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JL's Journal

May 12, 2012

“SISTERS OF SARAH”
A Mother’s Day Meditation

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.  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 your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.  For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master.  You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear”  (I Pet. 3:1-6).

We are living in a time when femininity and womanhood are being redefined by educators, social scientists, political pundits and entertainers.  Increasingly, the traditional understandings of what it means to be an authentic woman, wife and mother are being challenged and redefined.  And while we continue to celebrate “Mother’s Day” in America, there is increasing confusion – even hostility – about traditional motherhood.

Just this week, President Obama has sanctioned “same-sex marriages.”  Like millions in America, he said his position on marriage has been “evolving.”  That means that it has been moving further and further away from the Biblical revelation of marriage.  And as he “came out of the closet” on this issue, he justified his position by applauding the same-sex relationships of some of his staff.  Obama said that his White House staffers “…are in incredibly committed monogamous same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together.”  And Vice President Biden echoed the President’s sentiment by saying that he was “…completely comfortable with gays marrying.”

This is yet the latest assault against the revelation of natural law and Biblical law.  To give legal sanction to “same-sex marriage” is to further diffuse the traditional understanding of sexuality and redefine both motherhood and fatherhood.  For millennia, masculinity was inseparably associated with femininity.  One defined the other.  Masculinity could not be fully expressed without femininity and vice versa.  It was seen as a perversion of the natural order – to say nothing of the rebellion against Biblical revelation – for fatherhood to be associated with a male homosexual and motherhood with a lesbian.  This was a biological impossibility because there could be no “sexual union” between same-sex partners that would produce children.

According to the Bible, one of the primary purposes for marriage was to “…be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”  Marriage was a spiritual-emotional-sexual union whereby the two people – a male and female, “…become one flesh” (Gen. 1:28; 2:25).   It is a biological and sexual impossibility for two homosexuals to “…become one flesh.”  They can participate in various kinds of sexual stimulation and activities – but they cannot have authentic “sexual union.”  Their sexual exploits are nothing more than passions that play around on the surface of their sexuality.  In the process, their masculinity or femininity is stifled and stunted.  While they may adopt children and call themselves “fathers” or “mothers,” it is a misnomer and a sham!  And it is a brazen assault against “Mother’s Day” this month and “Father’s Day” next month!

In previous generations, the word “mother” evoked much clearer understanding of roles and responsibilities.  She was a woman and wife who was solidly anchored in her home as her primary place of identity, fulfillment and ministry.  Today that is not the case.  Through extreme movements like the ERA, radical feminism and Gay Pride, there has been a growing hostility toward this traditional view of womanhood.  Women have been seduced, cajoled and intimidated out of the home to the degree that a “stay-at-home-mom” is the exception rather than the norm.  She is a feminine oddity.  The “modern woman” has largely given up being a “Home Engineer” in order to become a “working mom” or “Corporate CEO” in the secular world.

Sadly, materialism has become the greatest enemy of motherhood.  More and better “stuff” has become the illusive carrot-on-the-stick to seduce husbands and wives to buy into this “upward mobility” life-style that necessitates two paychecks.  And in this insatiable pursuit of more things, riches have replaced relationships as the greatest good in life.  Money and materialism have become the driving and defining forces of marriage and motherhood.

In making this move from the home, millions of mothers have traded in the highest, hardest and holiest calling on earth for one with far less spiritual, familial and social impact – not to mention emotional fulfillment.  As is so often the case, the “good” has become the enemy of the “best.”

I am certainly not saying that all wives and mothers should stay in their home all of their lives.  That is a simplistic reduction that the Bible does not support – as a study of the “Virtuous Woman” of Proverbs 31 reveals.  She was a multi-tasking woman of excellence inside and outside of the home – all with the blessing of God, her husband and her children.  But even in the case of this remarkable “super woman,” her home was still the center of all of her fruitful activity.  Love for her husband and children were her highest motivation.  She was not driven by some feminine frustration causing her to seek fulfillment and self-actualization outside her home.  Marriage and motherhood were the modus operandi for all she did.

