Tag Archives: sharing the gospel

The surprising reason Peter told wives to submit to their husbands

24 Jul

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Do you agree or disagree with Fred Flintstone that a woman’s place is in the home?  Check out yesterday’s post for more on that.  This week we are studying what Peter says about roles in marriage, as found in 1st Peter 3:1-7.  Give it a read.

There you’ll find that Peter says, “Wives, be submissive to your husbands.  You are free in Christ, but still submit.”  Peter is using the same principle as he did when he taught slaves that they should submit to their masters.

Likewise in Jewish and in Roman society it was expected and commonplace that wives were to submit to their husbands.  In some cases the understanding of marriage roles was so severe that wives were considered the property of their husbands.  Wives, for example, were expected to conform to the religion of their husbands.  They didn’t have a choice.  And here come the Christians into that society teaching that in Christ men and women are equal (Galatians 3:28), and that all are free in Christ?  To us that equality and freedom is normal.  That has been the norm for us for a long time.  But in the society of the First Century Roman Empire, Peter’s teaching was radical.  More on that to come.

So here is Peter saying to these Christians wives, “Follow the cultural assumption.”  But why?  He goes to explain himself, “in order that you might win over your husband.”  The implication is clear.  If you don’t submit, you could seriously damage the possibility that you could help your husband become a follower of Jesus.  The cause of Christ, Peter is saying, should be more important than our personal freedoms! Peter is being very wise here.  He knows that if the wives rise up and say to their husbands, “I’m free and I am equal with you buddy,” they will be in a very precarious position with their unbelieving husbands who totally disagree with the idea of women’s equality.

Peter is concerned that their husbands will either severely mistreat their wives, or will want nothing to do with those wives. Husbands might divorce them, life will be miserable for the women, and Christians will be seen as people who are crazy.  In other words, in that culture, because it was so deeply patriarchal, Christianity needed to work within the patriarchal marriage system in order to survive.  Christianity didn’t yet have the stature or influence to change the system.

It is just like missionaries who go into a new culture and work within that culture.  There are ways that my sister-in-law, who lives and ministers in Malaysia, dresses differently, for example, than she would in our culture.  Her family has to approach the expression of the faith with caution as well.  They wouldn’t get a megaphone and go out on the street corners loudly proclaiming that Muslims are repressing women.  They have to be more wise than that.

What Peter is teaching, then, is in the same vein as his teaching to slaves.  There we saw that he was not saying that slavery is okay.  Instead he was teaching Christians who were already slaves to advance the cause of Christ within the culture in which they live.  Same thing for married women.  He is not saying that the repression of women is okay.  Rather he is saying, wives, you can submit or obey your husbands in order to advance the cause of Christ.

Peter and the other apostles had to work within the system, seeking to win as many people as possible, so that the Kingdom of God would advance.  The best approach at that moment in time, then, was for the wives to submit to their husbands.

But look at what Peter says next, “Win them over without words.”  Additionally he adds the qualifying phrase in verse 1: “if any of them do not believe the word”. This indicates that some Christian women were married to non-Christian husbands.  Those unbelieving husbands had heard the message of the good news about Jesus, but they chose not to agree with it.

As Peter continues his teaching through this passage, this unique situation is what he is talking about: how should a person handle their marriage role and responsibility when they are married to a non-Christian spouse?  It seems that there were husbands in that society, just like there are husbands and wives in our day, that hear about Jesus and say, “No. I’m not into that.”  Once the husband says that, Peter teaches here, it is time for the wife to stop preaching the words.  But that doesn’t mean the unbelieving spouse is a lost cause, or that the wife no longer has to submit.  Why?  Look at what Peter says next.

He says, those unbelieving husbands “may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives!” Actions speak louder than words.  This is so instructive to sharing the Gospel.  Peter says that there is a place for sharing the words. Peek ahead to verse 15 of chapter 3 where Peter teaches, “Always be prepared to give an answer…But do it with gentleness and respect.”  So while the primary purpose of verses 1-6 are to give believing wives with unbelieving husbands some very important instruction about how to win over their unbelieving husbands, there is a principle embedded here that applies to all relationships between those of us who are followers of Jesus and those who are not.

