We are living in a day in which people don’t know how to work out their differences. This is especially true in their most meaningful relationships. In a day and age where relationships are struggling, the most challenging but rewarding relationship is the marriage relationship. It is the foundation of our society. It’s a place where a new generation is being born and developed. It’s the place were values are being taught, both positive and negative. It is one of God’s greatest tools to shape our lives and it becomes the most profound example of what it means to be in a relationship with God. It is interesting that in both Old and New Testaments we see that marriage is a key metaphor in helping us understand our covenant relationship with God, and how we are in a oneness relationship with him. Marriage is the place where we learn to pour out our lives for another and when children come along to increase our capacity for giving.
Yet, it is also the relationship where we are most exposed and vulnerable. It is the place of greatest joy, but also of greatest pain. So, how can we work at making this critical relationship, and other close relationships, not only work, but thrive? How can we build a healthy, loving relationships where challenging obstacles can seem to hinder that goal? The best place to turn for instructions is the operator’s manual. God, the originator of marriage and other relationships, gives to us amazing insights into how to grow these meaningful social relationships. Here in 1 Peter 3:1-7 we are going to discover what makes people attractive, and the answers may surprise you.
Peter continues his instruction on submission by speaking to wives and then moves to a succinct instruction for husbands. Peter gives very simple keys to creating a meaningful relationships These are primarily attitudes that lead to healthy behaviors.
Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own 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 elaborate hair styles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.
Rather, 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 adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.[i]
There are two keys from 1 Peter 3:1-7 for healthy relationships and marriages.
THE FIRST KEY IN HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS, PARTICULARLY IN MARRIAGE IS A SUBMISSIVE ATTITUDE
Here we need to understand the voluntary nature that is being asked of wives. Submitting is the opposite of self-assertion and the demanding of our rights. Walls and Anders in their commentary on Peter’s letters write: “It involves being satisfied at times with less than what one may deserve or claim as a right.”[ii] If we take these texts in their context, Peter has been talking about submission for the sake of the gospel. Scot McKnight rightly points out “One specific point we can make is that the principle of living for the sake of the gospel is transcultural.”[iii] In other words, culture should not be what defines our lives, our motives and our behaviors. We ought to live in such a way that God is glorified because of the manner and way that we live. The good news should be demonstrated by our lives. Wives are to cultivate an inward beauty that is attractive. I would add that every believer should live such attractive lives because of the work of grace in our hearts. Here in our text it is described as a beauty that comes from the heart, the inner part of her being and is described as ‘an unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.’ This is expressed in the relationship as an attitude demonstrated by submission to her husband. We all need to live humble lives. This reveals that our real faith and confidence is our deep trust in God to care for us in our relationships. The concept of gentleness and restraint of words is a virtue expressed toward all of God’s servants in the N.T.
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance [a change of mind] leading them to a knowledge of the truth.[iv]
The best way to win and influence people is through consideration, kindness and gentleness. Often the best argument is demonstrated more by our way of life than by our words. We are living in a culture that is superficial. We focus on externals, but here we see what makes for healthy, long-term relationships is what is happening within a person. A gentle and quiet spirit is persuasive and attractive and can only come from someone who is confident that God is ultimately in control and is entrusting themselves to God to work out what is best. This comes from a submitted heart to God.
But what does submission mean? In the Greek lexicon: “It is the Greek word, ‘hypotasso,’ and it literally means “to subordinate our rights.”[v] How many can see that this is counter cultural? It is the very opposite of how the vast majority of people in our society think today. We are told to be assertive, demand and stand for our rights. The result is simmering resentment and conflict. All conflict is about who is in charge or who is in control. We are living in an hour that is struggling with conflict, people are violently demanding their rights; and yet the Christian message and example is one of yielding or laying aside our rights, dying to self and learning to trust God. It’s about being a servant. Submission does not imply inferiority. Nor does it suggest superiority, rather it speaks of a loving willingness to surrender to another’s leadership. It’s interesting that when Jesus came to earth, He willingly submitted himself to the Father in Heaven even though Jesus was absolutely equal to the Father. Peter describes three areas of submission that enriches a relationship and, in this case, the marriage relationship.