So in our day and age when there is increasing confusion, division and apostasy about authentic womanhood and motherhood, Patt and I find the short little letter of First Peter especially timely.  I believe it is a much overlooked and underappreciated word from the Lord.  Because Peter used words like “submit…purity…reverence…holy…gentle…quiet spirit,” we largely reject this passage as archaic and irrelevant.  It is blown off as both out-of-date and out-of-step with our modern world that has “come of age” in these areas of feminine fulfillment.  The words that Peter used to describe the “Sisterhood of Sarah” are not words that we now positively associate with motherhood any longer.  We see them as weak, demeaning and anti-feminine.  They stifle and stunt feminine creativity.  They are characterized as bringing frustration rather than fulfillment to a woman.

Peter’s emphasis on an “inner beauty” that is not based upon “…gold jewelry and fine clothes” is also not in vogue with today’s woman that must be always “dressed to the nines!”  Outer beauty and “body beautiful” are portrayed in all the media as the feminine ideal – by anorexic models and movie stars who have been airbrushed of all wrinkles, blemishes, stretch marks or imperfections!  Thin and sexy have become the feminine models that few women can ever achieve and retain – not even the super models!

Unlike Abraham’s or Peter’s day, our day has become a time of artificial beauty based upon cosmetic surgery…breast implants…tummy tucking…and hip enhancement!  This form of “Botox beauty” cannot stave off the aging process.  Nor can the tsunami of cosmetics, creams, lotions & potions that women are awash in – keep them from getting old and looking old!  Regardless of the handfuls of drugs, pills, supplements and vitamins that women consume daily, they keep aging!  Wrinkles and aging spots appear at will.  And contrary to what the multi-billion dollar cosmetic industry promises, there is no fountain of youth this side of heaven!  We left that inside the Garden of Eden when we turned away from the “tree of life.”

For me to even suggest that these verses in First Peter are relevant for Mother’s Day will seem ludicrous to the majority of women, wives and mothers.  To call someone a “Sister of Sarah” today would not be deemed as a very high compliment!  Regardless, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter exalts Sarah as a model of femininity for all time – whether in Abraham’s day, the First Century or the Twenty-First Century.  But only when she is portrayed and understood holistically.

It is also timely to remember that First Peter was written to encourage Christians – both men and women, who were facing various kinds of persecution because of their faith in Christ.  This short letter was written around 64 A.D. during the time of Nero’s vicious persecution against Christians.  And modern day Neros are increasingly harassing and persecuting Christians in America and worldwide.  Hostility and persecution toward Christians and Biblical values is the politically correct agenda of the day.

So I believe that Peter’s message is increasingly relevant in a time when “political correctness” is seeking to turn the tides of popular opinion against the Biblical view of masculinity, femininity and marriage.  And President Obama has just added his affirmative voice to the assault against marriage and motherhood!

Therefore, there is much in First Peter to comfort and instruct Christians in any age…in any country…in any culture who are experiencing persecution for their faith in Christ.  But I want to specifically focus on Peter’s words of instruction to women and wives.  For Father’s Day next month, I will focus on men and husbands.

By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter gives us a number of spiritual qualities of the woman who wants to be a “Sister of Sarah.”  In the Bible, Abraham is called the “man of faith” because he put his faith in God in the midst of a confused, pagan and hostile society (Gen. 15:6; Gal. 3:6-9).  And if Abraham is known as the “man of faith” then Sarah should be known and respected as the “woman of faith!”   I say that because of at least 10 characteristics I see in her life from this passage.  I hope you will find them a timely “Mother’s Day Card” as I briefly (!) highlight them below…

10 Characteristics

SALVATION

After introducing himself, Peter addressed his hearers as “…God’s elect, strangers in the world…chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by His blood…”  (I Pet. 1:1-2).

We can clearly see, then, that this was a message from the Triune God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit to Christians.  Each member of the Godhead had played a part in their salvation because they are…

Chosen by God
Sanctified by the Spirit

Redeemed by the blood of Christ

Peter also addressed them as “God’s elect” who are “strangers in the world.”  And because they had become strangers and aliens to this world’s system (2:11), they were also “…scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.”  So they were saints who were saved by God…strangers to the worldand scattered because of persecutionThose same words will increasingly describe Christians in America in the months and years to come – if we live as “strangers and aliens” in our society. 

