Peter was probably aware that some of the scattered saints who would read his letter were saved women with unsaved husbands. In their culture, and under Roman law, men had complete authority over their wives. A Christian woman in that situation must have been tempted by one of two extremes: to either resist the authority of her ungodly husband who did not support or understand her new-found faith (and even leave him to find a godly man), or to preach the gospel to him 24/7. Certainly a Christian woman should share the gospel with her unsaved husband, but Peter advised that the best approach under the circumstances was to live a godly life, accept his authority, and win him to Jesus “without a word” (v.1-2). She should concentrate on her inner beauty more than her outer beauty, letting her “gentle and quiet spirit” (v.4) be her most attractive feature.
Peter, who was himself a married man (see Matthew 8:14), told his married Christian brothers to honor their wives, to give them the security of intelligent leadership in the home, and to treat them with tender, loving care (v.7). (Note: Deep down, I believe that even the most strong-willed, independent, assertive woman wants to be treated like the “weaker vessel” — a fine, delicate, expensive vase — rather than a clunky, old skillet!) If a man does not honor his wife, it will affect his relationship with God and hinder his prayers. I can only imagine how hard this must have been for Peter, the rough, loud-mouthed fisherman, but the gospel had transformed his life and enabled him to love like Jesus.
In verse 8 Peter addresses everyone, listing five attitudes that should define any local church:
Unity of mind — everyone headed in the same direction, guided by the same priorities
Sympathy — being sensitive to the hurts and needs of others
Brotherly love — treating each other like family
Tender hearts — caring for each other
Humble minds — putting the needs of others first
Conflict is bound to happen in any church. People say unkind words and do hurtful things (v.9), but we should not strike back. Instead, we should bless one another, tame our tongues, and seek peace in every relationship (v.9-11).
Suffering was also bound to happen for Peter’s readers. Believers live in a way that cuts against the grain of the culture; lost people often resent our standard of righteousness and hate our Savior (v.14). While we are obeying Christ’s commands and living out our faith, we may be mocked and slandered, or even pressured and persecuted. Any level of suffering for our faith should not come as a surprise to us, because our Savior suffered (v.18). In fact, what Jesus accomplished through His suffering on the cross (“bringing us to God”, v.18) is “the reason for the hope that is in us” (v.15)! We should be ready to share that hope and to defend our faith any time God gives an opportunity — even if that opportunity comes through personal suffering. Are you ready?