A. The first area where this submission needs to be seen is in behavior.
It is one thing to submit to a loving and understanding spouse, but Peter takes a more challenging situation, where the husband is an unbeliever or, as I’ve pointed to upset wives, someone who is behaving like an unbeliever. Thomas Schreiner states that a more accurate translation ‘do not believe the word’ should be translated, ‘do not obey, because the verb in question (apeitheo) focuses on disobedience rather than unbelief.”[vi] Actually the idea of disobedience is a reflection often of unbelief. Peter uses that term to describe those who are resistant to God’s directives. So, what are wives to do when husbands aren’t listening to them? One temptation for a wife is to use the fine art of nagging. The reason why this is so ineffective as a method of seeing change occur in one’s husband is that it is primarily a message of rejection. I don’t like the way you are, or the way you do things. Secondly, nagging does not factor in the nature of men. One of the greatest needs of a husband is for their wives to respect them. This speaks to the need for affirmation. How many have discovered that arguments rarely, if ever, win people over. Living out the truth is a far more effective method of communication. So, for all the exasperated wives, who are now thinking, ‘How can I be heard?’, hear what the wisdom literature teaches us in Proverbs 25:15: “Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.”
What is this verse saying? That the way to persuade is not ramping up the voltage on the conversation, but rather here we see that the means of persuasion is through gentle communication. Notice the effect that this kind of communication has on others. It has the ability to break a bone. But what does that mean? O.T. scholar, Duane Garrett relates: “The bones are the most rigid body parts inside of a person, and fracturing the bones here refers to breaking down the deepest, most hardened resistance to an idea a person may possess.”[vii] The best way to persuade is through a gentle approach. This submission is illustrated in the life of Sarah, Abraham’s wife..
To be Sarah’s daughter is to be a joint heir of the promises and the honor given to her and to Abraham. The condition for being Sarah’s daughters is if you do right and let nothing terrify you. Both verbs are again present participles indicating a pattern of life continued over a period of time: ‘if you are doing right and not being frightened by any terror’, then you are (more accurately, ‘you have become’) Sarah’s daughter. Peter’s insistence on ‘doing right’ is a reminder that no acts of disobedience in Sarah’s life are to be imitated by Christian wives (cf. Gen. 16:2, 6; 18:15; perhaps 20:5); it is her submission to her husband and her trust in God that Peter commends..[viii]
This does not suggest that a wife is to submit to her husband even if he tells her to do wrong. That would be taking this concept to the extreme. It’s amazing how as people we tend to go to the extremes and those extremes are sinful. Whereas some wives in their desire to please God are willing to submit to their husbands in everything, including what is wrong, other wives ignore their husbands altogether. Both are unhealthy. This idea of pressuring others or ignoring others also destroys other types of relationships, not just the marriage relationship. So, how do wives ignore their husbands, you might ask? One subtle way is by putting other activities or people above them, including their own children. The primary relationship in a family is between the husband and wife, and that relationship needs to be nurtured. It is in the best interest of the children to do that. We can put many good things at the expense of our family. That also happens just as frequently, if not more so, in the lives of husbands who abandon the home front for the work front. This is not to suggest that wives are to be silent. Communication is the key to a good marriage or any relationship. However, nagging is not communication. It’s not the way to make someone listen. Rather it turns people off.
When people are not listening, we need to take it to a higher court of appeal. We need to leave that person in the hands of God. Entrusting people to God takes faith and patience. Not only pray, but start thanking God for the changes that is producing a sensitive and understanding person.
B. The second area of enhancing relationship, including marriage, is in the area of appearance.
The focus here is not on outward appearances because Peter is talking about the inner spiritual development. Here a wife is challenged to submit to the word of God, and allow a change to transpire in the inner life. The real key to seeing another person influenced by your life is not to go about changing them but rather allowing God to work changes in our own life.
What may initially attract is not always what sustains the relationship. Peter continues, “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.” (3:3-5)
This verse has been incorrectly interpreted by preachers and others by forbidding woman from jewelry. This is not what this passage is teaching. ‘Peter’s point is not that any of these are forbidden, but that they should not be a woman’s ‘adorning,’ her source of beauty.”[ix] Rather beauty is something that should originate within the heart of the individual. Leonhard Goppelt points out: “The hidden person’ is not the inner side of the person, but the whole human being as it is determined from within.”[x]
C. The third area of responsibility for enriching relationships, particularly in marriage is attitude.
We need to understand that submission is an attitude of the heart. Notice Sarah was willing to yield to Abraham. Whenever wives treat their husbands with respect or whenever we treat others with respect it transforms relationships. It is amazing, but when we give people respect they generally live up to it. People are so beaten down that when someone believes in them, they respond. Notice it says that Sarah obeyed Abraham. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear (3:6).
