The Most Terrifying Verse in the Bible

The key ingredient to being an authentic Lagosian is the ability to “change it” for a person. This means: to lambaste a person, often after undue provocation. This is because Lagos, the Centre of Stresselence (stress and excellence), is full of patience-testers, arrogant frustraters, and the intentionally obtuse. If the patient dog gets the fattest bone it is only because the Lagosian dog has eaten all the meat!

Time to ‘Change It’ For Real?

It is with this backdrop that God calls me, a true Lagosian woman, to have a gentle and quiet spirit. The first time that I read 1 Peter 3:4 it filled me with dread. Not only because I couldn’t “change it” anymore, but because in all my years I had never been described as gentle or quiet.

In all my years I had never been described as gentle or quiet

My bubbly, extroverted personality was something I was quite proud of. In fact, I liked that I could light up a room by just walking into it and that people liked that about me. Therefore I didn’t care to hide my shine under a bushel. Yet it seemed like this verse was asking me to do exactly that. It has forced me to confront a can I didn’t know I had been kicking down the road for far too long: biblical womanhood.

A Gentle and Quiet Spirit – No!

The picture of a “biblical woman” that we are often presented with is that of a woman who is timid and subdued. Verses like 1 Peter 3:4 seem to contribute to this unappealing image. We can skirt around the issue and say that this text is addressed only to wives or to women in a specific ancient context, or we can roll up our sleeves and confront the text. We are often guilty of reading the Bible with our own presuppositions. Thus, this text has filled me with dismay, because I saw gentleness and quietness to mean dormancy, timidity and suppression. But it doesn’t.

I saw gentleness and quietness to mean dormancy, timidity and suppression. But it doesn’t

Gentleness can be translated to meekness, which is not to be mistaken for weakness. Meekness is the ability to control one’s strength or restrain one’s power, not the absence of it. It means to be teachable, charitable, and humble. It can be defined as the quality of being kind and considerate. I am reminded that gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). This means that as we conform to the image of Christ, we will begin to show the evidence that his Spirit dwells in us, which for women, according to 1 Peter 3:4, includes having a gentle and quiet spirit.

God’s Design: Biblical Womanhood

“Biblical womanhood” is not the art of being timid and suppressed. It is simply God’s design for women, and it is good. It is for all women, in every season, across all ages, in all walks of life, of all personality types. Importantly, it affirms that we are not an afterthought. We are imago dei – made in the image and likeness of God. Thus women are distinct from men yet equal in dignity and worth (Genesis 1:27).

Women are distinct from men yet equal in dignity and worth (Genesis 1:27)

The Bible Celebrates Diversity

If there’s anything Christianity promises, it is transformation. For we all become new creatures in Christ, born into new life, to be conformed into the image of Christ (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 8:29). Conformity to Christ does not strip us of our diversity. The Bible recognises our differences in ability, personality and ethnicity. It affirms that God created all, works in all, and uses all for his glory.

Paul celebrates diversity, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” (1 Corinthians 12:4–6). The apostle John writes, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).

A Godly Woman – In All Her Guises

Throughout the Bible, godly womanhood is expressed in diverse ways:

  • Judges 4 presents Deborah as a leader, godly prophet, and judge over Israel
  • The book of Ruth tells us the story of a woman who displays selfless compassion
  • Proverbs 31 illustrates a remarkable God-fearing wife and businesswoman
  • the book of Acts introduces Dorcas, a disciple who was full of good works and acts of charity (Acts 9:36)
  • Acts 16:14–16 announces Lydia, a seller of purple goods and worshipper of God, who assisted with Paul’s welfare
  • Acts 18:24–26 shows Priscilla alongside her husband, Aquila, teaching Apollos
  • Romans 16:1–2 mentions Phoebe, a servant of the Cenchreaen church
  • Colossians 4:15 cites Nympha, who hosted a home church
  • Titus 2:3-5 displays a mother, wife, and homemaker mentoring younger women and wives.

These women represent a wide range of personality traits, abilities, and walks of life. Yet, Scripture holds each woman up as a good example of godly womanhood. Consider, therefore, this somewhat geeky analogy for biblical womanhood.

Conformity to Christ does not strip us of our diversity.

If you were told that a quadrilateral (or four sided) hole needed to be filled, a square would readily come to mind and be appropriate. But so would a rectangle, or a rhombus, or a parallelogram, or a trapezium, or a kite. Though they have unique attributes that make each different, they are united in their basic polygonal properties. Though flawed, as most analogies are, this serves as a helpful picture of biblical womanhood, which can be displayed in a myriad of ways and would still be edifying in all its forms.

The Call to Be Christ-Like

Biblical womanhood must be robust in its application. For God created a wonderful range of different women. Our unity in Christ means we can live out his design regardless of our culture, age and marital or socioeconomic status. The purpose of biblical womanhood is to glorify God wherever we find ourselves.

1 Peter 3:4 need not discourage those of us who are more bubbly and extroverted. It does not teach monotonous conformity. Rather, it describes an attribute that should belong to all kinds of women who are in Christ. The focus of this text is on our hearts – to be charitable and teachable, to listen before we speak and to remain humble.

Humility is not a personality trait; neither is being teachable or charitable. These attributes can be displayed in a woman who is an introvert or extrovert or ambivert. Ultimately, the call to have a gentle and quiet spirit – the call to biblical womanhood – is a call to be Christlike. It is good. Embrace it.