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Imperishable Beauty (1 Peter 3:1-6)

Series: 1 Peter (Living in Exile)

(Scripture Reading) Isaiah 3:16-24 (NIV11). “The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, strutting along with swaying hips, with ornaments jingling on their ankles. Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the LORD will make their scalps bald.” In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and anklets and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, the signet rings and nose rings, the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls. Instead of fragrance there will be a stench; instead of a sash, a rope; instead of well-dressed hair, baldness; instead of fine clothing, sackcloth; instead of beauty, branding.”


The past century has seen a remarkable transformation in practices, values, and in how relationships inside and outside the home operate. An extract from a 1950’s Home Economics Book demonstrates how much marriage has changed. The piece offers “Tips to Look After Your Husband.” In preparation for a husband’s return from work, wives should “Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon is your hair and be fresh looking,” Comb the children’s hair because "they are little treasures and [your husband] would like to see them play the part.” “Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soft, soothing, and pleasant voice.” This may sound like a joke today, but this was literally textbook material then. As a husband, I can say this sounds great. However much wives may want to make their husbands happy, this likely sounds impossible.


Articles like this only reinforce our belief that what is old and traditional is out. And since many perceive that every past value or practice in America arose from Christianity, this can distort our vision and put us in a challenging position. People actually often associate unreasonably high demands for wives and the inconsiderate behavior husbands with traditional Christian values. We are foreigners called to practice consistent ethics within the ever-shifting culture around us. We live in Babylon, but we don't conform to Babylonian thinking. Peter has been addressing how we do that in our relationships. How should wives live in an ungodly world that constantly tells its own secular version of what is good without being conformed to it? Peter is going to offer three points here: be subject to your husbands, pursue imperishable beauty, and look to past examples.


Be Subject to Your Own Husband (3:1-2)

Be subject to your own husband. Saying that causes all sorts of questions to come up. First, this is not a general command to all men and women. There are certainly ways men and women in should treat one another; however, a wife is to be subject to her husband, not to all men. Second, there will be unique ways submission plays out in each marriage and culture, but it is not grounded in cultural practice but in eternal truth. This isn’t discussed here, but rather in Ephesians 5. Third, submission is a statement about the role a wife plays and the role a husband plays, it has absolutely nothing to do with a man or woman’s value, ability, intelligence, or competence. Husbands, God doesn’t tell wives to submit to you because he thinks you are smarter. Fourth, Satan always wants us to view God’s commands in a negative light. Especially today, wives, it would be very easy to hear everything Peter says here in a negative light. But God’s commands are for our good, so we should serve him with our whole heart (Deut. 10:12-13).


Peter brings out one possible good of living in subjection to your husband. Say your husband is not obeying the word of God. Maybe you married him before you started following Jesus and he didn’t follow. Or maybe he says he’s a Christian, but is not acting how he should. You have told him that Jesus is Lord and that he should obey the Lord, but your words don’t seem to be helping anymore. Your submission and your respectful and pure conduct may win him without a word.


It’s tough any time someone we love isn’t obeying Jesus. We love them and want them to change. Living with and respecting the authority of a husband who isn’t obeying the word is probably the toughest. Wives, you may be tempted nag him or use passive-aggressive manipulation to get him to change. Peter doesn’t say you should never respectfully encourage him with the truth, but Peter is trying to get you to see a new perspective and try a new tact. Sometimes we Christians can talk a big talk about how great God and his word are. And we should. We should study the Bible and talk about the Bible because it is the only way we can adopt a true perspective on God, the world, others, and ourselves. But if people we love — whether your husband, wife, mom, dad, son, daughter, brother, sister, neighbor, roommate, or friend — aren’t hearing and and obeying, be quiet! No one likes to be badgered. If Jesus and his commands are so perfect, show them. Wives, your husband has no excuse for being a brute or for being disobedient to God, but badgering him won’t help. Husbands, the same is true for our wives.


So, be subject, respectful, and pure. But what if he doesn’t deserve it? Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Don’t respect your husband’s authority because he deserves it, but because the Lord Jesus Christ deserves it. I like how Schreiner put it (NAC, 152, summarizing Slaughter). “Wives do not submit in order to satisfy a husband’s vanity or to promote his reputation. Neither do they submit to show how godly they are, nor to avoid conflict, nor to impress the neighbors, not to manipulate their husbands, and not even because she thinks he is wise. She submits because of her relationship with and trust in God.”


Let me highlight one thing he said: don’t do good to manipulate. Our loved ones may be moved by how we treat them, but they can tell if we are just trying to manipulate them. We need to quietly change our behavior because we need to obey God. We’ll be doing what we should do, and maybe they’ll see God’s goodness in the undeserved favor we show them. In verses 3-4, Peter continues describing the conduct a wife — and any woman — should clothe themselves with.


Adorn Yourself with Imperishable Beauty (3:3-4)

Peter is trying to help women focus on the beauty that matters — not outward beauty, but the beauty of her character. We could read this as an absolute prohibition against hair braids and gold jewelry, but reading the sentence structure like that would also mean Peter is prohibiting all clothing, so that doesn’t work. This is a common “not-but” construction. He is using a contrast to help women adorn themselves with beauty that lasts and pleases God. 


Men, please do consider these principles for yourselves. But why does Peter address this to women? Why are women especially in danger of focusing on outward beauty? There may be various reasons. Maybe you know you can catch people’s eyes, so why not really catch their eyes? Or maybe all anyone has ever praised you for is your beauty. We are teaching women what is most valuable when this is what we always praise. We should tell our kids they are handsome and beautiful, but have you ever noticed how with little girls we can tend to tell them how beautiful, cute, and sweet they are, but maybe we don’t praise them for being kind, clever, funny, smart, bold, respectful, or industrious? Or, women, maybe you are especially vulnerable here because you are more aware of your true shortcomings than men. As much as our world tells us that we are all already have beautiful hearts, we know deep down that’s not fully true. Yes, we are God’s children made in his image. Yes, Jesus Christ died for us because we are precious to him. But Jesus also died for us because Satan has made our hearts quite ugly. Maybe, women, you are more aware of that and obsessing over stylish clothes, hairdos, jewelry, and makeup distract us from that uncomfortable truth.


