This is a topic we read and hear about a lot in the church and you may be sick of it. But it’s still an important topic for us as women to engage with.
About a month ago I watched my very girly and pink daughter and her two neighbor friends run up to each other before church and immediately start chattering about their clothes. Look at the bow in my hair…I have sparkly shoes…that’s a nice necklace…my skirt is flowy…I like that dress…and on and on it went. Proving to me that there’s something within the girl-heart that is drawn to how we look. At every age there is a desire to look a certain way.
Without a doubt we live in a beauty obsessed culture. No woman needs to be told this (we all know it). In fact the culture also knows it enough that even it is trying to solve the problem. And we see this in things like Dove commercials. I like to call it the “just love yourself” movement. But we love this message because it preaches to every single one of our insecurities about our appearances.
The problem is that it’s not working.
Dove can keep coming out with inspirational commercials about how girls are special and beautiful and wonderful regardless of what the scale says or how tour hair looks or how we dress….and there will still be girls and women starving themselves and hating themselves tomorrow.
We have to look deeper if we’re going to find true satisfaction in our souls. So let’s look at 1 Peter 3:1-6.
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. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 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.
The grand topic here is of humble submission. Which admittedly is a word (submission) many of us women aren’t fans of. But it’s one we must engage with because the Scripture speaks about it a lot.
Here in 1 Peter, what we have is an interesting dialogue on how a woman wins her either unchristian or nominally Christian husband to the faith. And right off the hop Peter says, “They may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives”. Which I don’t think means women shouldn’t talk about the goodness of God, because a husband would need to know what he’s being won to. But more likely means, don’t get preachy. Or naggy. He warns us that our actions are what is going to count most. And he even goes on to talk about our clothes in regards to this. Which might seem weird. Why does our clothes matter in winning our husbands to the faith?
But I can only imagine that as women our default would be to try and win our husbands by A. Our words or perhaps grumbles of criticism or B. By using our bodies. “If I’m sexy enough, maybe he’ll listen to my nagging.” And what Peter is saying here is, Ladies…it won’t work.
Braided hair and lavish gold jewelry in the time of this Scripture was considered highly sensual. Obviously it’s different now. We know what gets a man’s attention now –a-days.
1 Timothy 2 says the same thing. Paul here is addressing women, and it says this…
“Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works
If you profess godliness…what will you have? Good works. But we always default to how we look. And what Paul is saying here is let your good works speak for itself!
And perhaps the “just love yourself” movement isn’t cutting it because it shouldn’t end there. Maybe it’s better said, “just love others”. Because how much of our time are we spending navel-gazingly trying to love ourselves when we can be busy loving others? I’m not saying we shouldn’t love ourselves, but life isn’t all about me and how I look. There’s work to do. And perhaps I need to get busy doing it.
Going back to 1 Peter 3, I believe verse 4 is the greatest command for women on this issue. It says “let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
So what does gentle and quiet spirit mean? Does this mean any woman with a fierce personality and loud laugh is outside God’s plan? Well no, because we must take the time to understand what these words mean.
Remember we are referring to our hidden, inner person here. It is not referring to a women’s boisterous personality. Quiet in this context might better be described as serene or tranquil. Which gives it a different feel. What we can say is that there is an inner depth of deep serenity in the name of God that resides in the Christian woman.
And we see this more fully because Peter goes on to admonish women to not fear anything at the end of verse 6, its says… if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. In other words Peter is saying, let your gentleness and tranquility make you fearless! Because what do we have to fear if all our strength and hope comes from the Lord?
In the face of cultural pressure to look and act and be a certain way, we are told to stand fearlessly against it, seeking only what is precious in the eyes of the Lord. So do not read these verses as though what God wants in His women is doormat, weak-willed, brainless women, who only know how to do what they’re told.
A women who exsbits a gentle and quiet spirit is a women who wants to make much of Christ and less of herself. She is not someone who is out for her own glory. She is not trying to gain attention for the sake of herself. She is all about giving the glory to God and she is happy to make much of him.
We need to be more than just women who know how to do hair and make-up really well, who count calories like a pro and have a great fitness routine. Women who profess to worship Jesus will not be consumed with how we look.