The reason why many wives struggle with this area is because of fear. They question is if they will be taken advantage of. There is always a risk when we do what God says. But it is only as we honor God by doing His Word that God can honor us in our relationships.
David Helm clarifies what this text is not teaching.
It does not mean that if your husband asks you to abandon your faith in Christ, you should do so. It does not mean that if your husband asks you to sin, you should do so. It does not mean that you must always agree with him and never present a differing view. It does not mean that if he is unfaithful to you, you are left without biblical recourse. It does not mean that if he abuses you physically, or abandons you through incessant verbal humiliation you must remain quietly in the home and accept the daily cruelty of that relationship at all costs.[xi]
That’s unhealthy and there are steps that can be taken to address these issues.
THE SECOND KEY IN HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS, PARTICULARLY IN MARRIAGE, IS A CONSIDERATE ATTITUDE
When a husband is concerned and understanding toward his wife, a lot of difficulties never occur. It also eliminates many misunderstandings. A women needs to know that her husband loves her, and one of the ways to demonstrate this is through consideration of her needs and feelings.
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.[xii]
A. Peter relates how we are to show consideration especially in the most intimate of relationships between a husband with his wife.
This is more than just living at the same address. It is more than just providing for the family. Rather it is the husband’s responsibility to see that all is well on the home front. There are too many absent husbands in our homes today. I’m not just speaking about spending time at home but being emotionally involved with our spouse.
It’s tragic when a marriage degenerates down to the level of two strangers living together. Too often the husband treating his wife as an object rather than a partner in this life together. The KJV states it this way; “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge…”
The ‘knowledge’ Peter intends here may include any knowledge that would be beneficial to the husband-wife relationship: knowledge of God’s purposes and principles for marriage; knowledge of the wife’s desires, goals, and frustrations; knowledge of her strengths and weaknesses in the physical, emotional and spiritual realms; etc. A husband who lives according to such knowledge will greatly enrich his marriage relationship-yet such knowledge can only be gained through regular study of God’s Word and regular, unhurried times of private fellowship together as husband and wife.[xiii]
The responsibility of the home is primarily the husband’s. Generally, when our families fall apart it is an indictment against us as men. Most wives are looking for their husbands to love them, to care for them and about them. Obviously, there are other things that destroy relationships. However, when both parties are living out what God is asking of them, you will see spiritual growth within each partner. It’s important that we ask where our wife is at emotionally. Or where she is at spiritually. The greatest means of both these discoveries come during times of reading scripture and praying together. How do people respond to a person that they feel does not value them? One of two ways. There will either be a growing hostility or a sense of self-depreciation and diminishing of themselves.
B. Secondly, we are to show others consideration by treating others with respect.
It is critical in marriage that a husband is considerate and values their spouse.
Love grows out of an attitude of honoring someone. When we decide someone is valuable, that decision alone is a major first step in acting out our love for the person.[xiv]
We must never allow contempt to develop in our mind toward your wife. As soon as that occurs a husband will treat his wife harshly, which God forbids (Col. 3:19).
Francine Klagsbrun in her book “Married People: Staying Together in the Age of Divorce,” interviewed 87 couples who had been married 15 years or more. She hoped to identify the factors that had enabled these marriages to survive and thrive in a time when some 40 percent end in divorce.
Respect turned out to be a key element… It’s not the same as admiration. Says Dr. Alexandra Symonds, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine, ‘When you fall in love, you admire the other. You look up to someone, much the way a child idealizes a parent.’ Such romantic admiration thrives and even depends on the illusion that he or she is ‘perfect for you.’ That’s why it doesn’t last. “You come to see that the person you married isn’t exactly what you expected, ‘says Francine Klagsbrun. ‘There are differences of personality, of approaches to life; different ways of doing things.’ It’s now that real respect has a chance to develop.
