Taking up the role of a slave, and reflecting the Creator God’s glory into the world by loving through and in spite of that role, as did Jesus, is surely a glorious representation of that which the covenant God intends for the people that have now been called by His name and who are identified by their claim that Jesus is indeed the crucified and resurrected Lord of all.
It is with all of these things in mind that one can then hear Peter’s call to wives (though there is neither male nor female) to “be subject to your own husbands” (3:1a). Again, the reason is not necessarily to exalt subservience for the sake of subservience, or to cause an undue pride amongst husbands, but that the Creator God might be glorified through a willful and conscientious act of love. The purpose of the subjection of the wife was to advance the claims of the Gospel and to extend the reach of the kingdom of God on earth.
For this reason, Peter adds, “Then, even if some are disobedient to the word,” that being the word that there is a new imperial order and that Jesus stands at its head, demanding a new way of living that is contrary to all that the world holds dear (then and now, though one should not so shortsighted as to limit this critical demand merely to the pursuit of pleasure and what are often termed “carnal” sins), “they will be won over without a word by the way you live, when they see your pure and reverent conduct” (3:1b).
Husbands might see the meal table at which their wife participates and find themselves in a state of stunned disbelief. They may hear the talk of a new and far more powerful and wide-ranging kingdom, but find that those who speak of such things do not take up arms or attempt direct subversion, but rather are the model citizens that are the most concerned with the welfare of all, and demonstrate this concern without regard for honor, shame, or social status.
Before taking up what comes next in Peter’s admonition to wives, it is worthwhile to visit this idea of “social benefaction” or “good deeds.” There may be a temptation to think that this is a new and novel concept, but upon further inspection, one would find that such practices are well rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures that codify the story of Israel and serve as the basis for the self-understanding of those that are called out as the people of the covenant God, be it Israel or the church.
This is not the place to make an exhaustive search of the Scriptures to find this practice of social benefaction concretized, as a minor example should serve admirably. One could consider the detailed examples of the remission of debts that are to be found in the Torah (or Pentateuch) and the practice of the Jubilee, but these would be considered grand examples that might have gone unfulfilled by Israel, merely held up as unrealized ideals. Jesus, of course, used the language of the Jubilee (the remission of all debts) that was taken up by Isaiah as part of His personal introduction that is recorded in the fourth chapter of Luke. If Jesus is informing the people that the Jubilee, at long last, is finally being fulfilled in Him, then it stands to reason that the Jubilee, long expected of His people by their God, had gone unobserved for centuries, if ever.