For Women Only (But Men Can – And Probably Should – Read Too)

July 15, 2010 at 8:39 am Leave a comment


I have recently taken note of a trend which troubles me.  In many a conversation, I have met with a husband and a wife in crisis.  Their marriage is usually on the rocks, barely hanging by a thread, and steadily heading – if not speeding – down the road to divorce.  Although marriage trouble is almost always the product of both parties sinning against one another, I have noticed that, in these situations, the husband often lacks the fortitude to faithfully lead his marriage and his family according to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  His interest in the things of God is weak if not non-existent.  Indeed, it is often the woman who seeks biblical answers to important questions while the man is interested only in satisfying his own fleeting desires and infatuations.

To be fair, there are many men out there who are faithful, Godly leaders of their homes.  I praise God for these men.  But I want to speak for a moment to the women, for I know there are many, who are in relationships where the man does not dependably steward his mantle as the head of the household.

Through probably apocryphal, St. Francis of Assisi is quoted as saying, “Preach the gospel always, if necessary, use words.”  Certainly this maxim cannot be used to excuse us from clearly and cogently proclaiming the gospel, for Holy Scripture mandates just such a proclamation, but sometimes, a quiet witness to the gospel is a faithful one.  Indeed, this is precisely Peter’s argument to wives when he writes:  “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives” (1 Peter 3:1-2).  As the apostle pens these words, he is addressing a group of women whose beliefs do not match those of their husbands, probably because they have converted to Christianity while their husbands have not.  Peter recommends holy living as a way to witness to these men who refuse to be the spiritual leaders of their households.

It is important to note that Peter’s direction radically contradicts the standard thinking of the first century.  For a woman to defy her husband’s sensibilities was considered an affront to his masculinity.  If the husband lived as a pagan, the wife was to live as a pagan too.  The first century Roman historian Plutarch explains:

A wife ought not to make friends on her own, but to enjoy her husband’s friends in common with him.  The gods are the first and most important friends.  Therefore it is becoming for a wife to worship and know only the gods that her husband believes in, and to shut the front door tight upon all peculiar rituals and outlandish superstitions [such as Christianity].  (Moralia 140D)

According to Plutarch, a wife is to believe only what her husband believes.  Thus, if a husband worships at the altar of football or lust or alcohol or crassness, the wife is to worship there as well.  Put Peter directs ladies differently.  A wife’s first and foremost responsibility is to the Lord, even when her husband refuses to honor and worship the true God.

Ladies, I know it is hard witnesses to men who do not know or care for the Lord.  And yet, there is hope!  For Peter’s guidance concerning a quiet witness to unfaithful husbands actually works!  Perhaps most famously, it worked with the father of St. Augustine.  Augustine writes of his mother:

When she had arrived at a marriageable age, she was given to a husband whom she served as her lord. And she busied herself to gain him to God, preaching God unto him by her behavior…For she waited for God’s mercy upon him, that by believing in Him, he might become chaste…Finally, her own husband, now towards the end of his earthly existence, did she gain over unto the Lord. (Augustine, Confessions, IX:19,22)

This woman’s dear faith proved persuasive to her husband…and to her son as well.  Indeed, her faith proved so persuasive that she raised one of the greatest theologians ever to serve the Christian Church.

Ladies, even in difficult circumstances, continue to serve your Lord faithfully.  Lead by your behavior if your husband will not lead according to his responsibility.  Know that I am praying for you.  Gentlemen, if you have fallen short in spiritually leading your household, repent and ask forgiveness from your family.  Then teach and live the faith.  Know that I am praying for you as well.  For there is nothing more important, heavy, and joyous than to teach and live out than the gospel of Jesus Christ!

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Entry filed under: Christian Doctrine. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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