Chapter 11 – The 1 Peter 3 Strategy

One of the possibilities I listed earlier for how God may lead a couple through a major decision was this:


The Lord asks the wife to submit to her husband’s lead even though she knows he is not being led by the Lord. The Lord is asking her to entrust herself to His care and pray for her husband’s heart through the process. 1 Peter 3 applies. This is a picture of how the Holy Spirit continues to love us and pursue relationship with us even when we are disobedient.


1 Peter 3 gives a specific strategy for a specific kind of situation with a specific goal in mind. This strategy is tailored according to how men are designed and motivated. The first two verses state: 


In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.


Situation:         A husband is being disobedient to God.

Strategy:          Chaste, respectful, submissive behavior toward her husband.

Goal:                The husband’s repentance.


Why is this strategy effective? Men innately value respect, leadership, and hierarchy. In fact, some studies show most men would much rather feel respected than loved. The ministry Love and Respect, led by Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs, asked 7,000 people the question: “When you are in conflict with your spouse or significant other, do you feel unloved or disrespected?” 83% of the men said, “disrespected.”  72% of the women said, “unloved.” When a man is treated with unconditional respect by his wife, even when he doesn’t deserve it, it can awaken something inside of him. It can remind him of his calling – to be a noble, sacrificial leader.


When men are made responsible for other men, they usually consider it a sacred charge. For example, if a man is made the captain of a ship and the ship is sinking, he is the very last one to disembark. He makes sure everyone else gets to safety first because that is his duty. He doesn’t even have to be a particularly moral man. He considers it an honor to be entrusted with a position of such authority and he acts accordingly.


Likewise, when a woman treats her husband as the captain of their family, it calls forth the best in him. He will still make mistakes and act selfishly at times. However, he is more likely to feel the weight of his position of leadership if his wife treats him as though he really carries it. Her respect helps God open his eyes to who he really is.


This does not mean she shouldn’t be honest if she disapproves of his choices. Even on a military vessel, trusted subordinates have permission to voice disagreement with the captain. Nor does it mean she should not share how his choices are affecting her or their family. However, it does mean she treats him respectfully in spite of her disapproval.


The Battle with Fear

Next, verses 3-6 state:


Your adornment must not be merely external…, but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.”

These verses discuss the battle between faith and fear that a wife is likely to experience while executing the strategy God gave in verses 1-2. There is incredible vulnerability in treating someone with undeserved respect who has a measure of authority over you. It is very easy to become fearful that nothing will change and they will continue to mistreat you or mislead you. A woman who chooses to follow this strategy for changing her husband really has nothing to hope in except God. She relinquishes all of her own tools and methods.


The passage encourages a wife to adorn herself with a gentle and quiet spirit because at times she will be filled with loud, fearful thoughts. Therefore, the only way to persevere in this strategy is to somehow become quiet before the Lord so He can sustain her with His peace. (The posture of having a gentle and quiet spirit is equally valid for men when battling against fear.)


Finally, the passage encourages wives to emulate a woman from scripture, Sarah, who successfully executed this strategy with her husband even though he committed serious sins against their marriage. Sarah continued to honor and respect Abraham even though he twice allowed her to be taken into the harems of foreign kings and repeatedly tried to circumvent her role in the promises of God for their family line. She was a truly amazing overcomer. It is no wonder her greatness is captured forever in several portions of scripture. The greatness of Abraham would be non-existent if it wasn’t for the greatness of his wife. We will discuss Sarah and Abraham more in a future chapter.


God’s kingdom works oppositely to how the world and the flesh lead us. We humble ourselves to be exalted. We give to be entrusted with more. We serve to become leaders. We bless when we are cursed. Along these same lines, wives treat disobedient husbands with chastity, respect, and submission in order to change them.


The world and the flesh tell wives to become fearful, nag, control, or manipulate. God tells wives to share their input with their husbands honestly, gently, and without fear. God says to respect him as the head and pray that he feels the burden of leadership God has placed on his shoulders. Pray for God to change his heart.




God delights in husbands and wives loving each other, but He also warns against the danger of turning our spouse into an idol. This is the topic of the next chapter.