Christian Values and Cultural Norms

Do you hear the bells of doom ringing? I do.

Why, you ask? Because this Sunday we are going to be reading 1 Peter 3:1-7.

If you’re a woman, how does this text make you feel? This passage has become, in our modern society, a bit of a pariah. We usually stumble around it, embarrassed that it’s there in the first place. But what if we squarely look at what Peter wrote, and what if there is something there that God is saying to us all about our walk of faith?

As you read this passage, I want you to remember the context this passage is found in. Peter began talking about how we relate to governments that can sometimes be unfair, then talked about how slaves should respond to masters who treat them unfairly, now he talks to wives of husbands who oppose the Christian faith. What is the theme of this whole section…the common denominator? When Paul is describing government leaders, do we think he’s trying to describe the best kind of rulers? When he’s describing a slave’s response to an unfair master, do we think he’s affirming slavery? When he’s talking to wives who are expected, in Roman society, to be submissive to their husbands, do we think he’s describing God’s intended role for women? What is Peter mostly addressing in all of these conditions?

The context that started in chapter 2:13 has not changed – and we must be careful not to read this passage in isolation from that theme.

When reading this text with the theme of a Christian response to societal disadvantages – does this text take on a different meaning than it does if read independently of that context? Do you believe Peter is defining roles, or encouraging a good response to less than ideal situations?

In the Roman world the family order was paramount. The family was structured as a patriarchy around the paterfamilias – the husband and father who was head of a household. When a woman married a man, she was expected to adopt his religious beliefs and worship only his household gods. A wife who comes to a faith in Jesus would, of course, stop worshiping any other god. Peter appears to want to minimize the danger that action may pose by encouraging her to be sure she follows all the other cultural norms so that her faith isn’t perceived as a threat to Roman order. He seems to be encouraging wives to express Christian values in a way that doesn’t violate cultural norms.

What are the ways our society sees Christianity and it’s treatment of women? If we were to apply Peter’s intent in this text to our modern setting, what would we encourage wives to do or be?

v7 sort of describes God’s intent for the order in marriage.  In light of the theme of societal disadvantages, how would you interpret the description of wives as  a “weaker vessel”? “Heirs with you” could also be worded “co-heirs” – what does this indicate to you about God’s intended roles in marriage?

I think it will be a good study. I may be considered a heretic by some when it’s done…but I think this passage deserves a more thorough examination.

3 comments

  1. At some point last Sunday I read ahead a little when I saw this was the next passage we would be studying and I involuntarily teared up. It could be the pregnancy hormones, but I’m more inclined to think it was the deep connection I have to the instructions God gave men and women about marriage. When Matt and I were first married, our married life basically resembled the couples you see on Jerry Springer rather than who we are today. God turned us around in such a kind, loving way and taught us this passage and others like it in the bible personally before either of us ever even cracked our bibles open. Just thinking about it… he never ceases to amaze me. The things that he will do to rescue his children from themselves and to bring them to the beautiful life he intended for all of us.

    I have so much to say about this subject that I’m not even sure where to start. This may even take a couple postings. Sorry. Hang in there with me or ignore me. I’m good either way. LOL

    I think first I want to tackle something that dawned on me this time that never has before. Normally when God is speaking to men and women in the bible, no matter what book it’s in, words are pretty lengthy for women and fairly short for men. Rob from the comments you’ve made about it before it sure seems to make you uncomfortable to have to address that. LOL I could be VERY wrong, but I think God is more wordy when speaking to women just because that’s the way he made us. Men and women, we are both made in the image of God. Just different sides or facets of him. By and large women are much more verbal than men. We need speech as part of relationship. Words and conversation to feel close. We are even known to talk things to death sometimes and make our husbands’ eyes roll back in their heads. ;o) By and large men are much more ‘give me direction so I can take action’ oriented. Too many words and most get bored or too antsy to take action to listen anymore. Obviously there are tons of exceptions and this is not a blanket statement. I just wonder if this isn’t one of the reasons for the way instructions to men and women were written. The bible is supposed to be one of the ways we are in relationship with God and he is in relationship with us. Just maybe he knows what we need when he speaks to us… he knows how to speak to us because he created us… in his image. I think this is also related to the relationship between man and wife. We are two different parts of God designed to ‘become one’ when married. Women viewed as the ‘weaker vessel’ in almost every society and every point in history most likely because we are usually physically weaker than men, more relational and reliant on ‘feelings’, and so many more reasons I could probably go on forever. Men are usually physically stronger, more dominant, the ‘alpha dog’, and on and on. (I know these sound like stereotypes. I don’t mean for them to, but hopefully you’ll see my point in a second.) Both of these are sides of God and his strength is shown in each side. There is strength in his loving kindness and there is also strength (obviously) in his power and might. When a man and woman marry and follow the way God intended for marriage to be, these sides are woven together to forever unite them in an intimate and inseparable way that is both beautiful and strong. Does any of that make any sense at all? It does in my head, but I don’t know that it’s coming out on paper.

