The characteristic of Scripture expressed in Hebrews 4:12 as a ‘double-edged sword which exposes the deepest intention of the heart’ resonates very well with me, especially whenever I come across 1 Peter 3:3-4.
“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
Time and time again, as I read these two verses, they became a commandment I could never adhere to. The first is to not let my adorning to be external and the second is to have the beauty of the gentle and quiet spirit. Even though it is not chronically aligned with 1 Peter 3:3-4, I will first touch on the second commandment.
Growing up in an all-girls school in Malaysia, as a Convenite, we would always be classified as vocal, vivacious and opinionated girls possibly because we had no boys around to keep our mouths shut and our opinions bound to ourselves. That, and the increasing fight for freedom of speech as a way to oppose tyranny and dictatorship to triumph democracy, I was engulfed with the glorious idea of being outspoken and opinionated in a world which was synonymous with forthrightness. It was easy to be absorbed in the exalted notion of standing up for yourself and the people around you, the good for social justice and fairness – which are actually good, because they are commanded in the bible (Psalms 82:3). Hence, me. A vocal, assertive, outspoken girl who finds means to promulgate her views and broadcast her opinions – a complete antithesis to the call of being reserved and reticent, as advocated in Scripture.
Whenever I come across that verse, I would think: There’s no way this verse works well on me, it’s a complete contradiction to my personality and character! However, what I began to realise overtime was that the deterrence towards carrying out this seemingly impossible commandment goes beyond what looks to be a trait sculptured by upbringing, friends and society. This verse calls for a change in character and priorities of the heart. The call to be meek and mild is not only for women, because in the Sermon of Mount, Jesus said that only the meek shall inherit the Earth (Matthew 5:5). Gentleness and patience is also a fruit of the Spirit which all Christians are expected to bear (Galations 5:22-23). The notion of being gentle, mild, meek, and quiet stretches beyond a certain trait or personality as it is a call to submit before Christ and His sovereignty and to clothe ourself in humility before our Creator. That is the kind of beauty that the Lord is attracted to for He showers grace upon the humble and scorns the proud (Proverbs 3:34).
Think about it: Whenever we broadcast our views, it is not a matter of an opinionated character, but our pride entitling our views to a status that considers esteemed magnification. The danger becomes serious when we force our views on other people, which leads to quarrel as strife develops from pride (Proverbs 13:10). Of course, there is no harm in having a healthy, discussions revolving around an exchange of ideas and opinions. But with such acts, there must be grace and humility involved and no means of elevating the pride of oneself. After all, we are called to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21). The sad reality is that, the very competitive nature of pride leads us to grow defensive when someone snubs our opinion and we elevate our views to a status of supreme authority. Therefore, the verse in 1 Peter 3:4 is simply a fruit for knowing Christ and humbling ourself to his Lordship, submitting to his call to submit to one another out of reverence for Him.
Finally, not let my adorning be external? No attractive hairdo, immaculate clothes and shiny jewellery? That’s like depriving a child of toys and denying dogs of bones. Again, it’s another commandment which I struggle to obey as a girl who takes pleasure in dressing-up, garlanding myself with accessories, embellishing my face with make-up and enhancing pre-planned outfits with matching shoes. I love going on mini shopping sprees and coming back with investments that I can drape on my body to make me look good and feel good. Dressing up and ensuring that my physical appearance is up to par is an act of elevating my self-confidence.
I don’t think it’s harmful to want to look good once in awhile. It is always good to look polished, sophisticated and elegant. We wear our Sunday’s best when we come together to worship the Lord. But, like all seemingly harmless activities, it can be perilous to the soul when it becomes one’s identity and idol, snatching away the throne in our hearts that truly belong to Christ. This verse also resonates well with the fact that ultimately, it only depends what God sees in the deepest parts of our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). I believe the ultimate danger of emphasising so much on our outfits and outward appearances is that it becomes our identity and it is easy to fall in this trap because when you look good, you are praised, and nothing corrupts the heart more than seemingly innocent words of adoration and admiration. The heart is deceitful above all else (Jeremiah 17:9) and the human soul is a perpetual factory of idols that consumes our being.
Also, it is not right to cause our brothers to stumble by dressing inappropriately and drawing lust (Romans 14:13). 1 Peter 3:3 is also a call to treat our bodies with respect as our bodies are living temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 16:9). Of course, matters such as these are grey areas and we must thoroughly search our hearts and find our deepest intentions for wearing a mini skirt to church or a low-cut to bible study.
1 Peter 3:3-4 is not easy to fulfil especially when the world seems to adorn outspoken girls and scantily and ostentatiously dressed women in magazines and social media. But Jesus did say that we are not of this world and we don’t belong to it. The road to Calvary is a narrow one fraught with spiritual warfare, we must always be on guard and consider Christ.
 A good article which speaks about the cultural understanding and biblical understanding of meekness – http://www.thevillagechurch.net/the-village-blog/rethinking-a-gentle-spirit-for-women/
NOTE: Vanessa Yeo is an aspiring and passionate writer who wishes to write to identify with fellow Christians and encourage them. She is a university student from Straits Baptist Church Malacca and this is an article she wrote while she was struggling to understand and carry out the seemingly difficult commandment of 1 Peter 3:3-4. Her hope is that this article will bless, encourage, and resonate well with other girls and women who can possibly identity with this subject.
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