My imitation of Christ hits its stumbling point at wifely submission. First, I made a mess of this. We married at ages 17 and 18, expecting our first child and barely able to crawl out of the grimy sinfulness that had taken us there. We didn’t have a clue.
Without any knowledge of God and how Jesus (the submission model) acts in Trinitarian relationship, our first notions of submission were flawed, patriarchal, and doormat-like. This wasn’t a good combo. It took a long time to climb out of the ruts.
Now, as I reflect on 1 Peter 3:1-7, I evaluate myself again. This passage contains weighty words to husbands and wives.
Peter tells us a wife’s godly behavior has the power to win a disobedient husband without her need to speak. Her gentle and quiet spirit does the talking and is of great worth in God’s eyes. She should do what is right and not give way to fear. A husband’s considerate and respectful behavior toward his wife is so significant to God, that if he doesn’t treat her gently as a fellow heir of God’s grace, God won’t hear his prayers!
These verses present a lifetime challenge. Submission and love are difficult. We’re sinners.
Peter looked into Jesus’ eyes for over three years. When Peter exalts Christ, we best heed what he says. The man had experiential knowledge of God incarnate. In our marriages, as in all other areas, Peter offers Jesus as the model and the cure.
Christ’s example of enduring suffering during his passion is the living example for our Christian lives. Imitating and identifying with Christ transforms every facet of our familial and social relationships. The cross touches everything. Because Christ suffered and died for us in submission to the Father’s will, sacrifice, suffering, and submission are all knotted together.
“But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 3:20b-21).
This is Jesus’ example (1 Peter 2:22-25):
- Commit no sin in response to unjust treatment.
- Don’t bring lying and exaggeration about the other into it.
- Don’t retaliate when insulted.
- Don’t threaten in return.
- Entrust yourself continually to the just Judge who sees all.
Peter tells wives and husbands to follow Christ’s model. If you’ve ever had a marital spat when emotions are high and you’re walking in the flesh, you know how difficult this is. We forget God’s seeing eye. With hard hearts, we women threaten to cut off the sex. With angry tongues, our husbands retaliate, searing us in return. We just veered from Christ’s model on all points.
Thank God that he heals and restores!
Because we’re enabled by him, we can quit sinning. We’re empowered to live lives that imitate God. The Lord heals and shepherds our soul wounds as we stumble through these lessons.
Christ’s example reshapes us during the messiness of living with another flawed human being for all our days. He demonstrates how to live when we’re sick, exhausted, stressed, or pushed to the limits, when words might be hurled and verbal arrows fly, when we’re tempted to blow the other’s transgressions out of proportion while coddling our own.
Christ was beaten down and physically destroyed in setting this ultimate example of submission and Christian living, so I pause here to address spousal abuse: God does not condone it.
After almost thirty-six-year-old marriage, I still find myself tripping over the utter selflessness of my Savior. Often my path toward submission involves threatening, arguing, and exaggerating. Then comes apologizing, allowing the tender Master to apply the balm to my soul wounds, and moving forward in obedience again.
So, once more, I yield to this passage and pray to become more like Jesus. I gaze at him with a heart that longs to obey, but which is so flawed that I’ll need to rely on him all my days. Lord, make it so.
Has submission been a stumbling stone for you, or have you coasted right on through?