    As far as our relationship, when God taught us what he taught us… it had come to a point where Matt’s parents even sat us down and said, “You need to choose. Either you want to be married or you don’t. If you keep going down the road you’re on you’ll be divorced very soon.” In the long run it helped us because it was kind of like a slap in the face to wake us up. We knew before hand that we were in trouble but just tried to go on with every day life. It made things so much more difficult right after they talked to us though. We are both so stubborn and we were so determined to not get divorced that we tried even harder to fix what was wrong. Only, our idea of fixing things was trying to fix what was wrong with the other person. That took our marriage out of the frying pan and put it into the fire. After one particular nasty fight I gave up trying and cried out to God. I had nothing left and was so broken I felt like I couldn’t breathe anymore on my own. God came into my heart and proceeded to heal me from the inside out. He said, “Just keep your eyes on me. Follow me and my instructions. I will not leave you. Not for one second. Just keep your eyes on me. Don’t worry anymore about what he does, how it hurts… nothing. You let me take care of him and you keep your eyes on me.” Matt had no idea that I had cried out to God and I found out years later that he had done the same, we think, the same night. After that God separated us. We were still married and living in the same house, living every day life, but it was like we were boxers sent to our corners. Our ‘coaches’ standing in front of us so we could only get glimpses of the other person. We were each so focused on him and his instruction that it was almost like tunnel vision. Vs 1 talks about wives being submissive to their husbands so that even those who don’t believe will be won over by the wife’s conduct. That was lesson number 1 for me and I wasn’t even fully aware of it. God was teaching me how to be submissive to him so in the future I would know how to be submissive to my husband. He treated me as a husband should treat their wife: kind, gentle, loving, and earning my trust in such a way that I knew he would never ‘lord his power over me’. He instructed me in my actions and those actions were apparently noticed by a husband who was both confused but curious with this new attitude from his wife. The funny thing was I was noticing a curious new attitude in him as well even though I didn’t trust it yet. I think we were both a little taken aback by the (vs 2) respect and restraint shown towards the other person. We were both trying so hard to conduct ourselves in a kind and civilized manner rather than just letting it fly when we were hurt or angry. We were both in the process of being humbled. Each of us in different ways. Verses 3 and 4 talk about not braiding your hair or wearing jewelry… This was a deep and painful lesson for me too. When we were married, Matt’s sister called me ‘Wedding Barbie’. I had perfect hair and clothes and make-up and body and blah blah blah. I relied on my physical appearance to keep my husband attracted to me. No matter how hard I tried my efforts were in vain and I was never enough. God instructed me and over time showed me through my husband’s heart change towards me that no matter what the outside looks like, my husband would ultimately be attracted to… seduced the way God intended seduction to be, by my heart and the actions that follow. (These verses remind me SO much of the movie Shallow Hal. LOL) God taught me that when we give our hearts to him to be cleaned and made new, no matter what our outward appearance is we will shine more beautiful than any star he placed in the sky. I had to trust when he told me that my husband’s allegiance would never be won by my external beauty because he created my husband to be connected to more. My beauty would never satisfy or fill him up the way God inside of my heart would. Vs 5 tells us that holy women made themselves beautiful to their husbands by letting their hearts for God, and their submission to their husband shine. There it is again… submission to your husband. I guess that’s a whole bunch of things. Not being a quarrelsome wife, holding your tongue in anger, being wise enough to know what words and actions will hurt and help your marriage, placing your husband and marriage above your personal desires, not being a ‘me’ person anymore and placing the other person’s needs ahead of your own, being a servant and ultimately TRUSTING your husband to be a follower of God and good and kind leader because of his own submission to and relationship with God. Vs 6 That’s how Sarah did it and she was able to because she was confident not only in herself because of her relationship with God, but in her place and role in the marriage because of their mutual relationship with God. There was no anxiousness or intimidation because there was no ‘vying for position’. There was no ‘vying for position’ because they had both placed themselves under God’s rule and because of this, had become one the way God intended.

    Vs 7. So few words for such heavy instruction. Being ‘the stronger sex’, having everything stem from their actions and leadership… it’s a good thing husbands have God to instruct and lead them. Otherwise they would be crushed by the weight of the world on their shoulders. I think this verse is probably better coming from a man with his own experience though so if he gets a chance, maybe Matt will chime in.

    I will say this. Since that time that God grabbed hold of our hearts and instructed us in his ways, Matt has become a better husband than I even knew was possible. I had no point of reference as to what a Godly husband looked like or what it looked like for two to become one. God somehow worked a miracle in us and we have become those two interwoven pieces that have become one in an intimate way and are inseparable. Every word of instruction he speaks to men and women concerning this is living and breathing and will give life where there was none before. Just keep your eyes on him.

    I’m so sorry this has been so long. Believe it or not you got the abridged version. When God is involved and working miracles there is always more to the story. ;o)

  2. Thank you so much Kris for being so transparent in sharing. I loved how you told a piece of your story that matched each scripture. I love how you said it’s,”no vying for position” because we have placed ourself under God’s rule. Oh I like that so much! Being single now for many years I have to grin because I often whole heartedly pray and ask God to help me think like a man sometimes. For instance when I go to Lowes looking for screws to fit the lights on my porch! It works! He’s so wonderfully faithful to me in every way! Actually, I have grown to really love hardware stores!

  3. I have to share the notes in my bible on this…the gist of them was this: our attitudes toward God determine our attitudes toward those under whose authority we are placed. Our government, boss or spouse may fall short of our or God’s ideal, however we seek in every way to be a good citizen, good employee and a good spouse, modeling our behavior on Christ who obeyed and trusted the Father even when His own people rejected Him. Submission is an act of faith with God as the ultimate authority over the relationship. We can trust that He has our best interests in mind as we honor Him in this way!

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