The saints that Peter was addressing were probably from a non-Jewish, pagan background since he briefly reminded them of the “…empty way of life handed down to them from their forefathers” (1:18).  He further reminded them that had “…spent enough time in the past doing what pagans chose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry” (I Pet. 4:3).  That would not have been the way he would have described Jewish converts to Christianity who had been privy to the “Laws and Prophets” of God.

This was a message to Christians, not to non-Christians.  As such, it would only make sense to those who were spiritual through the New Birth.  That’s why the Apostle wrote:

“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:14).

So if these words do not make sense to you and offend you, perhaps you are reading someone else’s mail!

In Chapter 3, Peter moved from a general address to the persecuted church, to a specific message for Christian wives wherever they were dispersed:  “Wives,” Peter wrote, “in the same way be submissive to your husbands…” Therefore, he was now speaking to saved wives, not to non-believing wives.  And it is obvious that some of these wives were living in non-Christian marital relationships where they were being abused and persecuted because of their faith in Christ.

So the very first and most important characteristic of a “Sister of Sarah” was that she was saved.  If she had been, then she was chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and was being sanctified by the Holy Spirit!

Principle:
“It is only through salvation that a woman begins to discover her true femininity.”

Remember then, salvation is the door through which you discover your true femininity!  No female can ever be fully woman outside of Christ.  Every woman is incomplete without Christ.  She’s half a woman.  It is only through salvation that she begins to discover her true identity.  That’s why Paul said: “…in Him you have been made complete(Col. 2:10).  That journey to complete femininity is the journey of all true “Sisters of Sarah.”

SUFFERING

As I mentioned above, Peter used a telling phrase when he said to wives: “…in the same way,” or “Likewise, you wives…”  That phrase brings us to the obvious question, “What was Peter referring to?”  To answer that, we must go back to the preceding verses where he was talking about those who suffered unjustly.

First of all, Peter addressed those who suffered as citizens because they lived under unjust political rulers, like the paranoid Nero. (I Pet. 2:13-17)

Secondly, Peter addressed those who suffered as slaves, or as employees, because they worked for unjust bosses, or employers who were not believers. (I Pet. 2:18-20)

Then Peter points to the greatest example in human history of unjust punishment and suffering – Jesus Christ. (I Pet. 2:21-25)  Listen to what Peter said about Christ’s suffering – and ours:

“…if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.  To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps”  (I Pet. 2:20-21).

So Peter said to wives:  “Just as Jesus suffered unjustly, you may have to suffer unjustly!”  But as you do suffer, look down and see the footprints of Jesus who walked that path before you.  So do not lose heart but “…follow in His steps.”

Principle:
“The most difficult thing in life is to face unjust suffering. 
But Christ is our model and example of grace in the face of suffering.

How are we to respond when we face unjust suffering?  Just like Jesus responded!  Listen to Peter’s challenging words:

“When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats.  Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly  (I Pet. 2:23).

Then Peter said, “Wives, in the same way…” (I Pet. 3:1).  But why were some of these wives suffering?  Because they had become Christians and their husbands had not.  What is the Christian wife’s response supposed to be to a non-Christian husband?  This points out our next spiritual characteristic of a “Sister of Sarah”…

SUBMISSIVE

“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands…”  (I Pet. 3:1a).  The very mention of the word “submission” is a complete turn-off in our society today!  It is an odious word that is filled with a lot of negative association – much of which is deserved as a result of unbiblical and unbalanced interpretation and application.  But the abuse of the word through carnality and immaturity does not justify hitting the “delete” key and eliminating the word from the Bible.  Nor do we have the freedom to adjust our theology of marriage by replacing the principle with an egalitarian position that freely interchanges the role of masculinity and femininity.

As I stated in my introduction, the Bible teaches the absolute equality of the sexes.  One is not superior to the other.  But the moment the word “submissive” is used in the same sentence with “wife” – it denotes inferiority.  It is twisted to mean subservient…slave…doormat! 

That is not the Biblical position at all.  That is an unscriptural characterization.  This word does not mean that the woman is inferior – or that she is a slave with no rights!  It just means that she is to submit to the role and responsibility that God has assigned for her as a woman and wife.

