Saturday

09 September 2017

“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.” (vv. 1-2)

Psalm: Psalm 76


Background

As we have seen previously in the context of slaves, 'Peter' was far more socially conservative than Paul. Paul insisted that there should be absolute equality between husbands and wives (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 7), in accordance with his fundamental belief that, "in Christ" there was no hierarchical distinction between men and women (Galatians 3:28). But for 'Peter', traditional Jewish (and non-Jewish) standards still applied - wives should obey their husbands in all matters, and treat them as their "lord" (v. 6). Women should be meek and submissive. Husbands, at least, should be considerate to their wives (verse 7), treating them as the "weaker sex". 'Peter' conceded that women, too, "are also heirs of the gracious gift of life" (v. 7) -as if that even needed to be said (it presumably did!). But as long as husbands said their prayers, all was well.

The "finally" paragraph (verses 8-12) concludes this section of the letter with a very traditional Jewish exhortation to behave righteously, in the hope that you will earn God's blessing as a reward - if you keep the commandments, you will be blessed, and God will answer your prayers; if not, you will be cursed. This was the deal with God - blessing is conditional upon your behaviour. The point is reinforced by a lengthy quote from Psalm 34 (Psalm 34:12-16). But how does all this fit with the Christian concept of grace, where God's blessing is seen as unconditional and undeserved? Grace cannot be earned - only received with grateful humility. God's love takes precedence over our response - we love because God loves us, not in order to earn God's love. And right behaviour is a response to God's love, not a way to gain a reward.

Sometimes 'the Bible says...' is not quite as straightforward as some might suggest. A certain amount of critical awareness may be needed if we are to read it responsibly.


To Ponder

  • When reading a passage like this it can be instructive to ask, "Whose interests are being served?" So whose interests are being served here, husbands' or wives'? We could ask the same about Thursday's passage - does it advantage slaves or their owners? How do we view biblical texts like these which can be (and have been, and sometimes still are) used by the powerful to oppress the weak?
  • "Sometimes 'the Bible says...' is not quite as straightforward as some might suggest. A certain amount of critical awareness may be needed if we are to read it responsibly." Do you agree? Why? Is this evident in the way the Bible is often used in church?


Bible notes author:  The Revd David Rhymer

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