This is a subject that comes up often, and a few women in my bible study are the inspiration for this topic. I am fortunate to have a husband who is a believer, however, not all Christian women are. Some are married to non believers that support them, and other non believing husbands are not supportive.
Even though the bible states for a believer to marry a believer (2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?), that is not necessarily the case. We meet someone, we fall in love, we commit in marriage.
We are going to explore I Peter 3:1-6 3 Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.
Realize that God has made your husband leader of your family, Christian or not. You should never try to overrule his leadership in the household, even though he is a non believer. Even though he is not a believer in Christ, his judgment should not be thought of any less important or less worthy. Christianity never changes marriage and your love, affection, and obedience will be the best way of showing him the unmistakeable realism of God’s love, faithfulness, and mercy.
Chaste is referring to your actions of behavior, and not just chastity or purity. Your actions as a Christian wife should always be respectful (and at times that is difficult, and we all falter in this area). You may be chaste in all aspects of your marriage, and at the same time there may be many other things, including actions and attitude which could damage the devotion to Christ, and possibly avert any impact to your husband and marriage.
The word fear could be talking about fear of your husband or fear of God. The trait character referred to here is respect and appreciation in all areas which you should continuously follow. One reference that I found which I found enlightening by Robert Leighton is “fearing the least stain of chastity, or the very appearance of anything not suiting with it. It is a delicate, timorous grace, afraid of the least air, or shadow of anything that hath but a resemblance of wronging it, in carriage, or speech, or apparel.”
As far as arranging hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel, I, myself am unsure of how that can and does relate to us today. I am attaching commentary that I hope will be helpful not only to me, but whoever does read this: Geneva Study Bible: He condemns the unrestrained indulgences and excesses of women, and sets forth their true apparel, such as is precious before God, that is, the inward and incorruptible, which consists in a meek and quiet spirit. I hope that’s helpful.
The important part is to see that the heart is right and the spirit adorned with all the graces of holy life. The ornament of a humble and quiet spirit. Look to see inward rather than the outward. It kind of reminds me of a movie I watched quite a few years ago and stuck with me. It was called “Shallow Hal”. The movie featured Jack Black and Cameron Diaz. “Hal” played by Jack Black was a man who would look at the beauty of women from the outside rather than the inside. He randomly runs into a guy one day who puts some sort of trance or for lack of better word “spell” on him where he can longer see outer beauty, but inner beauty. His vision is physically altered. The women that he used to see that are beautiful on the outside, he visually saw them as being ugly because inside they were ugly, selfish people and women that were less attractive on the outside, he physically saw them as beautiful because on the inside they were kind, loving, real people. God sees us all the time 24/7. He is not concerned with the outer beauty that most of us women get caught up in. He cares about the inner beauty, the heart. Society today judges so much on material things and beauty, which in the end, it’s all worthless.
Former times is referring to the wives of the Old Testament: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Leah. All were wives who are examples of submission. This section explains simply that the women in those times trusted God and were submissive to their husband. For further reading on the historical women in the Bible, I highly recommend http://www.amazon.com/Women-Bible-Times-Every-Woman/dp/0785251480
Sarah showed devotion, respect and submissiveness to her husband, Abraham. Even when he had asked her to “pretend” that she was his sister and not his wife (so he would not be killed. Sarah was Abraham’s half sister, same father , different mother), she obliged. Christian women should use Sarah as an example of being submissive and giving her husband the ultimate authority.