In the very same way the Bible teaches that the husband and wife are to “…submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21).  In addition, the Bible teaches that the husband is to submit to Christ as his spiritual Head (I Cor. 11:3).  As such, the husband is to love his wife like Christ loves His bride the church – which was to suffer and die for her (Eph. 5:25)!  So submission is not just an attitude that women and wives are to live by.  Submission is the life-style of every believer – married or not!

Principle:
“Submission is not just the role of women and wives;
it is the life-style of every authentic follower of Christ.”

Therefore, God has sovereignly assigned certain roles and responsibilities to both the man and woman…husband and wife…fathers and mothers.  The role of the husband is to be the servant-leader and spiritual head of the family.  The role of the wife is to be submissive to his headship and authority in the areas God has assigned to him.  Obviously, most wives do not have a lot of problem with submission if her husband is loving…kind…sensitive…thoughtful…helpful – and a good strong spiritual leader!

But what if he is not?!  What then?  How is she to respond?  Is she to rebel?  Should she be filled with anger and bitterness?  Should she fight back?  Should she dig in her heels?  Should she manipulate?  Should she nag?  Should she take on a life-style of passive-aggression?

NO!!!  Peter says that she is to submit even if it means suffering!  How can a wife do that?  Only through the grace and power of Jesus Christ!

The Lord Jesus experienced the very same unjust suffering when He was here – and He was perfect…sinless… guiltless…innocent!  None of us can ever claim that!  As Peter says:   “For you were like sheep going astray…”  (I Pet. 2:25).  So we have to admit that much of our suffering is self-induced.  It is the direct result of our sin!  By contrast, Jesus “…committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth” (I Pet. 2:22).  And in spite of His perfect innocence, He suffered unspeakably!

So what did Jesus do when He suffered unjustly?  “…He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly”  (I Pet. 2:23).

He did not focus on the situation – He focused on God!  He did not entrust Himself to the situation – He entrusted Himself to God!  He did not entrust Himself to man’s judgment – He entrusted Himself to God’s judgment!  Christian wives must do the same thing.  Jesus looked past the suffering to His Father.

Therefore, He submitted to the suffering through His submission to His Father!  Christian wives can do the same thing – but only through His strength as she “…follows in His steps”  (I Pet. 2:21).  That’s the path that “Sisters of Sarah” are seeking to walk.

SELF-CONTROLED

Peter went on to say to Christian wives who were facing unjust suffering:

“…be submissive to your husbands SO THAT, if any of them (unbelieving husbands) do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.”  (I Pet. 3:1b)

Note that causal phrase: “…so that.”  Peter reminded them that there was a purpose…a goal…an end game for their submission to God through submitting to their husbands.  Rather than argue…quarrel…fight…or become passive aggressive – be self-controlled rather than being “out of control.”  Don’t yell or rant and rave at him – live your faith out quietly before him!  Let the Holy Spirit do the talking to his heart as he watches your Christ-like response to him.  Wives can never convict their husbands.  She cannot be his conscience.  That is a role that only the Holy Spirit can play. (Jn. 16:8)

Peter encouraged the wife to submit and suffer in silence “…so that…they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.”  Peter reminded these wives that if their husband was “disobedient to the word’ through his attitudes and actions, she should not be “disobedient to the word” through her attitudes and actions!  He exhorted the wives to let their beliefs be seen through their behavior – starting with submission!

Principle:
“The only way a woman can be truly self-controlled is by being Spirit-controlled.”

Obviously, the only way a wife in the First Century or Twenty-First Century can do that and be that is by being self-controlled through being spirit-controlled!  In her sinful, selfish nature she has neither the desire nor will to submit to either God or her husband.  Likewise, her sinful, self-serving pagan husband has no desire or will to submit to Christ.

The call to face unjust suffering in life – whether as a Christian citizen, slave or wife – requires a supernatural response rather than a natural response!  The only way she can keep from being “out of control” during times of unjust suffering is by being “under Spirit control!”

