Why hello there lady friends!
I know what you’re thinking. “There goes Grace with a catchy title indicative of a Christian feminist rant.” Well, you probably weren’t thinking that, but that’s what you’re going to get.
I was meeting with my bible study leader, Rachel, who is discipling me last week and she started out our chat by saying “So I have a love-hate relationship with 1 Peter 3:4. I was going to think about it, but then I was like ‘no, I’ll just talk about it with Grace.’ So. What do you think about 1 Peter 3:4?”
I was a little confused at first, but when I read the verse it all suddenly made sense.
1 Peter 3:3-4(I’m including verse 3 for context) says “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”(NIV)
Rachel then proceeded to explain why she both loves and hates this verse.
To paraphrase the word of God (Gah! Shocking! Grace!) “Stop paying attention to what you wear and what you do, but instead quiet your heart before God and submit to Him. This is what is pleasing to God.” This verse is trying to tell us what is important and what isn’t. It isn’t saying “Dress like you’re going to a funeral and shut your mouth,” it’s exhorting women to quit being so focused on their appearance and more focused on following Christ’s example and being obedient to God. For women, this should be the verse that liberates us from the expectations of a society which objectifies us.
But instead a lot of people try to use this verse to put women in a box. You should be quiet and gentle. Perfectly submissive. Modest as a nun. Literally speak with a soft voice. Don’t dress like a hussy. You shouldn’t look good, instead be gentle and quiet and submissive so that a man will marry you and impregnate you. Then you can worship him for the rest of your life and be validated by his status and by the quality of your children. (On a side note: Since it’s kind of a fact that you’re identified by what you worship, why would you even want to be identified by a flawed, human male when you could be identified with the flawless God of the universe? Food for thought.)
Okay, maybe they don’t say those words, but for the liberated woman verses like this are like nails in the coffin of mediocrity. Except that’s not what this verse is about at all. It is yet another case of Christians missing the boat entirely.
But no, let’s create a contradiction in our theology and say that God doesn’t look on this outside, but at the heart and then promptly turn around and judge people for what they’re wearing and for being too assertive. Let’s just forget all the verses in the bible about how we ought to be bold and courageous. Let’s be sexist pigs and say the Bible isn’t for all people, but instead only for men. Since God doesn’t use bold women at all. Have you ever heard of Esther? Ruth? Rahab? Tamar? Esther barged in on her husband unannounced (under threat of death I might add) and petitioned him on behalf of her nation. Ruth went and crawled into bed with Boaz (what a slut) in order to save her mother-in-law. Rahab was a prostitute who hid two Israelite spies before Jericho was destroyed in the famous battle involving lots of walking and the walls falling down. Tamar tricked her father-in-law into sleeping with her in order to mother the son which was her right (Genesis 38. Look it up, it’s a pretty spicy story.) Oh, and did I mention that Ruth, Rahab, and Tamar are Jesus’ great- great- great- great- (etc.) grandmothers? Yup.
So either these women were terrible and ungodly, or our definition of what makes a good Christian woman is completely wrong.
I vote for the latter.
In Christian culture the gold standard for women is written out in Proverbs 31.
Proverbs 31:10-31 talks about a wife of noble character and how she’s rare and precious because of X, Y, and Z. As Christian women we are constantly bombarded with men saying “Oh, I want to marry a Proverbs 31 woman.” And women saying “I aspire to be a Proverbs 31 woman.” And then they go on to be stay at home moms with twenty kids and homeschooling all the way through high school… Which is all well and good (My mom is the model example of the stereotypical Christian woman. I can’t really knock the model…), but being a wife and mother doesn’t make you a Proverbs 31 woman. Nope. These verses describe a business woman. A woman who plants vineyards and trades goods. A woman who buys and cultivates fields. A woman who manages the household and makes sure that everyone gets paid, has food to eat, and clothes to wear. She’s buff. She’s kind. She’s clothed with strength and dignity. She’s trustworthy. She’s wise. She isn’t idle. She fears the Lord.
Granted, the passage starts out saying “a wife of noble character who can find” but the follow-up sentence isn’t “She has lots of kids and is constantly barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.”
Except that’s what our culture says a Proverbs 31 woman is… and apparently even though only a handful of the verses in that passage even mention the husband, if you aren’t married you don’t even qualify for the Proverbs 31 Pageant. Can I just say that’s a CRYING SHAME!
Going back to the interpretation of 1 Peter 3 that I abhor, how can you even say “Women need to be less assertive and more submissive?” Last time I checked you have to be pretty assertive to buy and sell land. Last time I checked you have to be pretty assertive when you manage employees. You have to be able to make hard choices. You have to wear the metaphorical pants. Additionally both 1 Peter 3 and Proverbs 31 have an emphasis on how it’s what’s on the inside that’s important not what’s on the outside. They mention fearing the Lord and having a quiet and gentle spirit.
The passages were written to encourage women and break us out of the lie that we are only worth as much as we can give a man, but instead we’re being force fed the exact opposite! Instead of being encouraged to focus on our relationship with God and be right with Him, we’re being told to focus on a man.
So I don’t know about you, but maybe it’s time to stop focusing on what we’re wearing and start focusing on the condition of our hearts. Don’t focus on the fact that you show a little boobage in that new shirt, focus on how you’re so busy you haven’t cracked open you bible yet this week(guilty.) Stop focusing on the elder who asked you how a man fits into your life plan and instead focus on making sure you aren’t putting men in the place in your life that God deserves.
You are not defined by your marital status. God does not need you to be married to use you for His glory. Don’t give up on being a good Christian woman because you’re single.