Oh, how I wanted this article to be an open letter to patriarchal men, the ones who quote I Peter 3:1 with stern authority. Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands . . . I had it all written out in the tone of: Does it please you to stand on the humbled bodies of your submissive wife and your obedient children in order to stretch out your stiff neck to rise just a smidgen higher than other men?
I waxed eloquent for 949 words, but just before I submitted it, I realized it was no good. It didn’t meet my personal mission statement for encouraging and unifying and building up wives and marriage. Worse, it served no purpose — for writing a letter to a proud and arrogant man to point out his error is like rebuking a man who is domineering to his pets. Will he rush to repentance? No. He just goes home and kicks the dog.
The Principles of Christian Marriage
So, I’m writing this article to the women married to such men, to encourage you in your difficult role as wife to a man who doesn’t understand the principles of Christian marriage. Do not allow his misapplication of the Scripture nullify the power of that same Scripture. There is great power in I Peter 3 to reach the heart of a proud, stubborn husband through the spiritual principle of sacrificial love. Ouch! I know it seems harsh and unfair to tell you that the best way to love a man who demands submission is to give offer him sacrificial love. That advice scalds like boiling water poured on a dog that’s just been kicked by his best friend.
When a man quotes I Peter 3 in order to demand submission from his wife, he is announcing that he is the unbelieving husband on whose behalf it was written. He reveals his own rebellion to the greatest command of Christ – love – and is crying out for deliverance from a proud and haughty spirit of unbelief.
He is an unbeliever of the grace of God. He hasn’t fully placed his trust in the belief of the One who demonstrated the principle of a self-sacrificing love that lays down his life for his fellow man. He doesn’t believe that the true mark of authority is bending down to wash the feet of your followers (or wife and children).
He might understand the letter of the law, and the golden rule, but he has missed the greater mandate of Ephesians 5:25 — Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. A true Christian man doesn’t need to quote I Peter 3, for he has learned to not just love his wife as he loves himself, but to love her infinitely better, as Christ loved the church. And how was that? He gave all. He humbled himself. He bore shame and pain and undeserved penalty. He turned the other cheek. He was mocked. He descended into the darkness so that his bride might live in the light.
So what if you have an unbelieving husband who quotes I Peter 3? Model the actions described there for him so that he might come to a saving knowledge of the grace of God when the power of that spiritual principle is fulfilled. Give him grace so that he might receive grace. Offer love so that he might learn love. Become humble so that he might follow your example and humble himself.
The Redemptive Work of Christ
And how do you approach a man so repulsive with the sin that such an attitude propagates, in order to offer him these beautiful gifts? You can’t do it on your own, but because you have experienced the redemptive work of Christ in your life, you have learned that you can do all things through Christ, who strengthens you (Phil 4:13). In fact, since you know your authority in Christ, you can even bend down and wash the feet of those who are most unworthy.
Is it fun? No, it is mostly miserable (except when you bow down in prayer and God lifts you up). Is it easy? No, it is the most difficult thing you will ever do (until Christ comes along and bears the burden with you). Is it effective? Yes, it is one of the only things that works for a proud and stubborn and sin-filled man. The same grace that made you a new creation can transform his heart, too! The spiritual principle of I Peter 3 does work, because it is as powerful as the miracle of seed time and harvest.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).
Through the principle explained in I Peter 3, you will not only extend grace to your husband, but you will receive a beautiful gift as a by-product, for as you humble yourself before God, He will lift you up. It’s the quickest way to glory, as your Maker becomes the husband you need (Isaiah 54), while you wait for the transforming work of love to complete its work.