But I do not think that this admonition to suffering can be pushed to the extreme of a tolerance for wife abuse or child abuse.  Whether it is physical abuse or sexual abuse, the wider context of this passage and the rest of the New Testament would not support such an unbalanced interpretation.  After all, Peter immediately turns from the wife’s role to that of the husband when he says:

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are joint heirs with you of the grace of life, SO THAT your prayers may not be hindered(I Pet. 3:7; ESV).

No husband is “…living with his wife according to understanding” while abusing her.  He’s living in masculine and macho ignorance!  It is impossible to “…honor your wife” and abuse her in any way at the same time.  During the time when this was written, women were often seen as little more than chattel…beasts of burden…and sex objects that could be used and abused at will.  That’s still the plight of women today in many countries, cultures and religions.  Not so in Christianity!  The wife is an equal …joint heir” with the husband in every way.  And for a husband to live in ignorance and disobedience to that nullifies his prayers!  God will not answer the prayers of an abusive husband!

One of the reasons that God established governments was to punish evil.  That’s why Peter begins this whole section by saying that God ordained governmental authority “…to punish those who do wrong…” (I Pet. 2:14)  And Paul further emphasized the role of the government in wielding the sword “…to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (Rom. 13:1-5)

So a woman who is in a chronically abusive situation may have to look to her government for legal intervention.  But a Christian woman first turns to her church for intervention and discipline by the elders.  While divorce should not be her first option, she may have to separate from an abusive husband for a time for her own protection and that of her children.  All of this requires great wisdom through the Word of God and Spirit of God for the woman of God.

So a “Sister of Sarah” is a woman who is self-controlled through being Spirit-controlled.

SENSITIVE

We can further see that a “Sister of Sarah” must also be sensitive.  She must be sensitive to her husband…his nature…his needs.

As a man himself, Peter writes:  “…your husband…may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and respect of your lives”  (I Pet. 3:2).

One of the single greatest needs of every man is to receive respect – especially from his wife!  It is a wise woman and wife who understands this deep emotional insecurity and need in a man – and knows how to respond to it!

Women and wives need to remember this basic principle about masculinity:  A man is vulnerable to a woman who will show him true respect!  Understanding that, Peter exhorts the Christian wives who are married to unbelieving husbands to show him respect – even if she has to do so by faith!  If she does so, God will use her Christ-like attitude to draw him spiritually closer to her – and eventually to Christ.

Principle:
“A man is vulnerable to any woman who will show him respect.”

Once again, this means that a wife is to respect the office or position of a husband – even when she cannot respect the man occupying that marital office. 

That’s why Peter started this whole discussion by dealing with Christians who were living under non-Christian government leaders.  Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake,Peter says, “to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by Him…” (I Pet. 2:13-14)

Christian citizens often have to walk the delicate balance between respecting and submitting to various offices of government when they do not respect the person holding that office – which is my challenge right now with President Obama!  I totally disagree with his recent stance on “same-sex marriage.”  But I still have to respect the office when I do not respect the man carrying the title of President!  While I can and will disagree with his position, I cannot and will not defame the Office of President.

In marriage, wives have to often do the same thing when married to husbands who are not walking worthy of the marital title they are carrying as men.  And that requires a lot of spiritual sensitivity for every “Sister of Sarah!”

SATISFIED

Next Peter exhorts wives to learn to be satisfied with themselves.  In essence, Peter is encouraging women and wives to learn to accept themselves and love themselves.

Any female who is dissatisfied with herself and insecure with who she is as a woman, wife and mother will always tend to put too much emphasis on externals.  Her insecurity on the inside will cause her to overly emphasize the outside.  If she is not happy and content with the “inner woman,” it will be manifest through her preoccupation with the “outer woman.”  Insecure women and wives always try to “cover up” their sense of insecurity and inferiority by excessive make-up, costly coiffeurs, fancy clothes and expensive jewelry.  They constantly try to make a “fashion statement” through how they dress.  This is not a new phenomena.  It was just as true in Peter’s day as in our day.  So Peter exhorts these new Christian wives with these wise words:

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.”  (I Pet. 3:3)

Certainly God wants a woman and wife to do all she can with what He has given her to be as attractive as possible.  After all, the Bible speaks of the true and living God as the perfection of beauty (Ps. 27:4; 90:17; Isa. 33:17, etc).  And the Song of Solomon overflows with words of praise for the beauty of his lover!   Because men are created in the image of God, we all love beauty and are attracted to it!  We want our wives to look as beautiful as possible.

