“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.”
Lest new Christian wives feel that now that they are believers, this exempts them from submission to their pagan husbands, Peter makes the issue of her role in marriage very clear. When the wife arranges her life to respect her husband’s leadership in the home, she brings her part to harmony in the home. We will study the husband’s role later.
The Bible deals with the wife’s submission in other passages (cf. Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18). God has a divinely willed order for the wife in marriage. The role of submission is an issue of position, not person.
The Greek indicates that the wife develops a mind-set (present tense) of arranging herself under her husband’s leadership in the home. A wife does not promise to orient to the leadership of her husband in her marriage vows, and that is the end of it. She needs to develop a habit of this. This is a life-time principle.
The Greek also indicates that the woman benefits by fulfilling her role in marriage (middle voice). The woman who arranges her life under the leadership of her husband in marriage benefits personally from this. Instead of nagging him, she helps him excel. Instead of running him down by constant criticism, she helps him succeed in his leadership of the home. She will benefit from this. She will have a happy husband and home.
The problem in marital conflict is that one or the other breaks out of their role. God’s design is that the husband meets the wife’s need, and the wife meets the husband’s need. If someone breaks out, the marriage relation breaks down. The woman can derive her basic need from God and God’s Word, but it is normal for the husband to meet her need as well.
The biblical view of submission is an expression of rapport. She has something to yield – both her mind and body. In this case, she has something to give to her husband beyond description.
In Christian marriage, however, love is the basis for rapport. Rapport means there is an appreciation for each other. That is why we should never marry out of pressure, such as this guy makes the right clucking noises and impresses this gal. He appears to her as a knight in shining armor, whereas he is a monster in that shining armor.
The principle in the New Testament exhortation to submit is that there should be mutual readiness to renounce one’s own will for others.
The design of roles in marriage is to meet the needs of the partner in marriage mutually.
If the husband takes advantage of his wife’s positive volition toward his role, what happens? It subverts the delicate balance of the relationship of each role. Some men feel that the biblical role of the wife gives them the right to abuse their wives. “OK, wife, I’m giving you 15 things to do today. I want you to check them off before I get home tonight. Make sure you have them finished before I get home at 5:00 tonight.” This detracts from the dignity of his wife. Peter will address this in 3:7. God expects the husband to “honor” his wife.
Women, if you want your basic need as a wife met, then meet your husband’s need as well. Peter will explain how to do that in succeeding verses. We can summarize his argument in two words – “inner beauty.” This is a relaxed attitude. Hostilities cease. She becomes so open toward her husband that he sees a beautiful being inside her.
When there is little rapport between husband and wife, roles do not work well. Where there is no love in marriage, marriage becomes a master-slave relationship. When there is genuine rapport, roles work well. Marriage will survive physical changes as the couple grows older. The union will grow stronger as the compatibility gets stronger. Compatibility takes up the slack for everything that might happen to the marriage. If compatibility is there, they can work everything else out.
Every couple has problems adjusting to marriage. The real problem in adjusting is not sex, housekeeping, or money. These are details. The actual adjustment is whether the man meets the basic need of his wife. It does not matter whether she burns the biscuits. He still loves her. It makes no difference whether she cannot handle money or balance the checking account and forgets to change the oil in the second car. He still loves her. These things are meaningless details to him. They may be fun as points of conversation. These details should in no way destroy the rapport of the marriage.
When genuine love exists, then a wife will willingly surrender her volition to her husband. Then her husband fulfills her soul. In selecting a husband, he cannot be a status symbol, an escape hatch, or a meal ticket.