3 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, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the [a]incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.
— 1 Pet 3:1-6 NKJV
Sheila Gregoire’s latest post doubles down on the idea that wives who submit to their husbands are in sin for making their husband/marriage an idol. Gregoire holds up Vashti in the Book of Ester as a role model for Christian wives:
Just because the king and his nobles thought that encouraging discord among wives was evil does not mean that God thought encouraging discord among wives was evil…
I believe that the rush to demonize Vashti is rooted in an unhealthy view of marriage, where obedience to a husband is seen as the greatest good, and sowing discord among wives as the greatest evil.
No, the greatest evil is substituting something else in the place for God.
Sheila’s guest poster Gary Thomas made a similar case in Wifey Wednesday: When Your Marriage is in Trouble, Do Something! Thomas argued that wives who feared divorce were in sin, as they were guilty of making an idol of marriage and their husbands:
Let’s apply some simple theology here. Who does the Bible say is your refuge — God, or your husband? Deuteronomy 33:27 provides the answer: “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
In whom does your hope lie? Your husband’s continuing affection? First Peter 1:21 says, “Your faith and hope are in God.”
Where will you find your security? You and your husband’s ability to earn a living and your husband’s commitment to stay married to you? Philippians 4:19 answers, “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
Where will you find supreme acceptance that will never fade or falter for all the days of your life? “As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,” replies Isaiah 62:5, “so will your God rejoice over you.”
If you’re trying to find your primary refuge in your husband, if you’ve centered your hope on him, if your security depends on his approval, and if you will do almost anything to gain his acceptance, then you’ve just given to a man what rightfully belongs to God alone.
And that means you’ve turned marriage into idol worship.
This is a clever feminist reframe of Scripture, because it makes submission a sin and rebellion a virtue. As clever as the argument is, it is not valid. Despite modern Christians wanting to make Abigail or Vashti the role model for Christian wives, Peter tells us in 1 Pet 3 that Christian wives should emulate Sarah. Sarah is famous for submitting to her husband Abraham’s foolish instruction that she tell the Pharaoh she was Abraham’s sister. Sarah complied, and but for the direct intervention of God it would have lead to catastrophe (Gen 12:15-20, ESV):
And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.
17 But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” 20 And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.
Abraham did this not once, but twice! The same basic thing happened earlier in the same chapter:
2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. 3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” 4 Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? 5 Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” 6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”
Gen 20:10-11 tells us that Abraham told Sarah to do this because he he feared for his own safety (when he should have trusted God):
10 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you see, that you did this thing?” 11 Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, ‘There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’
The Apostle Peter is clearly referencing these incidents when he tells Christian wives to submit to their husbands even when doing so is terrifying:
6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.
Moreover, Scripture repeatedly instructs wives to submit to their husbands and view them with fear and reverence.
But the Apostle Peter’s clear instructions are detestable to modern Christians’ feminist sensibilities. Not only have modern Christians rebelled against Peter and Paul’s instruction, but they have created a new rule which says that instead of submitting to their husbands wives need to set and enforce boundaries. Setting and enforcing boundaries is incidentally only something that modern Christians believe wives should do to their husbands. You will never see a modern Christian insisting that husbands set and enforce boundaries for their wives.
See also Cane Caldo’s You Bowed Up When You Should Have Bowed Down for a discussion of the application of submission when a husband instructs his wife to do evil.