You can try to change your mate back into your fantasy. But for the marriage to last you must agree to disagree, learning to let the other be. For respect is between peers…. Whenever we put someone else down, it sends the message that the other person has no worth…Good marriages nurture each other’s self-esteem….Respect then is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique. These things take time to discover, accept and finally appreciate. That’s why respect is a quality of maturity in a marriage, not of the first heat of romance…The root meaning of the word respect is ‘to look at.’ Respect is a clear yet loving eye. It sees what is really there, but also what is potentially there and helps bring it to fruition. Respect is the art of love by which married couples honor what is unique and best in each other.[xv]
In Peter’s charge we find that the husband is to ‘treat the wife with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life.’ As God looks down from above, He sees our weaknesses. What we discover is that the husband has great power for good or evil in the life of his wife. We can either build up our wife up or tear her down. That’s true in every relationship. In marriage if you build her up, you are building up yourself because the two have become one. If you are tearing your wife down, it means you are tearing yourself down. Remember, your wife is your equal when it comes to receiving from God. What I have discovered over the years is that men who diminish their wives really don’t love themselves.
The apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 5:28; “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” Therefore, we can conclude that he who doesn’t love his wife doesn’t love himself. The only way to change that is by believing that God loves you. When God’s Spirit comes into the human heart it changes us and creates within us a loving heart. Loving yourself enables you to love your wife and love others.
C. We are admonished to be considerate to maintain harmony in our relationships with others.
When a person is inconsiderate, it leads to disharmony, not only in the home, but also that disharmony spreads to other areas of life. When we don’t treat our wife properly if negates our relationship with God. It negates our communication with God. It hinders our prayers.
No Christian husband should presume to think that any spiritual good will be accomplished by his life without an effective ministry of prayer. And no husband may expect an effective prayer life unless he lives with his wife ‘in an understanding way, bestowing honor’ on her. To take the time to develop and maintain a good marriage is God’s will; it is serving God’; it is a spiritual activity pleasing in his sight.[xvi]
That is not only true in marriage but in every relationship. When we hold resentments against others, it hinders our prayers before the Lord. Jesus talked about when we are offering our gift at the altar, if we remember that our brothers or sisters have something against us, we need to leave the altar and go be reconciled with that person. The greatest hindrance to prayer is broken interpersonal relationships with others. In other words, my relationship with God is often reflected in how I’m relating to the people in my life. If they are broken, it is a reflection that my relationship with God is also broken. God challenges us to repair our human relationships in order to restore our relationship with Him.
Relationships are the key to a meaningful life. They give us purpose. We are here to serve God, primarily by serving others. It always begins at home. In our rights-oriented world often driven by the oppression produced by the sinful nature we quickly make life about our needs, when the reality is that the Christian life is about laying down our rights in order to best serve others. Fighting fairly means that we don’t always have to be ‘right’ or ‘have our way.’ It means being respectful and gentle in our remarks towards others. It means accepting that people may continue to have a different point of view and that does not make them the ‘enemy.’ It means learning to show consideration and entrusting our concerns to our Heavenly Father. It means praying for others and with others. When we learn that it is not all about us but how we reflect the gospel through our lives and words for the sake of God’s honor and the sake of showing consideration to others, we will have healthier interpersonal relationships beginning in our marriages, families and personal friends.
[i] 1 Peter 3:1-7, The New International Version of the Bible, 2011.
[ii] David Walls & Max Anders, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2 & 3 John, Jude, Vol. 11, (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.,1999), 48.
[iii] Scott McKnight, 1 Peter, The NIV Application Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 188.
[iv] 2 Timothy 2:24-25.
[v] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 1042). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
[vi] Thomas Schreiner, I, 2 Peter, Jude, The New American Commentary, vol. 37, (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2003), 149.
[vii] Duane Garrett, Proverbs, New American Commentary, Vol. 14 (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1993),207.
[viii] Wayne Grudem, “I Peter”, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Vol. 17 (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1988), 150.
[x] L. A. Goppelt, Commentary on 1 Peter, (Grands Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1988), 221, as quoted in Thomas Schreiner, I, 2 Peter, Jude, 154.
[xi] David Helm, 1-2 Peter and Jude: Sharing Christ’s Sufferings, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 102.
[xii] 1 Peter 3:7.
[xiii] Wayne Grudem, I Peter, 143.
[xiv] Ibid, 144.
[xv] Annie Gottlieb, “Respect at the Heart of Successful Marriage”, Reader’s Digest, June 1988, 123-124.
[xvi] Grudem, I Peter, 154.