Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight. It was in this way long ago that the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves by accepting the authority of their husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him lord. You have become her daughters as long as you do what is good and never let fears alarm you.
Husbands, in the same way, show consideration for your wives in your life together, paying honour to the woman as the weaker sex, since they too are also heirs of the gracious gift of life—so that nothing may hinder your prayers.
For 2000 years, your words have kept women in abusive marriages. Women have stayed in hopes that they might “save him” somehow. That is absolute nonsense and probably not what you meant. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt, since your words are in the Bible. You probably intended to highlight the plight of women who were oppressed. The Greek word we translate as “weaker” means anything from “sick” to “without strength.” According to Thayer’s Lexicon, the word can refer to those who lack “decision about things lawful and unlawful.” So in other words, I’d like to think you were telling the husbands to treat their wives “with respect” in understanding that they have no legal rights and are oppressed simply for being women. Despite the oppression, husbands should consider wives as equal “heirs” to God’s grace.
The Church patriarchy lost that message.
And Peter, are you seriously holding Sarah up as an example of an “ideal woman”? Women were oppressed by the idea of an “ideal woman” back then just as we are today. Over the years – the “idea” has changed. It’s a goalpost we are never able to reach, you see. (That’s the point probably.) But I can’t help but wonder if you had been Petra instead of Peter, if you might have written the letter differently. Instead of focusing so much on telling the wives to ignore the fashion trends and to live life as a Christian example for their spouses, maybe you would have spent more time educating the “husbands” as to the oppression the “weaker” sex faces each day?
Still – I am certain you meant well. I love what you wrote in 1 Peter 2 v9.
Holy Spirit, help us to understand what you would say to us through Peter’s words. What are you telling us today in our contexts? If I have written anything that is not of you, please let people forget about it. Let us hear from you. Amen.
The Rev’d Angela Rigby, Minister at Christ Church URC Tonbridge and St Johns Hill URC Sevenoaks