Chew on it a bit, and you realize what a huge ask Peter was making. Just as were all the believers Peter was writing to, these ladies, by the very nature of their confession of faith and determination to follow Jesus, were becoming increasingly out of step with a prevailing culture that was becoming increasingly hostile toward their faith. Then, put them in a home with an unbelieving husband? It’s not a stretch to imagine the hostility from outside their tents fueled a palpable tension within their tents. So, what’s a wife to do?
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, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. . . . For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
(1Peter 3:1, 5-6 ESV)
Be subject. Submit. With today’s cultural sensibilities those words are like fingernails on a chalkboard. In an age of expressive individualism, we yield to no one but ourselves.
But for the church, for disciples of Christ, I think there’s something instructive here. Not in a “complementarian” vs. “egalitarian” sense. But in a broader sense. Something for everyone who bears the name of Christ. For, as Paul would instruct the Ephesian believers, all those who follow Jesus are to be “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21).
So, here’s the takeaway I’m taking away this morning. That in order to submit to others as Jesus would have us do; we are not to be afraid of the potential consequences of submitting.
Do not fear anything that is frightening. That, it seems to me, is a key command to get hold of when it comes to submitting as we should.
In Peter’s context, I think it’s about first century wives doing what first century wives ought to do as they display the beauty of “the hidden person of the heart” with a gentle and quiet spirit (1Pet. 3:4) in the hope that their unbelieving husband might be “won without a word” by their conduct. It’s about taking the risk of submitting to an unbelieving husband amidst a hostile culture for the sake of the gospel. Thus, with eternity-impacting goals in mind, not fearing anything that is frightening.
Same for me. Submission is risky business. Aligning myself under the will of another can go south pretty quickly if the “another” is other than in a similar posture of willing submission to me. Christian subjection isn’t about putting myself under someone’s control because they deserve it but because my Lord desires it. In fact, if they’re battling the flesh as much as I am, chances are at some point they could take advantage of someone else’s submissive spirit. So, for me too, it’s risky business to submit to another. But I too am commanded, do not fear anything that is frightening.
How can we not fear anything that is frightening? By submitting to others because we submit to Christ. For the love of Christ casts out all fear (1Jn. 4:18).
As I learned years ago through the Love and Respect seminars, my submission to another is possible when I look over their shoulder and I see Jesus standing behind them and purpose, by His enabling, to submit to Him. My subjection to another is motivated by my subjection to Jesus. I place myself under another because I’ve put my trust in Jesus. I take the risk because I believe in the Redeemer who loved me and gave Himself for me. So, I act without fearing anything that is frightening.
Easier said than done? Yeah, I’m thinking. But I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Php. 4:13) by the power of Him who lives in me (Gal. 2:20).
Willing to take the risk of submitting because it’s a way of responding to the love of the Savior.
Only by His grace. Only for His glory.