Peter doesn’t outlaw nice clothes, but Paul specifically does warn against nice clothing in 1 Timothy 2:9-10. “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” Again, this is a not-but construction which is meant to urge women to adorn themselves with good works and not be so concerned with outward appearance. But at some point we have to ask, why does this keep coming up? If Peter and Paul aren’t trying to make any point at all about what a person should and shouldn’t wear, why specifically talk about elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, and expensive clothes?


Consider how Isaiah talked about the women of Jerusalem from our Scripture reading. The women of Zion - Jerusalem - were beautiful and had nice things, and they wanted everyone to see it. They were stylishly clothed with all the right accessories, but they weren’t clothed with kindness, justice, and good deeds. This outward focus distracts us from true beauty.


Women, Satan is at work in the culture actively trying to distract you from clothing yourself with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit by instead offering you the clothing and hairstyle of a flashy, head-turning woman. We must take care that our craving to be noticed does not lead us to, in how we dress, style our hair, and accessorize, to construct an image of ourselves for others to worship. This is what Instagram is all about — it is the temple and we are the gods.


Now, we know the temptation here is not just obsession over looking nice. We can also turn heads if we look sexy. I know from being with Ashley when she shops for herself and our girls: it is hard to find clothes and bathing suits that are not intentionally designed to show off your body. Clothing designers are intentionally trying to make you look sexy — but don’t let them entice you to entering into our world’s beauty pageant or swimsuit contest so you can be objectified. Your beauty is a precious gift from God — it is great that you are beautiful! — but your sexuality is exclusively for your husband just like your husbands eyes are exclusively for you.


Husbands, dads, moms — we need to lead by example here. Are we being vain about how we look with our hair, clothes, and accessories? Satan is attacking our family and we also need to be willing to have hard conversations. Are our kids being vain? The idolatry of self is far more insidious than drugs and alcohol. I love how Paul offers us the example of not wanting people to be impressed with us. False apostles in Corinth were always boasting about themselves without reason, but Paul, even though God gave him great revelations, he never boasted about them. Why? 2 Corinthians 12:5–6 NLT, “That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message.” Paul doesn’t want to boast about this because he doesn’t want people to be impressed with him. What he really wants is for people to be impressed with Jesus. Are we dressing like we want people around us to be impressed with us, or with Jesus? Does our appearance exude humility? What do we want people to notice about us?


Peter’s aim is not to cause you to be self-conscious about how you dress. He’s not even trying to get women to dress frumpily. Satan does twist and misuse beauty, but God created your beauty. Peter’s whole point is that our external dress simply isn’t important. So, seriously consider what you wear — whether it is appropriate or not. Ditch what isn’t, and move on. And don’t fall back into the cycle of obsessing over your image. Most importantly, sit with these texts God has given us. Meditate on it. It is so easy to let cultural norms shape our view of texts like these. Let the text speak for itself. Let it prick your heart where it intends to.


Focus on the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. It is easy to be externally beautiful. A little bit of money, time, and work — and the most simple among us can turn heads. We all have that power in our hands. But God is urging us to use our time and energy to adorn ourselves with beauty that will never fade or grow old.  In God’s sight, a gentle and quiet spirit is very pleasing.


An Old-Fashioned Example (3:5-6)

What we have talked about may seem old-fashioned because it is. Notice verses 5-6. We are often surrounded by people who are more concerned with clothes than character. And often we don’t fit in. But women who clothe themselves with this character will fit into an old-fashioned community of holy women. Sarah obeyed Abraham. She even called him “lord” (Gen. 18:12).


Note Sarah’s obedience. I know this is tough to hear, but being submissive to your husband does not simply mean being nice. It does mean obedience. Being obedient doesn’t mean you never disagree — Sarah did vocally disagree with Abraham. That’s what makes her example even more shocking and impressive: she disagreed with him, he made some massive blunders (he asked his wife to refer to herself as his sister!), and yet she obeyed him and called him lord.


Sarah didn’t obey Abraham because he was a superior human being. Notice verse 5. She did this because she hoped in God. She didn’t know how Abraham’s decisions were going to turn out — like leaving her land and trusting God would care for and multiply them in a new place. That’s scary stuff. But hope in God is the energy that drives out fear. Fear is the tool of Satan — can we see how fear has turned our world upside down? Fear makes sin seem completely logical. But Hope in God is the fuel surging through Christians causing them to do all sorts of counter-cultural things in the face of fear. 


Fears will come, but how you deal with them determines everything. You could give into fear about how your husband manages finances. You could give into fear about where he decides to move or how he runs your home. And husbands — you’re a fool if you don’t consider your wife’s opinion. But, wives — obey because your family’s future does not rest in your husband’s hands, it rests in God’s hands. God has promised to raise you up from the dead. God has promised to bring us all with him into his presence. The New Jerusalem is pictured as a place where the elderly happily sitting in the streets that are filled with boys and girls playing. However God fulfills that vision, let that happy, God-based hope drive away all your fears. Your hope for a safe, happy family is not completely in this life in Houston, TX — it is in the age to come in the New Jerusalem where God will fill all these good desires you have for yourself and your family.


Join the community of holy, old-fashioned women who hoped in God and adorned themselves not with flashy apparel, but with a gentle and quiet spirit which pleases God.

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