However, too much emphasis on external beauty is a sign of feminine insecurity.  It is a superficial “cover up” for deeper things – and magazines and TV and advertisers know this and appeal to those feminine insecurities in all of their ads!

Principle:
“True lasting beauty is spiritual by nature and radiates from the inside out.”

So don’t fall into the trap of putting too much emphasis on the external woman to the neglect of the internal woman.  True beauty is from the inside out.  Authentic beauty is more than just skin-deep.  It is spiritual by nature and radiates from a quiet and content spirit.  It is the distinguishing beauty mark of the “Sisters of Sarah.”

SPIRITUAL

Peter continued this thought as he went on to say that every true “Sister of Sarah” must learn to put her emphasis on the development of “inner beauty” rather than on trying to develop and maintain “outer beauty.”

“Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight  (I Pet. 3:4).

The Bible teaches that the “…outer man/outer woman is wasting away.”  (II Cor. 4:16 NASB) Personal experience teaches us the same thing!  At 70, I am more aware of the truth of those words every day.  Every reflection of myself in the mirror reveals the unstoppable aging process!

Therefore, when we place our emphasis on maintaining outer beauty, we are ultimately fighting a losing battle!  As I have already written, there are not enough cosmetics to keep us from aging…growing old…getting wrinkled!  And there are no man-made cosmetics that can make the “inner woman” beautiful in the sight of God!  Only the cleansing blood of Jesus and the indwelling Holy Spirit can make a woman “beautiful in God’s sight!”

The Bible tells us that Sarah was physically a very beautiful woman.  Other men besides Abraham desired her because of her physical beauty – which almost cost Abraham his life! (Gen. 12:10-20; 20:1-18)  However, God was more interested in developing an “inner beauty” in Sarah, than sustaining an “outer beauty.”  That’s because ”outer beauty” is only for a few short years at best – but “inner beauty” is for eternity!

Principle:
“Outer beauty lasts only for a few years while spiritual beauty lasts forever.”

This poses an important question for every Mother’s Day: “Which beauty are you trying to develop?”  Where is your priority and emphasis?  Who are you trying to look beautiful for – people or God?  Are you more concerned with developing beauty in the eyes of man, or beauty in the eyes of God?  While true “Sisters of Sarah” want to do all they can to be attractive and appealing to their husbands, they want most of all to be beautiful in “God’s sight.”

SCRIPTURAL

In order for the physical not to overshadow the spiritual, Peter reminded the “Sisters of Sarah” that they must increasingly be Scriptural in their perspective and outlook on life.  They must not let the world around them script them and their femininity.  Their hope must not be in external beauty which not everyone can achieve, but in internal beauty – which is available to every woman through the Spirit.  Peter’s words are a timely reminder that every woman either has a worldly hope or a Biblical hope:

“For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful…” (I Pet. 3:5)

It is important to note here that the Biblical word for hope means “confident expectation.”  When we put our hope in the cosmetics of the world to produce an external beauty, we will eventually be disappointed.  It ultimately leads to hopelessness.  That external beauty will fade with age.  In time, no amount of cosmetics can make you look young and sexy.  But inner beauty never fades.  It only grows more beautiful over time.  This kind of beauty doesn’t grow old, it only grows deeper!  It radiates from the inside out.  It is rooted in the spirit rather than in the flesh.  That’s why Patt is more beautiful to me than ever!  Her spiritual beauty makes her external beauty even more radiant!

So when a woman puts her emphasis and hope on the “outer woman,” she puts her hope in man.  She hopes to impress…allure…attract…seduce him!   As she ages, she will ultimately lose hope in her femininity and desirability – because men will disappoint her.  But when she puts her emphasis on the “inner woman,” then she puts her hope in God and becomes more beautiful every day.

Principle:
“Putting hope in outer beauty results in a diminishing femininity.  To hope in God results in an ageless femininity.”

