I know a lot of non-Christians – and maybe even some Christians – who can’t get past the submission-of-women verses in the Bible.
I think it’s because they are taking verses out of context. Yesterday I posted some verses from 1 Peter 3. At the beginning of that chapter, he talks about the husband/wife relationship. And here is how it starts in The New King James version:
Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.
Um, yup, that actually sounds kind of icky. Let’s move to The Message, shall we, and read this verse in context with the verses around it. I believe that’s what Eugene Petersen, author of The Message, tried to do, as well as considering what this message meant in the time it was written, then turning it into words that make sense for our times. If you didn’t know it, the times of Christ and His disciples were a time when women were seen as property. Christ actually spoke to women and valued them, and his disciples learned that from him.
The same goes for you wives: Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs. There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to any words about God, will be captivated by your life of holy beauty. What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition.
Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in. The holy women of old were beautiful before God that way, and were good, loyal wives to their husbands. Sarah, for instance, taking care of Abraham, would address him as “my dear husband.” You’ll be true daughters of Sarah if you do the same, unanxious and unintimidated.
The same goes for you husbands: Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God’s grace, you’re equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don’t run aground.
I think these verses are not verses against women, but verses on how people are to honor each other in marriage. And they are verses to show people of those days a different way to approach marriage than the traditional one of the culture. Women did lack the advantages of men in that culture. It’s better, now, so maybe that piece of writing isn’t as revolutionary as it was back then, but it’s all still a beautiful picture of husband and wife honoring each other. I believe these words still apply to our divorce-friendly culture (and they are much softer than Jesus’ direct words on the subject in Matthew 19).
So, if you are married, take these words to heart. If you are to-be-married, carry these words into your union.
Honor and delight in one another.