Dear Peter is the patron of my church, and over the last few years has become a model for me as an example of what a very human disciple and apostle should look like. He gets it wrong, more often than right, when we responds to Christ; but he responds with his whole being. He struggles and strives to step up to the mark when his faith calls on him to put it all on the line, and yet he knows what it means to fail-really fail-to the point of actually rejecting his friend, teacher and savior not once but three times in a single night when that dear friend needed him most. He is in so many ways the ultimate projection of the wise elder who is formed not only by his talent and intelligence as by his ability to continue rise from failure, grow and evolve and then teach from a place of humility his personal relationship to the depth and width of the mercy of a loving and forgiving God.
And then he opens his mouth about marriage in this first Epistle, and the temptation to turn from him instead of to him for relationship guidance is nearly (and appropriately) overwhelming. He tells wives to submit to their husbands. By our post-modern estimation, this counsel both dehumanizes and profoundly marginalizes women while installing a patriarchy in the church that will mess us up for millennia. On top of that, the compensating command to husbands to treasure their wives seems to pale against a sense that somehow their wives are honored for their being the weaker part of the whole. Why? So that the husband's prayers are not hindered.
His words hobble our ability to embrace what I believe his over-arching intent was in seeking to model the life of the church on a revised concept of "marriage," the binding of one person to another by vows and mutual (hoped for) affection.
Perhaps that is the key to Peter's restoration in our sight as someone who can speak to us about relationships. In his flawed manner he is attempting to reform both the common understanding of marriage in his day (men as paterfamilias and women/children as chattel, simple conveyances of property) to something more.
Peter paints a picture of community in the latter part of this chapter as a two-fold call to us to both submit to God's love and mercy and practice mutual submission to each other. For all that Christ did for us, can we do less than to respond to each human being in our lives as if they are Christ Himself, come to call? When we honor the other in our lives, he says, we honor Christ. When we embrace mutual submission with each other, we not only discover the Christ in others; we manifest it in our own selves. That is a powerful, beautiful and high calling to embrace.
On top of that, our beloved Peter achieves this teaching by being both wise enough to offer it and flawed enough to risk being "wrong." If he were a baseball player, he would be continually swinging for the bleachers on the first pitch, regardless of what was coming across the plate.
God bless him for trying...and God give us the grace to see and hear woven into his words (even the awkward ones) the great love of Christ flowing through him, into us and thus into the here and now of a world that really needs to relearn the lesson of mutual submission.