If I write another book, it’s going to be a study through I Peter similar to the one I did on Ephesians, entitled Be Like Christ: The Message of I Peter to Women. I usually decide on a title early on in the writing process, and that title drives the vision for the rest of the book. However, if I’m writing a Bible study as opposed to a topical book, I don’t get to determine the focus of the book, right? I need to stay true to the intent of the author of I Peter. Thankfully, it didn’t take long in my study of I Peter for God’s purpose in I Peter to become clear to me. Like Ephesians, I Peter is a connected, coherent book. The content flows from previous thought, and early on, Peter sets up the context – Be Like Christ. From that foundation comes some fairly specific words to women. While I have taken the content of those specific instructions to women seriously for myself, the foundational overview of I Peter to women to Be Like Christ is monumental. It’s life changing. It takes every other instruction to women throughout Scripture and puts it in its context. And proper context means everything.
I recently went to the Seattle Art Museum as a birthday gift with a much more artistic friend. I told her going in that I felt like the muscles in the art side of my brain had atrophied. Math and logic come easier for me, and hence I tend toward those disciplines. Subsequently, though I love art from afar, I do not have well exercised art muscles. Walking into the museum to see the special exhibit bequeathed by Edward Guinness, of Guinness Ale, to Kenmore House in London, I was ready to exercise those muscles for the first time in a very long time. I saw a Rembrandt of Rembrandt (one of his self portraits) and many other incredible works. But the exhibit came ALIVE when I put the museum’s narration telephone up to my ear and let the curators give me context for each picture. Pictures that simply drew my notice morphed into pictures that drew my serious examination and admiration. They became representations of much more in my head than what my eye alone could see. The social issues directly affecting the artist and his subject in each image. The historical context. The artistic culture at the time. Each added to the context of the image and morphed the image into something more than the sum of its parts.
And so it is when we understand the context of both Peter’s instructions to women in I Peter and Paul’s to women in Ephesians. Be. Like. Christ. Paul uses the phrase, “Be imitators of God” (Eph. 5:1) to set up the whole of his female specific instructions later in the chapter. Peter says that Christ has left us an example that we should follow in His steps (I Peter 2: 21) as the opening salvo in his applications to various specific groups in the church, including wives of husbands who are disobeying God. This isn’t Biblical rocket science. Men and women emerge on the scene of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 as image bearers of God. Imaging God is the entire point of the first woman being called a helper to the man.
Yet, for some reason, the Be Like Christ foundation for women is not often the opening description when people, conservative or not, discuss Biblical womanhood. In contrast, Be Like Christ is clearly how the Bible opens the major descriptions of general womanhood and instructions to women in Genesis, Ephesians, and I Peter. I have my theories why that discrepancy might be, but I won’t explore them here.
Suffice it to say, Be Like Christ. It’s so simple at one level, yet so deep at another. Back up from the details of what you think it means to be a woman who obeys God. Whatever you think about your home, your job, your spouse, your kids, your church, or any other aspect of your personal/public/ministry life, back up and get that foundation. Be Like Christ. That’s the end goal. That’s the purpose of every instruction to women from beginning to end. There’s definitely some being like the Church for women, but even that is a second tier application that informs the more fundamental foundation of imitating God. After getting that foundation, reengage with the stewardship to which God has called you, whatever that may be. Reengage with Scripture about that stewardship. And reengage with the application in your own life. I trust that you, like me, will find that the context, Be Like Christ, changes everything.