this is what you must do. If you are a man with a wife who is not a believer but who still wants to live with you, hold on to her. If you are a woman with a husband who is not a believer but he wants to live with you, hold on to him. The unbelieving husband shares to an extent in the holiness of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is likewise touched by the holiness of her husband. Otherwise, your children would be left out; as it is, they also are included in the spiritual purposes of God.
On the other hand, if the unbelieving spouse walks out, you’ve got to let him or her go. You don’t have to hold on desperately. God has called us to make the best of it, as peacefully as we can. You never know, wife: The way you handle this might bring your husband not only back to you but to God. You never know, husband: The way you handle this might bring your wife not only back to you but to God.
Reading these verses now, it is clear to me that men and women are equal under God, beautiful in his and her own ways and more so because of what makes men masculine and women feminine. Today, women give up what it means to be a woman so that she can be equal to man, she forgets that she is not the same as a man, she is his counterpart, peer, and mate. But today, she gives up the beauty of being a woman for the false beauty and false power of being attractive to men’s flesh, of painting herself as a sexual object instead of shining with the beauty of who she is. Verses 3-4 read,
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 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.
The ability to be yourself without being brash, aggressive, vulgar is a very womanly trait. Women are able to share their thoughts, express their opinions, and assert themselves with the gentle and quiet spirit that I have noted most men seem to be truly attracted to, not for a one-night stand but for a life partner. That gentleness and peace are a fruit of the Spirit, and take more strength than garish cries, forceful shouting, or temper tantrums. Men know they need the balance of the steadfast, tender, and calm to keep them walking in faith. Men can tend to depend on their own strength instead of God’s. We all can, but women are better at not leaning on their strength because so much of life has meant needing a man’s muscles or power. A woman’s beauty doesn’t come from her clothes, jewelry, or make-up, it comes from her spirit of mercy and persistence, it comes from her ability to let her husband be the leader.
In the Christian home, the wife is not afraid to let the husband lead because she trusts God and she knows her husband loves her, values her, and so listens to her counsel; she knows her husband follows Christ, listens to the Spirit, and loves the Father. Verses 5-6 read,
For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
What is it that women give up when they choose to submit to their husbands? It is not freedom, no one can take away what God has given. It is fear. A wife has no need to fear poverty, her husband will provide her needs as he trusts God to provide for them. A wife has no need to fear danger; her husband protects her as God protects them. She as no need to fear men; her husband has her as God has them. She has no need to fear death; Jesus has granted her eternal life.
I may not be married on earth. I do not have an earthly husband. Men do not have husbands on earth. Widows have lost their husbands on earth. But believers, we do have a Husband, He is God, our Maker and He is all the things an earthly husband should be and more. He is the LORD. Isaiah 54:5-6 reads,
For your Maker is your husband,
the Lord of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
6 For the Lord has called you
like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit,
like a wife of youth when she is cast off,
says your God.
God didn’t settle for you, He called you, He chose you, He redeemed you. There is no more shame, grief, or loneliness in Christ and there is nothing to fear. We can follow Him, obey Him, and trust Him because He is God our Husband. Believer, nothing can cause us to fear, there is nothing that can happen to give us reason to be afraid. Psalm 46:1-5 reads,
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
I hope I was able to clearly write what God has shown me today. I think it is a touchy and difficult subject when we explain why wives submitting to husbands is not misogynistic but empowering. Gender equality sounds great, but it is a lie. We are equal under God but distinctive in our genders making us equal. The exceptionality of our femininity and masculinity makes us ideally suited to be partners. Neither men nor women should have to give that up in pursuit of a perverted equality that really cannot and does not exist. God created you to be exactly who you are and in following Him you can become exactly who He purposed you to be, all your potential realized, and all your beauty appreciated. Psalm 139:13-18 reads,
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.