First Peter 3:1-7
Dressed-up With Value To God

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

What About That It Should Be Neither Male Nor Female?

1. In The Epistle To The Galatian Disciples, which we read last week, the following is written: "For, everyone of you who has received baptism and been joined to Christ are wearing Christ. Wherefore, you are no longer Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, male or female. For, you are all one in Christ Jesus," (Galatians 3:27-28). Since being joined to Christ (being in Christ) is of absolute importance, everything else loses its relative importance.

2. On the other hand, the social world of reality in which the church is placed is one where the differences between male and female have great importance. It is a society in which the idea of male dominance and chauvinism predominates. Therefore, even homes are formed according to a male centered view of marriage. Subordinate positions have been assigned to the females. Often times, the wife is only considered as the property of the husband. Obedience of the wife to the husband is expected, and there is no other option besides that one.

3. How did the church, which had been placed in societies of this kind, confront this then contemporary view of marriage and of spousal relationships? Surprisingly, the church, which should have experienced "Being in Christ where there is neither male nor female," seems to have accepted the view on marriage back then without any modifications. In The Epistle To Peter, which we read today, the text says, "O wives, obey your husbands," and a similar exhortation is recorded in the Pauline epistles addressed to the churches at Ephesus and Colossae. In other words, it means these words had been spoken on a general widespread basis among the churches. The church did not wage a battle against the mindset which was commonly held by everyone in society as the way to be and did not reject the male centered order of the home. Therefore, it wasn't against the Bible that no one was looking at the limitations that came from the social background of that day. So, it is certainly imperative and important [for us] to read the scriptures taking into consideration the context of the times.

4. Yet, on the other hand, there is something we should not overlook. In spite of the fact that the church has been saying, "O wives, obey your husbands," just like the world has been saying, in it there was a picture of a completely new home in actual existence in the world, never seen in contemporary societies back then. Or at least, we have the fact that the picture of this new kind of home was being aimed at [by believers]. We can get a glimpse of the picture of this new home in "the exhortation to the husbands" in verse seven.

5.

"Likewise, o husbands, live with the daily discernment that [your] wife is weaker than you and respect her as a co-inheritor of the blessing of life. When you do, your prayers will not be hindered," (verse seven).

6. What kind of picture of the home is assumed in this exhortation? It is a home where the husband and the wife are both living together as co-inheritors of the blessings of life. In this we have the image of the couple living their lives as they pray together and while looking toward the kingdom of God as co-inheritors of eternal life. The relationship of such a couple is neither formed by rejecting the existing order which only has the option of "the wife obeying her husband," nor by fighting and breaking down the existing order. It has been formed on the inside by the power of the life that the gospel brings.

Even Husbands Who Don't Believe God's Word

7. But, there may be some who say, "If something like that would happen, wouldn't it be limited to cases in which the husband also was a Christian? Were the husband to be a God fearing man, of course, the wife would not likely be looked down upon unfairly, even though [the Bible] states, 'Wives, obey your husbands.' But, how is it when a husband does not fear God? In that case, isn't it important to fight to revolutionize unfair imbalanced relationships? Or, shouldn't we abandon these unfair relationships?"

8. How does it look [in the scriptures]? As a matter of fact, inferring from Paul's epistles, it looks like there were some wives who used to think that a marriage relationship with a husband like that ought to be annulled. When you think about it, it isn't odd even though some wives had been driven by a desire to reject the existing order, when [these] wives, who had their eyes opened to [the statement of] "Being in Christ there is neither male nor female," had taken a fresh look into the way society and spouses were supposed to be in that day when the status of females was by far lower than even today.

9. Even if it was in regard to husbands who did not believe God's word, in today's passage of scripture, Paul says any way, "O wives, obey your husbands." Why does [he say this]? The reason is very very simple. "The reason is even if your husband is a man who does not believe God's word, he may be lead to faith through the unspoken deeds of the wife; for, [your husbands] will see the pure lifestyle of you who are God-fearing," (verses one and two).