Notice that Peter said that the “…holy women of the past…made themselves beautiful.”  Most women put on their own make-up each day…style their hair…pick the clothing to wear that enhances their femininity.  It takes effort – but we husbands really appreciate the effort! 

In the same way, a Christian woman and wife need to put forth effort to “…make herself beautiful” spiritually.  Through prayer, Bible Study, worship, fellowship – she can do her part in “…making herself beautiful.”  Those are the “Christian cosmetics” for the spirit.  They are some of the “means of grace” that she can employ daily to enhance her spiritual beauty.  As she “puts on her make-up” and clothing each day, she should also “…put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:22-25)

A worldly woman puts back on her “old self” every day because she has nothing else in her spiritual wardrobe!  Her most expensive “designer clothes” cannot cover up her spiritual death.  So she continues to put her hope in man…in externals…the latest fashions…in “outer beauty.”

But a holy woman puts her hope in God.  She is far more concerned with the development of her  “inner beauty.”  She is increasingly focused on the internal and eternal rather than the external and temporal.

Here is an important Mother’s Day question:  “Where is your hope focused?  Do you have a man-centered hope, or a God-centered hope?”

Sarah and other godly women of the Bible, “…put their hope in God.”  I challenge you to put your hope in God also – not in man-made beauty aids, styles or jewelry.  Instead, join Sarah’s Sorority by putting your hope in God!

SEXUAL

When you study the Old Testament background of what Peter wrote about, you can clearly see the sexual implications for marriage:

“They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master…”  (I Pet. 3:5-6).

The situation Peter referred to goes back to Genesis 18.  The Angel of the Lord had visited Abraham to announce that Sarah would conceive and bear a child – even in her old age.  This was humanly impossible and totally inconceivable to Sarah since she was 90 years old!  You don’t see any ninety-year-old mothers then or now!

So when Sarah overhead this angelic prophecy from her place inside the tent, the Bible says that she “…laughed to herself as she thought, ‘After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?’”  (Gen. 18:12)

The word here for pleasure means:  “delicate, delight, enjoyment, pleasure.”  Here is one of the many places in the Bible here we can see God’s very beautiful and positive perspective on sexual relationships within marriage between a male and female…man and woman…husband and wife.  Same-sex relationships can experience passion – but not authentic pleasure!  That’s because it is a spiritual experience that is manifest in the physical and sexual.

Sarah spoke of her sexual relationship with Abraham in terms of “pleasure” – not shame or pain!  Sexual relationships within marriage are sanctified and purified – and therefore holy!  According to the Bible, sex is spiritual by nature.  It is far more than just a physical act – which animals can do as well as humans!  But since “God is Spirit” and the author of sexuality, it has His nature – spirit.  Sexuality was never supposed to be divorced from spirituality.

That tragic perversion and inversion took place as a result of sin.  Selfishness took over and redefined the nature of sex.  It became “self-centered” rather than “God-centered” and “spouse-centered.”  The spiritual dimension was taken out of the sexual relationship between men and women.  As a result, the greatest pleasure and fulfillment were lost.  And they can only be restored when there is a new union between the spiritual and the sexual.

Principle:
“Sex is by nature spiritual rather than just physical.  It is intensified when it is sanctified and purified.”

We can see in the Bible a very positive picture of sexual love between a man and wife – even in old age!  Our society has relegated passionate sexuality and sensuality to the young and virile.  As a result, it is perceived that sexual pleasure is something we age out of.  But that’s a fantasy.  While frequency of sexual expression may be less frequent, it need not be less passionate or pleasureful.  That’s one of the beauties of being an authentic “Sister of Sarah” who never ceases to enjoy pleasure.  She has come to realize that her femininity is greater than her sexual capacity.   Her sexuality is more than her sensuality because of her spirituality.

Finally, “Sisters of Sarah” are women who are…

STRONG

Peter’s final words of exhortation and encouragement to these wives he was addressing was that they be spiritually strong.  He reminded these Gentile women: “You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”  (I Pet. 3:6b)

This is a timely reminder that fear is every woman’s greatest enemy!  It is the first negative emotion recorded in the Bible.  And fear always causes us to hide from God…hide from ourselves…hide from our spouses (Gen. 3:10).  As such, fear is both man and woman’s most persistent, lifelong enemy!  Fear constantly attacks our faith!

