“Strangers In Marriage Too” 1 Peter 3:1-7 June 26, 2011
SCRIPTURE INTRO: We’re studying 1 Peter this summer.
The theme of this letter is Christian suffering.
How as a Christian, you can live in such a way that the troubles, pains,
and sorrows that inevitably come, don’t crush you, but make you better.
First part of the letter, Peter lays the groundwork by telling us who we are
in Christ. God’s elect, a kingdom of priests, the church of the living God,
strangers and aliens in this world.
Second part of the letter, tells us how we are to live consistent with who we are.
This has a direct bearing on how we deal with the sufferings and trials of life.
INTRO: Yesterday was our 23rd Anniversary.
And yesterday I got to do a wedding—Ashley Hutchen’s wedding.
And today I get to preach about marriage.
Interesting how the Lord arranged those three things this weekend.
When you are a preacher and you have a passage like this one before you,
it’s tempting to use it as a springboard to deal with marriage topics.
To preach about marriage topics you want to talk about
or that you think your congregation needs.
If there are wives in your congregation who are bossy, who are shrews,
and you feel sorry for their husbands, you can use these verses to clobber them.
You can preach about submission and how spending so much money and time
on clothes and jewelry and hair-dos is shallow and unspiritual.
That would be a fun sermon to preach!
If there are husbands in your congregation who are couch-potatoes,
uncommunicative, detached, and you see their long-sufferings wives faithfully
holding the family together spiritually—you could pound on them pretty hard.
And tell them how God will hold them accountable for their lack of leadership.
Or, you could use this passage to address societal issues that undermine marriage—
feminism, no-fault divorce, and pornography.
Or you could use these verses to give some very practical marriage advice—
Steps to a happy marriage—communicate, date night—that sort of thing.
Believe me, you can find all of those sermons out there.
And there’s nothing wrong with any of them.
But what I’m trying to do in this sermon series is stick to Peter’s purpose for
writing this letter and not springboard to other things.
And his purpose, I’ve told you every Sunday, is to teach Christians how to suffer.
The Christians he was writing to were suffering, more was coming.
And Peter says right away that is what he is writing about.
Look back at chapter 1, verses 6 and 7. These are the theme verses of the letter.
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
There it is: Suffering, grief, trials—refined by fire—praise, glory and honor.
So it’s in that context that we come to the topic of marriage.
Peter has talked about Christian citizens and government authorities—
can be lots of suffering in that relationship, especially in Roman empire.
He’s talked about Christian slaves and their masters—
and he says that some masters are unjust and cruel. Suffering there.
And now he talks about Christian wives and husbands.
The context is the difficulties and struggles and even suffering in marriage.
There is instruction here for every married Christian,
whether your marriage is good and intimate or distant and strained,
whether your spouse is an unbeliever or a committed Christian.
As a Christian, you must have a radically different view of marriage than the world.
Your marriage is not primarily a vehicle for personal affirmation or self-
fulfillment or even for happiness. Now, don’t misunderstand me.
Nothing wrong with affirmation, fulfillment, and happiness as far as they go.
But that’s not how a Christian fundamentally sees his or her marriage.
Instead, you see your marriage, good or bad, as one of the most important places
where you live out your faith in Jesus Christ. It’s in marriage your faith is refined
and results in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Let me put it this way: Peter says that as Christians we are aliens and strangers.
You have to be a stranger in marriage. Not a stranger to your spouse.
Not a stranger in the sense of being uninvolved or detached.
But a stranger in that you look at your marriage as a person from another country.
You look at it in terms of God’s glory and Jesus Christ and the life to come.
Last week after Sunday school I was talking to a Christ Covenant man and he said
that he was stuck by our study of 1 Peter and the men’s study of Ecclesiastes
how different the Christian life is. And how we have to look at our lives and
everything in them in a way that is different from the world.
That’s exactly Peter’s point. If you’re going to face the troubles of marriage
as a Christian, then you have to look at marriage in a totally different way.
Peter makes this point two ways, one with wives, one with husbands.
1. Your marriage is a platform for proclaiming Christ.
2. Your marriage is a partnership for growing in grace.
MP#1 Your marriage is a platform for proclaiming Christ.
Peter addresses this point specifically to Christian wives.
And then he even more specifically speaks to Christian wives whose husbands
are not believers—those who do not believe (literally do not obey the word).
From the very beginning of the church, even during Jesus’ ministry,
there have been women who become Christians, but their husbands don’t.
Or, maybe their husbands are nominal Christians, would say they are believers,
but have little or no interest in spiritual things.
This is a very common pattern in every church through the ages.
You rarely see Christian men whose wives are unbelievers.
But there are always women in every church whose husbands aren’t believers.
One famous example is St. Augustine’s mother Monica.
She was a Berber, a North African, her husband was a Roman.
She became a Christian, and was very committed to Christ,
but her husband Patricius remained a pagan until just before his death.
All those many decades, Monica was so concerned about her son, Augustine.
He had a brilliant mind, but he lived an immoral life, far from God.
She had to carry that burden all alone, and pray for her son all alone,
because her husband didn’t get it.
