On the fields of Stirling in the fall of 1297, two armies sat in opposition to one another. On one side sat the mighty English army . . . well-equipped with a powerful cavalry and far more troops. On the other side stood the Scottish rebels . . . uniform neither in attire or equipment but fighting for their freedom. Seeing the size of the English army, some Scottish soldiers began a retreat. Before these sons of Scotland could disappear on the horizon, however, William Wallace rode up, together with his mighty men. Wallace’s face was covered with war paint and his eyes were piercing with determination. After delivering quite possibly the best two minute speech in modern movie history, Mel Gibson (uh, I mean William Wallace) rode out to the middle of the field to meet with the English royalty. His last words to his men were, “I’m going to pick a fight.” Unfazed, Wallace’s right hand man responded, “Well I hope we didn’t get dressed up for nothing!”
So goes a memorable scene from 1995’s Oscar-winning movie “Braveheart.” I was thinking about this scene today because in my study of 1 Peter, I have come to 1 Peter 3:1-7, a section that deals with husbands and wives. Many women probably view these verses as a challenge to their freedom. As a male writing on this subject, I feel as though I am riding out onto a battlefield to “pick a fight.” That said, let me assure you of something: that is not my intention. I have no war paint on, and while I understand how difficult the words of 1 Peter 3 may be on a first read, I really believe these words were intended to bring freedom to women, not keep them in bondage. Don’t believe me? Here is what I mean:
After studying these verses for several days, let me paraphrase them in the Mrs V (the Mark Robinson Standard Version):
Wives, I know that in most moral writings/teachings of our day (the first century), you are not addressed specifically because you are not seen as a morally responsible person . . . merely the property of your husband. I (Peter) am writing you today to let you know that in Christianity, this cultural norm is not recognized. I believe you are a morally responsible individual that God loves, redeems, and plans to use in this life, so there are some specific teachings that I want you to hear. Here they are: First of all, I want you to remember that you are to take Jesus Christ as your example in marriage. (NOTE: When I talk to husbands in a few minutes, I will tell them the same thing . . . Christ is the model for your how you are to relate to your spouse.) Just as Jesus gave honor to all the authority roles God has placed in the world, I want you to give honor to your husbands who God has placed as the leader of your families. I know that many of you have placed your faith in Christ while your husbands have persisted in unbelief. Even though it is difficult to live in this environment, I want you to continue to honor them as your husband following Christ’s example. The reason I want you to do this is so that God might use your righteous lifestyle to impact your husbands so that they might also come into a relationship with Christ. This is possible through the testimony of Christ shining forth from your inner beauty.
I know that the world you live in has told you that your greatest opportunities will come from physical beauty, but know that in Christ, your greatest beauty will come from inside, as your character is developed by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Though outward beauty fades with age, inner beauty grows more attractive with time.
Women throughout history have been used by God in significant ways, and it was not just because they had outward beauty. It was because God was renewing their hearts day by day. People like Sarah from the book of Genesis, are great examples of this. Sarah’s most beautiful moments in life that we still talk about came when she was very old and probably not as outwardly beautiful as she used to be. Her beauty shown forth in many ways through her righteous actions, including how she continued to honor her husband Abraham by treating him with respect late in life, even after Abraham had made some serious mistakes.
Now, I want to speak to you husbands. Husbands, you should also follow the example of Jesus Christ in how you relate to your wife. Jesus did not only focus on his own needs, but put the needs of others above His own. In the same way, husbands, put the needs of your wife above your own. Get to know your wives. Know what makes them tick. Know what their fears are. Know what their hopes are. Know what makes them happy. Know what their spiritual gifts are. Once you know these things, relate to your wives based on this knowledge. Encourage them. Care for them. Love them. Help them soar. You should do this with great care, because God has created women different than men. From the start men and women were created differently. It was never good for man to be alone, but woman was needed in order for creation to be “good” in God’s eyes. Though women are different than men (generally), both men and women are equal recipients of divine blessings, gifts, and salvation. Therefore, men, you should never treat your wives as someone inferior to you. She is to be treasured and treated as your equal in life. Though you are given the responsibility of leading your family, your wife is equally valued by God, so you should listen to her, and greatly value her opinion and insight. Men, this is serious stuff. God takes your relationship with your spouse very seriously. If you fail to love your wife in this way, it will lead to an interruption in the level of your fellowship with God. This does not mean that your relationship with God is terminated, but it does mean that men who treat their wives poorly will experience a “chilling” of their relationship with the Father and a stunting of their spiritual growth.”
Now, this paraphrase is long, but I believe it is accurate to the intended tone of the passage. To its original audience of women in the first century, I believe these words sounded like William Wallace’s call to freedom on the fields of Stirling. Women were: 1) Equal in value to men. 2) Used by God for significant spiritual purpose (like calling others into a relationship with Christ). 3) Possessed a beauty that was more than just skin deep. 4) Encouraged to be within a marriage where their husbands respected them, loved them, knew them, and related to them as a co-heir in Christ.
Husbands and wives do not need to be warring armies in the Body of Christ. God’s Word provides freedom and direction to both. Sadly, some men have used these verses to justify abusive or degrading behavior. That application, however, is far from what our Heavenly Father intended. Peter’s speech need not be seen as “fighting words.” What say you?