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.