I Peter 3: 1-2.
Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the Word, they also may without the Word be won by the conversation of the wives;
While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.
This is one of those passages that needs to be approached with compassion and a clear understanding. It is controversial only if the reader objects to the idea of the headship of the husband in a marriage. Before anyone goes off on me about that, headship is not the same as dictatorship. The simple truth is that where there is more than one head, there is a monstrosity that cannot thrive. God has appointed that the earthly head in marriage is to be the husband. We need to consider the immense responsibility that God has placed on the husband’s shoulders, then, and not object to God’s plan.
The first word in this chapter is Likewise. This is a clear example of the arbitrary division of chapters in our modern texts. This is not a totally new subject. Rather, it is a continuation of the final verses of the preceding chapter:
Who his own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by Whose stripes ye were healed.
For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.I Peter 2:24-25
Likewise, here, means “Just as Christ suffered in our behalf and was submissive to the Father, SO ALSO wives are to be submissive to their own husbands.”
Jesus did not rail against the authority of the Father. He did not complain. He did not debate endlessly, with an angry attitude.
You may be thinking, “Well, of course Jesus submitted to the Father! He (the Father) was sinless, so there’s that! MY husband is certainly not perfect!”
No. Neither is mine. The trouble is, God didn’t include a caveat in His imperative to wives. He did not say, “Submit when you agree with your husband.” We don’t get to pick and choose, and excuse that ungodly behavior with arguments about the man’s imperfections.
Let me tell you how that works in our marriage.
Terry is not a dictator. He is, however, willing to accept the headship that God has mandated for husbands. He is willing to be the one who is answerable to God for the failure or success of our marriage. With headship comes great responsibility. Terry understands that, and knows that his treatment of me needs to be according to biblical guidelines (which we will look at in a later verse).
He has always consulted me in any big decision. He listens to my thoughts and opinions, and he considers my emotional reactions. He treats me with respect, and has often backed away from a decision because of what I have said. And no, you can’t have him :). He’s all mine!
Because Terry treats me as he does, I find it easy (usually!) to accept his decisions and his leadership.
But what if I strongly disagree? Well, anyone who knows me knows that I speak my mind. I do it with respect, which is the meaning of the word fear in this passage. If he still leans toward a choice I dislike, then I accept it because I cannot continue to argue, debate, object and pout and still maintain my right relationship with God. If I give my husband flack all the livelong day because of something I don’t like, then I cannot expect God’s blessing in my own life.
All of this is so important because, in a marriage in which the husband is not a believer, Peter is saying that he can be won to Christ without the wife saying a word; he can be won by her pure behavior (conversation) and the respect she shows him.
Oh! So–if my husband is already a believer, then I don’t have to submit to his authority, right?
Don’t be silly! For all their strength, men can be just as easily discouraged as any woman can. A constant resistance to his authority will wear a man down over time and make him do what you thought you wanted him to do. He will go silent, and leave everything up to his wife. And then she will start nagging him about not fulfilling his biblical responsibilities.
Wives, don’t do that to your husbands. Don’t put them in a no-win situation. YOU will be the biggest losers!