This text makes us uncomfortable, I know. It seems to say that a wife should do what her husband asks, that the husband carries all authority in the marriage relationship. Well, it makes us uncomfortable, but not for the reason that I have just suggested to you. The truth is that what Peter says is exactly what our society says about how to treat the marriage relationship and more, it gives us a base to live it much deeper than our society. In truth, if we listen and do what Peter says, male violence would disappear.
God is very interested in the marriage relationship. The second chapter of the Bible is devoted to the subject. It expresses that God created women and men to have an exclusive, intimate and permanent relationship. It is the only sexual relationship that God recognises and blesses and that is why he wants it to be exclusive and permanent. Why? Because he wants us to experience the same joy as him, to engender, or beget, life and therefore to enjoy the benefits of being known within a trinity: woman, man and child. Biology confirms it, only a woman and a man can reproduce a life, as much as God has reproduced us in his image.
That is why Peter has to deal with the marriage relationship, because it is so important for our society. Why does our society think a lot about parenting? Because God created his world like that.
Keep in mind that he first word about women and men in the Bible is about their equality. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them” (Genesis 1.27). The second word is about the suitability of a woman and a man to share life: “I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2.18).
Consider verse 7b of 1 Peter 3: “treat them… as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life”. That’s a wonder, to say that the woman is an heir. In the ancient world only the firstborn male had the inheritance.
In the world created by God, women and men are equal. Why does our society want this? Because God created his world like that.
So, how do we deal with the reality of broken relationships, unequal relationships and abusive men? This week I saw the new campaign of the city of Barcelona against machismo. Will it be enough? With sadness, I doubt it. I read an article in the Guardian Weekly about machismo and the problem in the parliament of the United Kingdom. The thesis is that machismo is not about sex but about power. I agree. Is it enough to recognise it? With sadness, I doubt it. I have doubts because the third chapter of the Bible teaches me that all our problems come from breaking our relationship with God. My ability to fix these present issues is impeded by a deeper reality.
So, how can Peter be in line with and hope for Genesis 1 and 2? Because the good news can really change this. It is the first point of the letter. Let us listen again: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1.3).
What Peter explains about the marriage relationship is not a baseless morality. The Barcelona City Council says its morality is correct because it is correct, it is reasonable, and nothing changes. On the other hand, the morality of Peter, who has much in common with the morality of the city council, is based on a life reborn by the resurrection of Jesus. This is something powerful.
I could say much more about this but I lack time. At least, realise that the word of God already said about women what we value in our society. The difference is the base. Is it enough to think well or do you have to be reborn?
Above all, what Peter says is to reverse the effect of Genesis 3 by being reborn in Jesus. Peter wants deep character for women and men in the marriage relationship
What does he say to the wife? As a believer, the woman already breaks the rules of the ancient society. The husband determined the religion of the family. Peter believes that the woman has the right to disobey her husband in this matter. It is revolutionary.
But he says, submit. Be careful with the word. It does not mean obey. It means an attitude before the other person. Submitting means respecting or not taking advantage of the relationship. Be humble. Being really free does not mean doing what I want, but means loving even your enemy. To submit is to behave like Jesus, a man.
And why does he say this to the woman? Because the woman is already breaking the status by following Jesus. And he wants the woman to be careful. Your freedom is not to trample, everyone. Like Jesus, her freedom is to serve others, including her husband.
Peter looks Sarah’s example to underline this. Sarah chose to call Abraham “Lord”. She was not told to by anyone anyone, including ancient culture, which did not demand this. It was her choice at the time instead of lording it over him.
The woman is really free to do good, verse 6. Peter believes it. It’s amazing because her society did not believe it. It thought poorly of women and their abilities. But this text is a call to encourage the wife. Peter believes that women can do good when they are reborn. The good is about choosing the right thing at the moment. From the point of being humble you have true freedom to decide on each occasion and act for good.
Peter’s motive is the deep character of the woman. He emphasises the character of the woman over her outer beauty (verses 3 to 4). In other words, the woman is more than a sexual object. All this comes from the good news of Jesus.
In addition, Peter sees how powerful the woman is by adopting the humble posture: she can convince the husband of the truth, verse 1 and 2; she can live a life without fear, verse 6.
Peter believes in reborn women. He believes that they are the same as men and can change society for the good of all, including their husbands.
And what does it say to the husband? Exactly like the city council of Barcelona and with better reason. In verse 7 the word “weaker” refers to the physical only. This text is against machismo. Peter does not allow male violence. In all other senses, the husband must treat the woman with equality because God treats her like that.
And the better reason to do this? The only punishment of the text is for the husband: God will not listen to him if he treats his wife badly. When you are reborn in Jesus you can not continue to behave badly towards a wife and except God to listen.
The blessing when we live like this reflects the desires of our culture but with better reason:
- A deep character
- The ability to change other lives for the good
- Without fear
- Serve others, respect and honor
- A life of deep prayer
But someone can say to me, “It’s not, or it was not, my experience. This is just a dream, right?”
We live in a world under the curse of Genesis 3, because we made the decision to reject our creator. The truth is men and women behave with hate because they do not recognise that God loves them. God is love and our source of love dries up without being united to this eternal source. The only way out is the good news and how much we let it convince us in the way to live. The life that God gives us, regardless for our experience of the marriage relationship, is verse 7b: God has made us all heirs of the gracious gift of life through Jesus. Sadness and death are no longer ours. Being reborn is forever because Jesus was resurrected. So don’t give up. How you want things to be is the same as God. Take comfort in this and do what is right in your marriage relationship, because God sees it.
Photo by Dương Hữu on Unsplash