10. It is translated here as "be lead to faith," but the basic word is a word with the meaning of "gain." What [wives] must truly gain is not their rights. It is not their status. It is not even equality. What [wives] must truly gain is a human being. In this case, it is [their] "husbands." [We] must gain people unto God. [We] must gain [husbands] unto God precisely because the husband is an unbeliever of the word. Fighting to gain equal rights is [something we should do] for sure. But, that's different from fighting to gain a human being. Obtaining a person for God comes through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

11. But, within the existing order of husbands and wives, wives cannot give out the gospel with words to their husbands. They have not been able to speak on Jesus Christ. But, even though they cannot "tell" them the gospel, it is possible for them to "show" it to them. Of course, as long as the husband is not participating in worship with [his wife], she cannot show him how she is when she is worshipping God. But, she can show him how she is as she lives out her daily routine. "The pure lifestyle of you who are God-fearing" and "the unspoken deeds" [of the wife] were possible [to do] even within the framework of the system back then where there was no other option besides "wives obeying husbands."

12. Of course, what is being written here does not necessarily remain in situations between spouses. It is [easy] to see settings where a person is placed into a subordinate position coming in many forms besides that. At the office, in relationships between students and teachers, among parents and children and among siblings, in societies [in different] areas, many times people are placed in such a position. When we are in such a position, many times we feel it hard to communicate Christ [to our superiors] with words. But, even within the framework of that kind of order, unspoken deeds have the power to gain or win a person over.

13. Of course, the opposite of that can also be said. [We're in] an environment in which [we can] communicate the gospel with words. In fact, [we're] doing that. But, it also happens that what we have communicated with these words [of ours] is unfortunately counteracted by "the unspoken deeds" [we've done]. In fact, the message that is written here about "the pure lifestyle of you who are God-fearing" is a truly heavy message. Do we simply nod our heads and say, "I agree. I do," as we read this passage of scripture? We shouldn't be doing that. When we take issue with "the pure God-fearing lifestyle," we all know quite well that our thin veneers get nobody any where. It must be something that emerges from within.

Attire That Has Value In God's Sight

14. Therefore, the following words that come after it are important. "Your attire should not be something that is on the outside like braided hair and golden decorations, or fine clothing. Instead, you should have an inward personality, decorated with that which does not die out such as meekness, modesty, and an amiable nature. This type of attire indeed does have true value before God," (verses three and four).

15. In a certain sense it is easy to dress up the outside. If it just takes money, you can dress up all day and night. On the other hand, it is not easy to adorn the inner person. That attire requires some time. To dress up the inner person, you must focus your mind on it more than usual. What is written here is not a criticism against someone dressed up fashionably in fine clothes or "Do's and don'ts for a woman to be graceful." This is not the degree to which the Bible is speaking. That's not the issue, it is taking issue with where we place our focus in our routine day to day living. Peter is saying, "This type of attire indeed does have true value before God," (verse four). The main thing we are to consider is "What has value in God's sight?" That is, we are to live day to day mindfully of how our routine lives are in the sight of God.

16. So, as we've already seen, in this passage in particular, is a place written about the life of the unbelieving husband. It'd be nice if everyone looked at this section and put in its place the unbelievers that they come in contact with on a routine basis. Since [we] Christians in Japan spend the majority of [our] lives with persons who are not Christians, [we] can probably see many faces coming into [our] minds. Among them there are probably some who could care less about faith, or worse, they have shown a strong negative response to Christianity. In our relationships with these kinds [of people], we often end up thinking, "What's important to God isn't important to them. They will never see how important it is." Isn't that how [we think]?

17. But, in a certain sense, today's passage of scripture states something totally paradoxical. That is it says, even a husband who does not believe God's word does not truly focus his attention on the outward decorations and fine clothing, but on what has value in the sight of God. It says that even they are putting their eyes on the inner person adorned not with that which dies out, they are looking at whether one is living out a pure God-fearing lifestyle. Therefore, even in relationships with those who do not believe God's word, the attire that has value before God does truly become something important.

18. Wouldn't you agree with that as a fact? I would say that your non church going mates, children, and friends are looking often for more than a churchgoer [in you]. They are looking quite hard [at you]. In this type of relationship a thin [religious] veneer won't do the job. Though it may be plain but without pretension, the hidden not usually found at the surface attire within a person's character, the faith life that takes it all really to heart in a consistent manner, the life that reveres and fears God truly gains and wins people over to God and has the power to change the real world we live in.

 
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