Context, context, context! We must read Peter's commands to wives and husbands with a mind to the circumstances of the first century world and we must read them as one piece. Husbands do not get away with reading to wives the part that Peter tells them to fulfil and vice versa. In the back of my mind is the situation believers found themselves in the Corinthian church and almost certainly then, in other churches too. Remember that the women especially had taken their sense of freedom in Christ to ridiculous lengths: they dressed in such a way that some could have supposed that they were prostitutes; they acted as if they weren't married if they had unbelieving husbands; they applauded what they thought of as fresh acts of freedom, which were really just sexual immorality and they didn't show love and grace towards each other (Paul's note on their abuse of the Love Feast). Remind yourself as you read this passage that generally women were treated the same as slaves in that they were not allowed out of the house, they had no legal rights and no say about what their husbands chose to do or not to do-sexual fidelity was almost non-existent in the Roman Empire. The words of Peter to husbands in that context then were far more revolutionary than his words to wives. In many countries today-India is an example-women are not treated as equals to men. Most churches in India have a separation of men and women, so women sit together on the left, men sit together on the right. The European visitor may be upset by this and perhaps try to encourage a change, but just as Peter and Paul understood that changes had to be made subtly, so these changes in India and elsewhere are to be made gradually if they are not to destroy fellowships. Peter makes it clear that God's will is that all should be equal: as Paul wrote-slave or free, Jew or Gentile, male or female are all one in Christ Jesus. That is the goal to which we head and, as Peter writes, that is the way to ensure that our prayers reach God unhindered.
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