A note: This morning we just finished our last Bible study group. I hugged them all and I will genuinely miss them. The following post is not to criticize any of them for their beliefs, or you, for that matter. This is just my opinion on the subject.
I’m going to admit something to you.
I skipped going to my Bible study group the other day. I wasn’t busy doing anything else and I wasn’t sick. But I skipped it.
Bible study is every Tuesday. I’m part of group of 8 lovely ladies, and for two hours each Tuesday morning we discuss the book of 1st Peter. So far, it’s been fine. But I’ve gotten a feel for how the group tends to lean, and it’s very conservative.
From one of the women, I heard the words “I’m working on being a submissive wife”. This was the first day of our Bible study and I knew that I might sometimes disagree with these nice ladies.
I didn’t really think about what we were going to be studying when I signed up for a Bible study. I was just trying to be social in the only way I knew how. I forgot that in 1st Peter, he discusses submission. Submission of slaves to masters….wives to husbands…submission to God.
Week 6 of the Bible study comes along. I decided to skip that Tuesday since we were to discuss the submission of wives. I just didn’t want to sit there and pretend to agree with them… yet I didn’t want to be confrontational.
To be honest I didn’t go to the discussion about slaves and submission. (I had a legitimate excuse; I was at the dentist being told to consider Invisalign).
When it comes to the slavery discussion, I assume we can all agree that slavery is wrong. We understand the context, and we know it doesn’t apply to us.
So my question is…. why doesn’t this apply to the discussion between a husband and a wife in the modern context?
How about we just look at the passages here. This is 1st Peter 3:1-7:
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, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 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. 5 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, 6 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.
7 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.
Now, reading this, I understand that this was for a different audience. This was a letter written to Christian men and women living in the Roman Empire thousands of years ago. Women of the Church in the 21st century are still reading it and applying it to themselves.
Well, not everything in this passage is being applied. Consider verse 3-5.
For example, no Southern woman at Church will go to a service (or go to the grocery store) without doing up her hair, fixing her nails and make up, and wearing giant earrings. Many people at church even have tattoos. Yes, I might as well mention there is a bible verse that speaks against tattoos:
“‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:28.
And again, most of us still understand as Christians, that this verse doesn’t apply to us. We understand that it applied to the Israelites about 3500 years ago.
So why do we pay attention to some scripture, yet feel good about ignoring other scripture?
In this case, I believe it’s the conservative nature of Evangelical Christians. There is a strong emphasis on gender roles. The masculine leader and the submissive feminine wife. Not to say that gender roles don’t exist, but gender is much more fluid and not so black and white as many people want to believe.
So what does submission look like to, say, my fellow Southern wives? I looked up several blogs about what it means to today’s Christian woman to submit to her husband:
- Hold back when you want to direct your husband
- Make him feel important
- Be physically available to your husband
- Let him feel like your hero
- Listen to him but don’t always answer back
- Don’t yell, but cry if you want your needs heard
- Look beautiful for him always
- Wait until he’s relaxed before you ask him for favors
- Make sure you have everything under control in the house to please your husband
- Give him space
- Let him shine
- If he lacks leadership ability, keep encouraging him and believing in him
- Praise him continually
- Women are happier when they submit to their husbands
- They have a lower chance of divorce
- Your husband will show you more kindness
- No fighting among spouses if the husband is deciding
Well, at least it doesn’t say that we need to call our husband’s “Lord”. Some of this isn’t necessarily bad, but taken as a whole, I disagree with it.
I looked up some blogs that are talking to men about being leaders in the family. Men are told:
- To go to battle for their families
- Their lives are a mission
- Women desire for their men to lead and wear the pants
- Lack of leadership on the man’s part is the downfall of a marriage
- Again, women want men to take the lead
- They set the direction for the family
- They are the appointed leaders
- They are the role model for the whole family
- Ultimately, all final decisions are his
- He’s the head of his wife as Christ is the head and savior of the church
Now, having said all this….if it works in a particular marriage for the wife to submit to her husband in all these ways and more….that’s fine. It’s up to the individual. But even then, the woman is making that choice for herself.
If a woman is married and finds that everyone, including her husband, is pressuring her to be the perfect submissive Proverbs 31 woman, then I don’t agree that’s right.
So, you’re probably wondering, “Well, if you call yourself a Christian, then what on earth do you follow in the scripture?”
Here’s my rule:
I follow first and foremost the teachings and example of Jesus. I believe he spoke to all audiences.
Did he talk to wives about being submissive? No.
Did He Himself submit to anyone? Yes. He submitted to God. When He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).
I’m not perfect but I believe in asking for God’s Will.
Jesus also said “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.” (Matthew 20:16). That doesn’t jive well with the Patriarchy. Jesus always turned traditions upside down.
In 1st Peter, Peter talks about submission to God and the law of the land. Because Jesus set the example, I believe that it applies to us today.
I’m not a Biblical scholar. But I’m trying my best to make sense of scripture that doesn’t always sit right with me. I think there is a reason it makes me uncomfortable.
What specifically doesn’t sit right with me? I’m not talking about the examples from the mommy bloggers, those are just opinions. I’m not arguing against those examples here. They speak for themselves.
But when you look at the verse,
“Wives in the SAME WAY”….what way is Peter talking about?
He’s talking about the way SLAVES ARE TO OBEY THEIR MASTERS. The verses right before the discussion on wives say:
“Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
22 “He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”[e]
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,”[f] but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands….”
Even though husbands are told to treat their wives well in verse 7, a wife was to submit even if he didn’t treat her well.
When Peter (and Paul) discuss how wives were to submit to their husbands, it was just the way the culture was back then and that time in Rome. Women were submissive and didn’t have any rights. But it doesn’t have to be that way now.
Back then, telling a Slave who suffered in the same way Christ suffered gave them dignity. This was something a slave wouldn’t have heard elsewhere. It made sense and was helpful. In the same way, Peter is honoring those women by comparing them to Sarah, the wife of Abraham. The culture wasn’t going to change, so these scriptures were instruction to those living in that culture.
I believe we need to be careful about the context of scripture. Remember, back in pre Civil War days, scripture about slavery was used to justify owning slaves. And scripture about wives submitting to husbands has been the cause of much abuse for ages.
The trouble in reading the Bible this way is that you can argue almost anything from taking a few scripture verses out of context. Be careful…it might not apply to you.