Principle:
“Fear is every woman’s greatest and most persistent enemy.”

You see, it takes great spiritual strength to continue to “…do what is right” when others around you – especially your husband – is “doing what is wrong!”

Peter reminded them that as Christian woman and wives, they must be committed to “…do what is right” regardless if everyone around them was making wrong choices.  That takes strength.  And not just physical strength – but spiritual strength that comes from the power of the Holy Spirit.

What wives usually do when they are in these kinds of stressful situations is to “…give in to fear.”  They tend to let their faith falter and let their fears take control.  They fear that things will never change.  So they take things into their own hands.  If their husbands are “disobedient to the word,” then they will do the same.  They follow his lead further down the path of marital disobedience.  This soon leads to a “double drowning.”

Peter reminded these wives not to focus on the circumstances around them…the disobedience of their unbelieving husband…their own ability to make things happen…their own physical beauty as their hope to seduce and change him.  To do so was a sure feminine receipt for failure because they would ultimately be overcome by fear!  So Peter encouraged them to look beyond their husbands and look to God as their Divine Husband and Lover of their soul.

The Bible reminds us that there is only one cure for fear – and that is FAITH!  You must have faith in God’s unconditional love and unremitting concern for you.  You must rest in the assurance that regardless of what you have to face or go through, His love will never leave you or let you down!

The key verse here to stake your life and marriage upon is:  “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear…” (I John 4:18).  So Peter encourages them by saying: “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened” (I Pet. 3:14).

Faith makes you strong – while fear makes you weak.  Fear causes a woman to “hit the panic button” or fall into the deep, dark hole of despondency and depression!

If you focus on your husband…on yourself…on your circumstances – I can assure you that fear will overcome you!  And when fear overcomes you, your circumstances will also overcome you!  But as John said: “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.(I Jn. 5:4)

So, “Sisters of Sarah,” focus on faith this Mother’s Day!  Focus on God and His unconditional and eternal love for you – and fully accept it by faith.  If you do, you will be a true “Sister of Sarah” who is “…strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.”  (Eph. 6:10)

CONCLUSIONS

Women and wives, if you will allow these promises and principles to control your thinking and acting, God will truly mature you into a “Sister of Sarah!”  You can join her eternal sorority by faith.  Those are  the only dues that are required.  And membership is not just for time – it is for eternity!

Peter reminds us that our homes…our churches…our world, need to see more “Sisters of Sarah” and less “Sisters of Society!”  We need to see more “women of God” rather than “women of the world.”

We need to see women who place their greater emphasis on “internal beauty” rather than “external beauty.”  We need more “Sisters of Sarah!”  As Peter wrote, to become a “daughter of Sarah” is a Mother’s Day gift to your husband and children that will last forever! 

Happy & Holy Mother’s Day!

JL

PS:  Please feel free to pass this “Mother’s Day Card” from Peter on to other women, wives and mothers you know. 

Also, we have just received a couple of urgent needs that I hope you will be able to help us with through a special “Mother’s Day Gift.”

Sister Sarita Pradhan, who is the mother to our 20 children at the Bethany Children’s Home for Bhutanese and Indian children has been hospitalized.  She has been transported from the Bhutan border to the Holy Palace Hospital in West Bengal, India.  Any gift to help us with her medical expenses will be deeply appreciated.

Stakwell Yurenimo just wrote me to say there has been a storm, heavy rains and floods that have completely washed away a Turkana village we had been ministering to for several years.  The pictures below are from some of our happier visits.

These pictures show the village completely gone, the 400 people homeless, the children naked.  Their animals were also washed away.  The only food was a donkey head they were roasting!  Think about that as you enjoy a sumptous Mother’s Day dinner!  Stakwell is asking for $3,000 - $5,000 to buy blankets, food, cooking utensils and to build shelters for these people.  So any gift to these destitute mothers and children will be so timely and appreciated.  And you can give on line to speed your gift to us so we can immediately send funds to Stakwell.

The washed away village; Stakwell visiting the camp; Naked women and children; A donkey head being roasted for food

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