To Wives of Unbelieving Husbands

This is an excerpt from a sermon I preached on a couple of years ago, as we studied 1 Peter.  This is geared toward those believing wives who have unbelieving husband and desperately want them to join them in their walk with Christ.  Often the thought is to hound them with the Bible, make them feel guilty for not going to church, leave tracts on the toilet or in their lunch sack.  But is this what should be done?

Science has shown that women speak more than men.  The average man will speak about 7,000 words a day.  The average woman: 20,000 words a day.  That means that the average woman speaks almost three times as many words as men do.  There is actually a scientific reason behind this, but the fact of the matter is that women talk more than men.

That being said, go ahead and talk, but be careful about what comes out of the mouth.  In fact, Peter says that when it comes to the gospel it may be best to keep silent.  “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,” (1 Peter 3.1, ESV).

God has set up people’s positions in the homes.  God created Adam and then Eve. From them came children.  So there is a sense of authority within the family.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God,” (1 Cor 11.3, ESV).  So even in the Trinity there is a sense of authority.  Christ did everything that the Father told him to do.  He spoke as His Father said.  He acted as His Father said.  The husband answers to Christ.  Christ is the head of the husband and if he does not submit himself to Christ he will answer for it.  At the same time, the wife is to submit to her husband.

The subjection in once sense is through silence.  Your husband may not love Jesus.  He may despise Him.  Remember that this is being written while the first generation of Christians is still alive.  That means that men and women were already married when they became believers.  It wasn’t that Christian men married pagan women and vice versa, but rather two pagans or two Jews would already be married and one would receive Christ while the other didn’t.  We know that Paul would go on to write not to get married to an unbeliever, but at this point the couples were already together.  And that still happens today where one person within marriage gets saved and the other doesn’t.

Men and women tend to act differently when they have life changes.  Men tend to give a quick synopsis to people who will listen and then continue on.  Women tend to talk about it.  They want to share what has happened with them in detail.  Men are all about big picture; women: about the details.  This can be grating to a guy.  What happens then is that rather than being more interested they become less interested.  The husband begins to get pushed away from the topic of discussion.  They want to shut the conversation down.  They will either argue about it or they will walk away or they will just simply tell you to stay quiet.  And so Peter tells the wife just to stay silent.  Pique his interest by not saying a word.

This goes against the desires of a woman to speak.  There is a war now within that the woman has to now fight in order to not say anything.  So there is suffering from within.  The husband may have already been a jerk about her faith by telling her to keep it to herself, and so there was suffering from without, and now that she is staying silent she is suffering within.

But if the wife is wanting to suffer well she will go to war with herself.  She will give the respect that God requires of her to her husband.  She is to realize that God has, in His great unknown design and plan, set that man to have authority in her life.  So by respecting him, she is respecting God’s prerogative.

How then is she supposed to win him over?  By having a changed spirit.

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, (1 Peter 3.1b-4, ESV).

Peter of course isn’t saying that you can’t look nice or wear jewelry or do your hair.  What he is saying is that your husband’s adoring eyes ought to first look to the soul of his wife and not her hair or clothing or jewelry.  A husband should wake up in the morning and think he is the luckiest man in the world, not because he has a pretty wife, but because she has a beautiful spirit about her.  What once concerned her: her looks, her clothes, her accessories no longer concern her.  Her spirit is now in tune with God’s Spirit and it shows in how she responds to her husband.

If your attitude changes, your body language changes, your voice changes, your husband will notice.  It may take a while, but it will soon get the best of him, and he will want to know why.  Now is the time to speak up.  When he asks you what is different about you, or why you’re different, then is the opportunity.  He asked the question.  He wants to know.  He’s ready to listen.  He may not want to hear everything, but that’s okay.  Give him the gospel until he walks away.  Then start the process over again.  Be silent, be of gentle spirit.

And then find solace in the Lord.  “For this is how the holy women who hope 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,” (1 Peter 3.5-6, ESV).  Peter wrote that these women found their hope in God.  It was not in their husbands.  It was not in their own dignity even.  It was in God.  They found rest and solace, hope in God.  That hope resulted in subjection.  Just as the citizen is subjecting himself for God’s sake, and just as the slave is subjecting himself being mindful of God, so the wife is to subject with the hope of God.  This was why Peter wrote earlier that you are to prepare, “your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” (1.13, ESV).

Everything within you says that it is not worth it.  Everything in you says that you are not appreciated.  Everything within you says to strike back, to quit, the walk away.  Why?  Because everything within you is hoping for something better, or maybe someone better.  Peter told us to hope in God—to hope fully on the grace that is to come.

Once again, if your mind is not set on the salvation that is yours by the mercy and power of God and the inheritance that awaits you in heaven, you cannot and you will not suffer well.  That’s any of us, not just wives.

But other wives put their hopes in their arguments, their jabs, their nags, their pleas.  Peter says to hope in God.  Be silent.  Be of good spirit.  Find solace in God.  If you do so, there is no need to fear: no need to fear that you will be taken advantage of, no need to fear what submitting may do.  The lack of fear is evidence of a life that fully hopes in God and the grace that He brings.

So then what are your thoughts?  Any questions or comments?  Just hit the reply and I will be sure to get back with you asap.

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