3 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3 Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands;6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.
As I read this passage today, I am suddenly reminded of all the machismo actions and saying that I have heard over the years. I admit it, I’ve even said some of them. Whether or not they were in a joking manner, they were wrong, misquotes and misunderstandings from this passage. I don’t think I can say it enough, if at least to remind myself, that women are not lesser beings because they are “helpers,” rather we must remember who it is that needed the help in the first place!
It is easy to look at this and take the stance that Peter is calling out women (wives particularly) about their behavior. Let us not forget that while he is addressing wives in a paragraph of 6 verses, he called out men in an entire 2 chapters so far (and will continue as we keep reading). In other words, this is an aside meant to make a point to women in a way that women would understand. I’ve heard some misunderstandings of this verse to be used to restrict how women dress or what they do with their hair. Notice Peter doesn’t say, “don’t braid your hair or wear jewelry,” rather he is telling women that their most exquisite adornment should not be what they wear, but how they behave and what flows from their hearts. This is their witness. This is how women should behave as followers of Christ and why.
It’s happened to me and I’ve seen it happen to many husbands; we do or say something and our wife quietly and calmly reveals to us the err in our ways. We might defend our actions, reject what we hear, or just ignore it all together. But eventually once we have had time to process it and think about the words of our wives, we recognize how correct they are. Usually, it is how they approach us that gives us reason to consider. If a woman called out her husband in front of family and friends screaming and ranting about how he screwed up, do you think he would even care what she was saying much less consider the truth in it? How about the last time you did something asinine and your wife handled it with grace and love. It makes our sinfulness stick out so we have to deal with it, doesn’t it? This is the point Peter is making here.
What is Peter’s point in mentioning Sarah here (despite the obvious importance of this couple in history)? Abraham was revered as a great man, the father of nations, but Peter is pointing out that it was his wife’s love that helped him through that process. Behind every great man is a greater woman, because she has to deal with his crap and guide him to recognize his waywardness.
If you are a woman reading this, contemplate these questions:
How can you better act so that your mate (current or future) can recognize his sinfulness? How can you be the helper that God designed you to be?
If you are a man:
How often do you listen to or pay attention to the clues and hints your mate is giving you? How can you better receive the help you are being offered?