And when Augustine was converted, Monica was unable to share that joy
with her husband, because once again, he didn’t get it.
A Christian women who is married to an unbeliever is living with a man who does
not share or care about the deepest things of her soul. He doesn’t know the Lord.
So he can’t talk about her deepest hopes for her children,
or the things that are going on in her heart, or about the Bible or worship.
She’s married to a man she can’t pray with.
And at best he smiles and pats her on the head, and at worst he’s hostile.
And that’s painful, because women generally invest great hopes of self-worth
and meaning and happiness in marriage.
When those great longings are not met, there is a natural tendency to push back,
to try to drive and force the husband into being what he should be.
And if he’s not, and if the marriage is unfulfilling for her at that deep level,
then there will be a tendency to try to fill that void in other things.
How should a Christian woman in that situation see her marriage?
You should look at your marriage as a place for you to commend Christ to your
husband through your behavior. You seek to win him over without words.
Just in case that sounds too theoretical, Peter gets down to the nitty-gritty
and tells what that looks like in real life.
First, he says, it means submission to your husband.
Wives, be submissive to your husbands.
The reason we submit to all authority as Christians, is because we live under
God and under Christ. And all human authority, good or bad, put here by God.
This is not the way people naturally think.
We naturally push back. We naturally resist authority.
We are able to submit to human authority, because we are free to do so in Christ.
For the past 20 years or so, there has been a movement in the evangelical church
called egalitarianism. It argues there is no submission, no authority in marriage.
You can find books and articles written by people in Christian colleges and
seminaries and churches with this view.
But their arguments don’t hold up. They have to go through all kinds of
interpretative gymnastics to explain away this plain teaching in Scripture.
When you read their books, come away with realization, they just don’t like this.
Here it is in plain language. Submission. The etymology of this Greek word in
case you’re interested comes from a military context.
It has the sense of rank and authority. It means to obey with respect.
And in usage after usage, throughout Bible, the only meaning that makes sense.
Jesus submitting to the Father.
Believers submitting to Christ.
Children submitting to parents.
Citizens to government authorities.
Servants to masters . . . Wives to husbands.
And Peter says: Look, not only is this how we live as Christians, for you wives
who are suffering the particular pain of an unbelieving husband,
it may be through this very submission, that you win your husband over.
Remember from our study the past two weeks. No human authority is absolute.
You never submit when commanded to do what God forbids
or forbidden to do what God commands.
Wife in that situation is obligated to obey God rather than her husband.
This includes fleeing from physical abuse and calling the police.
God commands us to preserve life and use power of state to defend weak.
In most cases, what does submission mean?
It means after you speak your mind, after you state your case,
you respectfully and graciously give your husband the deciding vote.
In matters big and small, you submit to him because your Lord is Jesus Christ,
and you want to do all you can to make him known.
So first, Peter says, submit to your husband.
And then second, develop your Christian character—purity, modesty, and so on.
In that context he says that your beauty should not be in outward things—
braided hair, gold jewelry, and clothes.
I think Peter is addressing the temptation that wives in unhappy marriages may
have, to seek their sense of self-worth and affirmation in appearance or status.
Substitute it for the affirmation don’t feel are getting from husbands.
Just to be clear, the Bible celebrates feminine beauty and adornment.
Often times it comments on the physical appearance of women.
Makes a point of telling us that some particularly beautiful, some not—
like Rachel and Leah, for example. Adornment of Rebecca, Song of Solomon.
The Bible doesn’t contradict itself. Peter is not prohibiting these things.
He says, this is not where a Christian woman finds her beauty.
She finds her beauty in Christ. That will lead to a certain modesty.
That kind of life proclaims him.
Who says outward beauty is not nearly as important as beauty of inner self?
Lots of people would agree with that in theory, but our culture shouts opposite.
Who says it’s good to remain in a marriage with a man who has no sympathy
for your deepest beliefs and longings, hoping he’ll come to Christ?
Who says it’s better to stay in that marriage instead of seeking some happiness
for yourself while you can?
Who says a woman with a quiet and gentle spirit is more beautiful than an
aggressive, demanding spirit?
God says these things.
And as Peter points out over and over in this letter—
the day will come when Jesus Christ is revealed. The day will come when
God will bring all people to judgment and reward those who have done his will.
And for the Christian woman who has followed this path of obedience
and even suffering, seeing her marriage as an opportunity to proclaim Jesus—
there will be great reward.
Do you see how strange this view of marriage is? How out of step with the world!
This is strange. But this is the way Jesus calls you to walk.
Let’s move on to the second point.
MP#2 Your marriage is a partnership for growing in grace.
Peter addresses this specifically to husbands. Read verse 7 again.
“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with
respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing
will hinder your prayers.”
Lots of people scoff at this sort of thing in the Bible
They say it’s sexist. It’s denigrating to women.
Submit to your husbands! Respect her as the weaker partner!
Come on. You’ve got to be kidding.
You don’t encounter this as much in Cullman, because a general respect for the
Bible and marriage here, but in many places this is a serious criticism of the Bible
You have to know the facts. Everywhere Christianity has ever gone in the world,
it has raised status of women. Women were treated with contempt in Peter’s day.
