Submission, Not Subjugation

Aha, I thought, as I read this morning's assigned verses. I figured I could pass on this set of instructions.

The verses come from 1 Peter 3:1-5 which, as most people know, like it or not, have to do with wives submitting to their husbands. Since I don't have a husband, I thought I'd just skip over the passage without a second look.

Then I took the second look. Some people wave these verses under the noses of wives like rotten cheese in a strong wind, admonishing them to behave themselves appropriately in their spousal relationships.

A blog is not the best place to discuss all the issues that are raised here—and there are lots of them. But what strikes me is what this particular passage is actually addressing, quite apart from any other references.

Take a look.

"Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands" —I Peter 3:1-5.

The first thing that grabs my attention is the phrase: "…in the same way." Looking back at the context (and what follows) we discover that the instruction to submit is not make to women alone. (In fact the following verses give instruction as to how husbands are to treat their wives—odd how those often get missed in the discussion.) The bottom line is that everyone is to follow the example of Christ in living lives that glorify God.


This passage says that women should be Christ-like in their relationship to their husbands so that they might win over any unsaved spouses. That's a specific application of the more general principle found in verses 11, 12: "Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us."

As in the example of the Proverbs 31 woman, the issue is not subjugation but godly behavior that makes brings glory to God, makes the husband proud, and brings satisfaction to the woman in her roles inside and outside the home. (And yes, the Proverbs 31 woman was a business woman!)

Some insist that a godly woman shouldn't wear jewelry or nice clothes. I think that is reading more into the passage than Peter meant. He is simply saying that true beauty is more than skin deep.

The point of the passage isn't to humiliate or subjugate women. The passage is a call for all of us to submit ourselves to following Christ's example for the sake of the Kingdom of God.


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