Friday, November 7, 2008

1 Peter 3:1-7 - Wives & Husbands

This Sunday, I'll be teaching out of 1 Peter 3:1-7 on wives and husbands. By God's providence, in my 3 years as leader of the 20-somethings ministry at Faith, the topic of male/female relationship (and related topics on church structure and function) has come up at least 4 times that I can remember. On top of that, I've spoken to a group of men at a CBMC meeting on the topic from 1 Corinthians 11. I don't believe in coincidence, so there's either something God wants me to learn about this or some message He really wants people to hear through me. Either way, I'm humbled and hope to exposit the text responsibly this weekend.

A few things stand out to me. First, as I so tactfully argued in my last post, is Peter's call for the 1st century Greek women to follow the example set out by a Semitic nomad from over 2000 years prior. Think about it, that's the same separation we have today from the setting in which 1 Peter was written. In a doctrinal debate where "cultural contextualization" comes up so often, I think we have to acknowledge the way in which Peter presents his teaching as what theologians call a "transcultural normative," which basically means it is a standard that transcends cultural barriers because of the overarching authority of God's intended order.

That said, we must also be responsible in this text to see what those transcultural principles are, and be careful not to add to them. Peter doesn't describe a 50's housewife here. He doesn't say women should be perceived in lesser value, nor give husbands permission to demean and manipulate wives (in fact, quite the opposite). But, implied in this passage (and stated explicitly elsewhere in the New Testament) is a truth about differing roles and a definite hierarchyŚnot hierarchy of value or worth, but of civil, familial, and even church authority.

Two more things stand out to me that build on this principle of complementary roles. First, Peter's praise for women "who put their hope in God," and his call for all women to "not give way to fear." Fear of what? Their husbands? Perhaps. What about social pressures to adorn oneself instead of relying on "inner beauty?" Women in the church who accept a Biblical view of their complementing roles need to be recognized, admired, edified, and encouraged because this behavior requires a faith and hope in God as their sole measure of worth, outside of worldly standards, to a degree that I declare many men struggle to have as they assess their own self-image.

And finally, the last verse really personalizes that call for recognition, admiration, edification, and encouragement and places it directly as a burden on each husband individually. Do not underestimate the magnitude of Peters first phrase, "in the same way." In the way that we place hope in God and strive for value according to His standards, we should lay down self, pride, personal agenda in pursuit of understanding and honoring our wives. Where the NIV uses "considerate", the NASB says to live "in an understanding way." And, lest there be any perversion of this hierarchical order into a hierarchy of value in God's sight, Peter assures that our believing wives are co-heirs and will receive an inheritance by the same measure as their husbands.

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