We as women have a silly habit of sitting around and bemoaning our bodies. We can go on and on about how we look forever. It happens virtually every time I’m in a room with more then one woman. But when we sit around and talk at terrible length about how we look we show to the world where are true values lie. And we also show are children. Who might be listening in.
Let me be clear, being fit and perfectly dressed with a great haircut is not wrong. Loving your body and wanting to steward it through exercise is good. Caring about how you present yourself to the world in how you look is fine.
There are even times when God specifically uses people in Scripture because of their beauty to fulfill His plans. And that’s great.
But none of those things make you women of God.
On the flip side wearing a paper bag and refusing to exercise doesn’t automatically make you holy either. We also must remember that this is between you and God only. And Peter and Paul are not giving us grids that we get to judge other women with. We cannot resort to being women who judge holiness in ourselves or in other people based on how humble we look and how “caught up in the beauty culture” another women may seem to be by how she looks. Not wearing make-up doesn’t automatically make you godly. So don’t judge other women on this subject. Leave their journey up to God and remember that Jesus is the standard, and none of us live up.
And this is why I’m not going to give a list of rules here on what is appropriate to wear. Because you already know what’s appropriate. And I won’t give you a list that will just tempt you to sheriff other women with.
But we as women struggle so much with this because we’ve bought two lies that the culture peach’s to us. First being we must be hot in order to be valued. And second that the solution to the problem is loving ourselves more. And we look in the mirror and we don’t like what we see, and we look in our hearts and we don’t like that either. Because our hearts are sick and in great need of redemption.
We need Christ to redeem our hearts and tell us that He loves us before we can even know how to love ourselves, but even then it doesn’t stop there. Because with Christ’s love comes our love for others. And when all those things start working the way they ought, you spend less time looking in the mirror and more time looking into the eyes of those in need.
Now I want to move onto a portion of this text that I believe needs some explanation. It’s in verse 5…
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.
What in the world does this mean? Does submission to my husband mean I must call him lord? Really?
There is one place where Sara refers to Abraham as lord. Just one. And it is in Genesis 18:12. What is happening here is God in the form of a person shows up and says Sara’s going to have a baby next year and she laughs in her tent and the Scripture says this, so Sara laughed to herself saying, after I am worn out and my lord is old shall I have pleasure? That’s it. Why would Peter use this? Of course using the term “my lord” back then was more currant than it is for us. So we wouldn’t use it in today’s context. But the best guess on this, is that Peter went back to Genesis to find an example of submission and he picked this because it’s just not a big deal. But a default way of talking. In Sara’s thoughtless and tired moments she spoke about her husband with that kind of respect.
In other words as a wife do you have to remind yourself constantly to speak well of and to respect your husband in day to day life? Do you submit to him willingly with all respect?
I’m a part of a moms group on Facebook and most of the conversations on this page are about things like breast-feeding and napping schedules. But every now and then I women will get on there and just rant about her husband. He’s lazy, he’s a moron, blah blah blah blah. And he just might be all those things, but yikes, is upchucking online and defaming him in print going to help?
How do we talk about our husbands in the mundane of life sitting around having coffee with our friends? Are we like the ranting ladies on Facebook or are we like Sara? If we do good like Sara, then we are her children, which is a good thing.
So if we as women believe that the call to be submissive, means to be weak, we are missing the point! I can’t make that more clear here.
Holy women in all fearlessness submit to our husbands. Holy women go to battle against cultures expectations. Holy women do good and have good deeds. Holy women are gentle and serene because we have deep roots in God. And perhaps most importantly Holy women hope in the Father.
Our hope is not in the conversion of our husband or in the way we attract attention by how we look. Our hope is in God. Proverbs 31:31-32 says…
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
And we love this scripture because it reminds us that it’s not the outward appearance that matters. Beauty will fade and fall and give way with age. But we must not miss what does matter; that we are women with fruit, who fear God and act in faith in the mission of Christ. Those things are what make us praise-worthy.
All of these Scriptures are admonishing us to make less of ourselves and much of Him. This is what it means to be humble women of God. I must decrease, He must increase.
And it’s a reminder I’m guessing most of us need.