Reading for Friday, Feb. 24: 1 Peter 3
Sorry I’m a little late in posting the comments for today’s reading. Got in late from Honduras last night and I’ve been running around all day trying to get some things done! But I’ve been looking forward to this and now I finally have a free moment to post.
I think it’s important to remember Peter’s comment in 2.25 as we read through the rest of this letter: “For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” Peter sees submission to Christ as the most formative experience of life. This was certainly true in Peter’s life. When he first meets Jesus, Simon is a sweaty, swearing fisherman, a man’s man who goes his own way. But he meets Jesus and everything changes: his livelihood, his purpose, even his own name. In one of his final encounters with Jesus on earth, the Lord tells Peter, in John 21:18-19:
“I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
I doubt Peter ever forgot these words. He understands that his entire life is meant to be lived in submission to Christ. Even his death — being dressed and led by another — is an outward demonstration of his interior submission of spirit.
This is helpful context for Peter’s teaching on husbands and wives. Wives are instructed to live in submission to their husbands (v1), full of inner beauty (v4). Peter refers to Sarah, a woman known for her physical beauty (Gen. 12.11). Yet, Peter praises her for her interior qualities, specifically her submission to Abraham. Peter implores Christian wives to strive to be Sarah’s daughters by doing what is right and refusing to give way to fear (v6).
In the same way, husbands are to deal respectfully and graciously with their wives (v7). This is reminiscent of Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 5 and his contextual framework for the Christian home: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ,” (Eph. 5.21). Though husbands are to exercise spiritual leadership in the home and in the church, this occurs under the broader umbrella of submission to the Chief Shepherd.
The second half of chapter 3, though more general in focus, teases out the same thought. Living in harmony with one another; loving as brothers in compassion and humility; repaying evil with blessing — these are all qualities becoming of Christ’s flock. A key verse is v15: “But in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord.” The Greek word for “set apart” here is “hagiazo” — make holy. As Peter has reminded us, our call as followers of Christ is to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1.16). But this isn’t achieved through moral perfection on our part. Rather, it occurs in the context of a life of constant affirmation of Christ’s lordship. As Christians, our standard of life should prompt questions. “Why do you live the way you do? Why is your speech different than those around you? Why do you live with such compassion and humility?” To these questions, we stand ready to give an answer (1 Peter 3.15). This is part of the “set apart” life.
Peter closes with more theological reflection on suffering and salvation. The people of God have always wrestled with questions of theodicy and Peter makes no attempt to explain other than to encourage believers to persevere. “It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil,” (3.17). He rightfully points out that the Chief Shepherd suffered for doing good, leading to our salvation. This salvation is mediated to the believer through baptism (3.21, “which now saves you also”) and culminates in the promise of resurrection.