Summary: How Christians live in a marriage with a non-Christian spouse.
We have been going through Jesus’ disciple Peter’s first letter. Last week we looked at how we, as Christians, live as citizens of God’s kingdom, heaven, while still living here on earth in a society which frequently does not share our values. Peter’s particular focus was on how we live under the authority or leadership of those who do not share our values. First, Peter focused on the political realm. He tells us we are to honor and respect them even if we don’t agree with them. He tells us we are to submit, which means we are to follow, the governing authorities, which for us would be president and governors because God has placed this leadership over us to keep the peace, punish those who do wrong. We follow them as long as they are not asking us to do something which contradicts God’s character, or what God has told us to do in the Bible. If God tells us to do one thing, and this person is asking me to do the opposite, than we must say like Peter, “we must follow God rather than man (Acts 5:29),” even if that means facing suffering. Then Peter turned his attention to the workplace. We are also to submit to our employer, our boss, even if they are ungodly and treat us harshly (as long as they don’t ask us to do something against God). Why would we do this? Peter gives us two reasons, 1) because we are to be like Jesus. He is our example. He submitted himself to insults, sufferings, threats, even death though he did not deserve any of them, he had done no wrong. 2) We are trusting God to bring his justice rather than bringing our own sense of justice. In other words we pray and expect God to take care of it, just as Jesus trusted his Father to work out his plan.
Peter then turns his attention to the family, particularly the relationship between a husband and wife. How does Christian wife or husband live in a hostile home? What I mean by that is living under authority of a spouse who is not a Christian, and is perhaps hostile to the Christian faith.
Before you think that Peter is a male chauvinist pig we need to understand what is going on for woman and wives, particularly Christian wives, in Peter’s day. In Peter’s day, women in general were not treated very highly. Women were not educated like the men. They did not have jobs or status in society like men. They were not treated equally. A wife could be treated more like property than a person. But then along comes this guy named Jesus and he treated women with equality and respect. His message was that even though all of us have sinned and been separated eternally from God, men and women alike, all of us can be saved by the grace of Jesus, by his wounds we are healed, our sins are forgiven and we can be restored in a right relationship with God. Paul even states in his letter to Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28).” In other words, as citizens of God’s kingdom we are all equal, no one is above any other because we are all children of God by his grace. None of us earned that status by living a good life, being born a certain gender or ethnic group. We all received it as a gift therefore we are all equal in God’s eyes. This was revolutionary to their thinking.
Imagine what happens in a male dominated culture when women are now being treated equally in the Christian community. Imagine what happens in a family when the wife becomes a Christian, but her husband does not. He does not believe the “word of God” about Jesus. The very fact that a wife would go against her husband’s religion was already perceived as an attack against him because the whole family was supposed to follow the faith of the father, that’s just the way it was. Then she starts asking to be treated equally by him, even though he is not a Christian and lives by the cultures values. Perhaps she starts using her freedom in Christ to wear certain articles of clothing not allowed by the culture, or refusing to cook dinner saying her husband can do it himself, or deciding she needs to get her own job (okay I made that up, but you get the point how our culture has dictated a woman’s roles too). Can you see the sparks starting to fly? The nearest example in modern day would be a fundamentalist Muslim country. In the Muslim religion if the wife was to become a Christian and start demanding to be treated equally, walking next to her husband rather than behind, deciding not to wear her head dress/scarf. What would happen? Do you think she would win her husband to Christ that way? No she would not, she would just make him mad, and push him away from the Christian faith.