1 Peter 3:1-4

Second in a two part series! Part One is here: 2 Peter 2.

1 Peter 3:1-4

1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

(ESV)

This is one of those passages that has always made me come over all lefty and feminist. This time approaching the passage I was determined not to read in the same old way. When I read this time, I was struck by the idea of providing an example, rather than giving verbal admonishments — words were like the superficial decorations mentioned in verse 3, while conduct was like the gentle & quiet spirit of verse 4. I didn’t think of wife vs husband; I thought of myself being an example to my wife (and to myself).

Then I read the reading notes, which drew attention to the “even if some do not obey the word” in verse 1:

However, I think Peter might’ve had a specific group of women in mind when he was speaking these words —– wives who were married to unbelievers —– though every woman or man can learn from his teachings on submission here.

I am married to an unbeliever!

Going back again to read the passage, reading verses 3 & 4 broke a wave of upset and confusion over me:

3 Do not let your adorning be external — the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing — 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

(ESV)

3 Your beauty should lie, not in outward adornment — braiding the hair, wearing gold ornaments, or dressing up in fine clothes — 4 but in the inmost self, with its imperishable quality of a gentle, quiet spirit, which is of high value on the sight of God.

(REB)

I didn’t realise it at the time, but each time I returned to the text I was reading it more and more “as” the wife. And then I hit the end of verse 3: “the putting on of clothing”; the REB actually says “dressing up” which is the phrase I use on this blog.

My thinking (if you can call it that – emoting) went like this:

“… the putting on of clothing”, “dressing up in fine clothes”

  • what kind of clothing would I be putting on, as a wife? That is the clothing I’d like to be putting on;
  • the language “the putting on” seems to focus on the activity itself: stepping into the “fine clothes”, and the relief and safety I feel;

“Do not let your adorning be external”

  • for me these adornments are not external, they are carefully hidden and private, and associated with a secret (snowflake) “inmost self”

I don’t think I ended up with any message, but the reading I was constructing was so obviously at variance with any “correct” reading, I found it very upsetting — out of nowhere.

I think perhaps I was primed for something like this to happen as I’d been doing a lot of online “window shopping”: some business trips, and some wife & son absences, were coming up. (I didn’t buy anything in the end.)

Why do I want to recount all this here?

  • I was surprised and still am at how shocked and moved I was by this confrontation with Scripture.
  • The power and the shock only happened because I was reading the Scripture as part of a group.
  • The strength of this response shows me, I think, how this “dressing up” habit is much closer to my heart, more a part of me, than my other Bad Habits.
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