1 Peter 3:1-2 Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.
In some circles this is a very controversial passage. Some male pastors have used it to counsel battered wives to stay with their husbands, and women have been killed as a result. That is certainly not what Peter meant! My own perspective has been greatly clarified in recent years because of an exemplary family in our church. The husband had an alcohol problem and the wife ended up with severe clinical depression, to the point that she couldn’t leave her house. The husband was a nice guy when he wasn’t drinking, but often became violent when he was. The wife had been baptized some time before I ever met them, but the situation never seemed to improve. For a period of about two years, while the wife was in the throes of depression, I would take a CD of our worship service to their home every week. Usually she would come to the door to receive it, we would talk a little and I would pray for her, but sometimes she couldn’t even bring herself to come to the door. She said later that she actually hardly ever listened to the CDs, but what made the difference was the fact that I came, as a concrete indication that God hadn’t abandoned her. Eventually they got a puppy, and the act of taking care of something else drew her out of her self-centered depression. (A majority of mental/emotional problems seem to stem from having a mirror stuck to the end of your nose, but that’s a different, and long, discussion.) As she became able to attend worship services, the worship itself opened her up to the full work of the Holy Spirit, and she blossomed. Meanwhile, her husband still had the alcohol problem and it got to the point that she made him move out, saying that he had to choose between alcohol and her. I’m not sure how long that went on, but he eventually dried up enough that she let him come back. Meanwhile, the husband’s older brother, who had been away working in another city for several years, retired and came back to town, and was astonished at the change in his sister-in-law, to the point that he earnestly sought the God she had, and was baptized. It was less than a year later that his younger brother followed suit, and both of them said that it was the demonstration of her changed life that convinced them that God was real and Jesus could save. Now, that family is central to this church, and the men also are growing in faith and knowledge of the Lord. To me, they are a magnificent example of the validity of this passage. The wife was not a doormat to her husband, but forced him to move out when that was appropriate. However, it was her life itself, far more than anything she said, that brought her husband and her brother-in-law into the family of God.
This is an illustration of the reality that as a pastor, I learn from those in my flock. Life is complicated, and being simplistic doesn’t fix things. However, the simple, basic truth that God loves enough that He sent His Son to die in our place, if accepted, will fix almost any situation. I need to keep growing, never thinking that I have all the answers but remembering that God does. I am to live as a demonstration of God’s love and grace, not being a pushover any more than Jesus was, or the woman I just wrote about, for that matter, but always speaking the truth in love. At the same time, even as a man of words (which I certainly am) I must remember that my actions speak louder than my words, and seek to present an undistorted picture of my Lord to those who watch me.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for that family, who mean so much to this church. Thank You for all You are continuing to do in each one of us. May this be a year of harvest indeed, so that many may be brought from darkness to light, from death to life, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!