Up until today I had been avoiding our 1 Peter readings like a plague, hoping it would go away. These are the kinds of passages misread by misogynistic men who want to find biblical excuses to treat their wives (or women in general) like dirt. If you are one who thinks the biblical writers haven’t been influenced by the culture around them, it might be time to read that Bible again – it is obvious at times.
Today Peter redeems himself.
When people quote to me the “Wives must be submissive to their husbands,” which began chapter 3, I am always tempted to say, “Yes, but read on!” Not a few verses later it says “Husbands, in the same way, be considerate as you live with your wives.” Nevertheless, it is troubling to people like me who see through biblical record that the early church was run mainly by women, being a religion based in the homes and centered around meals, where 1st Century customs clearly dictated this was the woman’s domain. The Bible is clear – women were in leadership, and transformed the early church in stunning ways. There are times when men were shocked and fearful of this reality and were doing everything they could to hold onto power.
Sin entered the church, and in many ways, is still around today. Shocking, huh?
Today Peter spells out rules for behavior that mesh with the culture of the day, and now expands the idea of “submission” outward into ever increasing circles. “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another…so that you may inherit the blessing.”
While it sounds a lot like “works righteousness,” it is also surprisingly similar to the mission of Christ. As I read those words I see Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. That was not an act of kindness, but one of submission, almost humiliation. That was woman’s work! That was done on your knees! That was not for your wife to do, but a woman SLAVE! Heavens! What is Jesus doing?
Jesus is setting a tone for excellence, saying that if you want to follow me, then you will be a slave, and submit to those in your care. If you are a leader, you will submit all the more.
This is what Peter means when he refers to their “hearts set apart in Christ as Lord.” Of course we are not going to act maliciously to our brothers and sisters; of course we are not going to act from fear; of course we are going to exhibit good behavior, because we are submitting to our Lord and to others, as he submitted to the world.
This is the bizarreness of Christendom, and it is partly why I am a Christian. This is such a strange ethic it could not have been made up by delusional apostles – this is God at work, strengthening the fold in a way that is almost absurd to human standards.
Thanks be to God!