Share the words of the Gospel with gentleness and respect.  Win them over without words, but with the right behavior.  Words alone will rarely, rarely win people over.  Gentle, loving, respectful behavior is vastly important, therefore, for winning people over. And that is what this submission passage is about.  Whether slaves to masters, or wives to husbands, Paul wants them to see the mission of God as of utmost importance!

There needs to be balance when it comes to sharing the Gospel.  The Gospel is a message that can and should be told with words.  “Always be ready” means we should be willing to share the words of the gospel all the time.  And the Gospel is a message that can and should be told without words.  Peter says, “share the words and yet win them over without words.”

How do we know when the time is right to share the words?  Pray about it. Ask God to open a door of opportunity and give you the words, because it can be very scary.  Then maybe if face to face is too scary or confrontational, how about writing to them?  Make sure it is with gentleness and respect.  Tell the story of how Jesus has changed your life.

And that is exactly what he goes on to describe in verses 2-6, again talking to Christian wives, which we will look at tomorrow..

What in the world is Christian “outreach”?

12 Aug

It has been a few years, but for a long time every fall Faith Church held a Harvest Bazaar.  Before that it was called a Christmas Bazaar.  Many people in our congregation would cook up a storm in their kitchens, creating delicacies for the bake shop.  Others would staff the snack shop, making amazing chicken soup.  Still others would be hard at work crafting and donating and volunteering and we would have numerous rooms in our church building filled with items that people could buy as Christmas gifts.  And buy they did!  We would often raise $2500 or more from the Bazaar.  But why would we do this?  It was a lot of work!

Our congregation initiated the Bazaar decades ago as a fundraiser to pay off the debt we owed on our building.  Eventually we did pay off the debt.  I still remember the mortgage burning ceremony.  We have had memorable experiences with fire in our sanctuary, such as when the Advent wreath caught fire!  But I’m talking about the time when we had paid off the mortgage to the most recent expansion to the building, and we celebrating by burning the mortgage documents in a bowl during a worship service.

Though the mortgage was paid off, we kept having the Bazaar for a number of years.  Now we decided that the proceeds of the Bazaar would be directed to the Building Fund and to support missionaries.  Both good causes.  And yet there was discussion about whether or not we should keep having the Bazaar.  Was its purpose completed?  People had numerous points of view, both pros and cons.  It took a lot of work, and people were getting burned out.  So we eventually slowed down our pace to holding the Bazaar every other year.  The last time we held a Bazaar was three or four years ago, and we have no plans for another.

At one point there was a suggestion made in favor of continuing the Bazaar saying that the Bazaar was an outreach.  How was it an outreach?  Well, didn’t it bring people from the community into our building?  It did.  That is true.  Probably hundreds of people in the community would stop in, look over items, eat food, and buy stuff.  But just because they came into the building could we say that qualifies as outreach?

We’ve heard this before about the Youth Chicken BBQ we hold every spring.  People say that not only does the BBQ raise money for our youth group, it also has an outreach element to it.  We’ve heard this about pretty much anything we do that brings people into the building.  By holding an event or program for which they walk through the doors of the church building, it is reasoned, we are reaching out to them.  We have done this quite a bit over the years:  Ballroom Dance Classes, Vacation Bible School, Trunk or Treat, Concerts, Breakfasts and now most recently Summer Lunch Club.

In our recent history this approach is how we have thought about outreach.  Is that outreach?  What should outreach be?  And before we can answer those questions, should we not ask the questions behind the question?  Why do we do outreach?  Should we do outreach at all?  We should have solid reasons for why or how we do outreach before we start outreach.  But do we have solid reasons?

Join us at Faith Church this Sunday August 14 as we seek to answer these questions.