Women first century Rome were universally considered silly and unreliable.
One little example, their testimony not allowed in court, in same way wouldn’t
allow a five-year-old to testify.
Roman society did not allow a wife to have another religion than her husband.
How does Peter, how does the whole New Testament address wives and women?
It addresses them directly as morally and spiritually responsible individuals.
We read these verses in our context and miss how radical they were at the time.
For Peter to address wives directly and say: It doesn’t matter what your husband
believes, if you’ve been called to follow Christ, you follow him.
And I respect you and love you as my sister in Christ.
So when he speaks to husbands in this verse, he’s attacking the general contempt
for women that was prevalent in that day. Christian men weren’t immune.
We breathe the air of the society around us and adopt its values.
And we can’t place all the blame on society.
The tendency of a husband’s sinful nature is to look down on his wife,
to distance himself from her emotionally. To shut her out.
It goes back to the Garden of Eden after the Fall.
God says to Eve, your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.
You’ll desire to have him, to have his attention, his heart, his love—
but is he going to give you that? No, he’s going to just rule over you.
When Peter calls wives the weaker partner, he’s not saying women less valuable.
A Ming vase weaker than $5 hammer. Mother Teresa weaker than Mike Tyson.
He’s telling these Christian men that women are more vulnerable in some—
not all—but some significant ways in relation to men.
Physically vulnerable, emotionally vulnerable in certain ways.
And instead of despising these things, called to see instead
that it’s in these very places that husbands are called to respect and help wives.
And Peter goes even deeper than that.
Husbands, you must view your marriage as the partnership of two Christians
living the Christian life. You are partners and fellow heirs of salvation.
Those of you who were at Ashley’s wedding yesterday heard me say this.
Ashley and Matt wanted me to read and speak on two passages of Scripture—
1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter, those verse in Ruth 1 where Ruth says:
Where you go, I will go. Two great passages on love and commitment.
As I studied passages, was struck by something that had never occurred to me. These are very often read in Christian weddings, but neither is about marriage.
They are both about believers loving each other in the church.
Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians because as a church, they had division
and conflict. And he says: Love one another.
This is what it looks like: Love is patient, love is kind, it is not rude,
it keeps no record of wrongs, it hopes and believes the best and so on.
You know the chapter. Paul wants them to apply that to the fellow members
of their church, fellow believers, even those they don’t like very much.
Then the Ruth passage, she wasn’t speaking to her husband. He had died.
She was speaking to Naomi and she was making a commitment to be bound
to the people of Israel. To leave Moab and embrace the people of God and
to serve their Lord. So the same idea, love for fellow believers.
I thought, isn’t that interesting. For centuries these passages have been read
at Christian weddings, but they aren’t about the love of a husband and wife,
they are about the love of Christian brothers and sisters.
That’s what’s absolutely different about the marriage of two believers.
Another love in that marriage alongside marital love—love for fellow Christian.
There is a deeper relationship—not just husband and wife, brother and sister.
Fellow pilgrims on the road to heaven. Closest possible Christian companions.
Peter drives this home with a remarkable phrase.
Husbands, your wives are heirs with you of the gracious gift of life.
As a Christian couple, you are the children of a very rich Father.
He says to you, listen my son, listen my daughter, you’re in my will.
One day you are going to receive your inheritance, we’re a very wealthy family—
vast lands, vast properties—the cattle on a thousand hills.
I want to see you both helping each other get ready for that important day.
I want to see you encouraging each other, learning the family business together,
complimenting each others strengths and weaknesses.
I want you to trust each other and think the best of each other.
Don’t bicker. Don’t get irritated with each others.
It’s beneath my children who are heirs to such a great fortune.
But God expects marriage to be the place you are most diligent in showing
brotherly love, being most gracious, most kind, most polite.
And he addresses this specifically to Christian husbands, not wives.
That’s because a wife can’t take the lead here, she can’t push it along.
All she can do is win him over without words through behavior.
Christian men, you are called to this.
There are many of you who are much better Christians outside your marriage
than in it. More patient, more generous, more quick to pray with people
outside the home than in partnership with wife.
It’s harder to fake the Christian life in the intimacy of marriage.
In marriage we are what we really are.
We often step on each others toes, we expect so much of each other
and need so much from one another—can easily disappoint.
There are standing problems in marriage that never go away—
differences between men and women. Different expectations, memories.
Men, no matter how irritating or irrational those may seem to you,
your calling is graciousness, humility, love—
expressed and spoken until her heart is full.
CONC: Let me ask you two questions:
Are you more often distressed about your marriage not being all it ought to be, or
that your personal walk with Christ is not all it ought to be?
Are you bothered more that your husband or wife is not where he our she should be,
or that you are not where you should be on your Christian pilgrimage?
Remember that marriage is the Christian life in concentration.
It’s the place you serve and honor the Lord, the place you trust him,
submit to him, honor him, love him.
Keep that in mind and it will see your marriage very differently from the world,
and it will especially keep your frustrations in perspective.
There are frustrations everywhere in the Christian life,
and a true believer deals with them in faith, hope, and love.