A horse who lived alone way out in the country wanted to find a wife. He went to stay with a friend who lived on a ranch so that he could meet some potential mates. One mare was extremely beautiful. She was dressed in fine leather tack with gold rings, silver shoes and jewels braided into her mane. "Surely he will choose me" thought the mare. "For I am the most beautiful horse in the world!"
One of the ranchhands, a very plain looking donkey, saw to the stallion's every need. She brought him his meals, washed his tack and even shined his shoes, all without being asked. The mare with the braided hair noticed that when the donkey did these things, she had in her eyes an expression of adoration. Taking her aside, the mare berated the donkey very harshly. "How dare you harbor such feelings!" she whinnied. "I am to be his bride! I am beautiful, and you are worthless! Do not come near my future husband, or I will beat you!" The donkey only nodded obediently. Neither of them knew that the stallion had overheard them. He made his decision. All of the jewelry and precious metal in the world was no longer enough to make the mare attractive. He chose the donkey as his bride, and they were very happy together.
This week, we're going to go a little bit beyond what is normally included in the armor of God. Who here has heard of Vic Torious? For those of you not familiar with him, Vic had a very special suit which displayed the powers of the armor of God in physical fashion. His hat prevented mind control. His jacket could direct his actions. His shoes were super-adaptable. His tie also had its own very interesting power. It radiated peace, allowing him to keep his head in stressful situations. His armor included the ornamentation of a peaceful spirit.
Now in the passage we read earlier, Peter is addressing women. It makes sense. After all, in human society, it's the females who are decorative. Men don't wear a lot of decoration. Specifically, he is addressing wives. Paul says something similar in one of his letters. He encourages women to decorate themselves with the ornaments of good deeds. But I want to call something to your attention. In verse four, he uses the words "let it be the hidden man of the heart." Wait... If he's talking to wives, shouldn't it be "hidden woman"? Remember that this is Greek. "Man" would be used when addressing a mixed audience, but "woman" is proper when the people to whom he is speaking are all female. Is he really talking only to women here? Consider 1 Corinthians 15: 27,28.
27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.
28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
Some people look at the admonitions for women to be subject to their husbands and get all worked up about it. They use this to say that men are the bosses and women are inferior. That's not what this says, is it? Who is subject to whom in this passage in 1 Corinthians? Everyone is subject to Jesus. Everyone and everything. The only exception is God the Father, who PUT everything in subjection to Christ. Even Jesus Himself is subject to His Father. In fact, the bible tells us that just as the head of woman is man, the head of Christ is God. Jesus is not inferior to Jehovah. Not at all. How can infinity be less than infinity? The two of them work in unison, being so closely united that they are in every way a single God. Jehovah is merely the one who happens to be first among equals. That is how it should be with us. Take your relationship to me. The members of this church have placed me in a position of spiritual authority over them. Does that mean I bark orders at you? Of course not. I don't recall ever doing that, or ever having to. Nor should I. You allow me to teach and to organize you as a means of serving, and as you receive my teaching, you are the beneficiaries. Jesus told us that to be great in the kingdom of Heaven, we must be willing to serve. Thus, a meek and quiet spirit is as befitting to the one who leads as to the one who is in subjection. This instruction to adorn ourselves with meek spirits is to ALL of us. Male, female, (or either or neither or other or both) leader or follower, we are all the same.
Back to the subject of ornaments. There are two types of apparrel. There is the functional and the formal. The functional is comfortable, but tends to be rather plain. The formal looks good, but tends to be uncomfortable, and is useless for working in. Would you do heavy lifting in a tuxedo? Of course not. Armor tends to be the same way. There is the functional, and there is the decorative. But C.S. Lewis once wrote something very interesting. In Narnia, formal clothes are just as comfortable as casual wear, if not more. And why not? Is there any reason why the same fabric that goes into your favorite polo shirt could not also go into a long-sleeved formal shirt? Narnian tailors discovered that functional and beautiful are not mutually exclusive. So can your own armor be both functional and beautiful.
Where does one wear ornaments? The ears? The fingers? The tail? The horns? In fact, we can and do wear ornaments everywhere, from a diamond tiara to ruby slippers. So on what part of the armor of God would you expect to find the ornamentation of a peaceful spirit? Everywhere, of course! Peter's jewels of meekness and quietness, and Paul's jewels of good deeds both serve to amplify every part of the armor of God. I've said several times that when people see you coming down the street, they should be able to take one look at your armor and know who you stand for. If they see not only your righteousness, but righteousness encrusted with good deeds, don't you think that will make the Lord look more appealing to them? When they see the belt of truth interwoven with meekness and your shield studded with peace, isn't that going to bring greater honor to the one you represent? That's not to mention that it's also going to make YOU look pretty darn swell.
As to the question of what these ornaments are... After all, Peter calls them one thing and Paul calls them another. So are they good deeds or are they a peaceful spirit. The answer is yes. They are both. The point is to be beautiful on the insdide, and what is hidden on the inside will show on the outside. Not in physical form or in the manner of our dress. Clothes and make-up and jewelry and perfume, these things only tend to get in the way.
I know of one church in an extremely rural land where the inhabitants were only recently introduced to the concept of clothing. Soon, they were wearing clothing to church. It wasn't merely for modesty, however. This congregation began competing with one another. Their clothing became the focal point of their gatherings. It was such a distraction that it was impeding worship. Finally, the pastor had to tell them that if this was the way it had to be, it would be better to just stop wearing clothes to church. This... (removes and holds up tie) is nothing! Wearing things has no significance to God, nor does abstaining from it. This tie has zero weight in the spiritual realm. It is neither help nor hinderance. God sees right through anything you put over your body into your very soul, and if you're dressed in the finest linens, furs, jewels and colognes, but your soul is full of rottenness, it is not going to do you a whit of good. God is not going to approve, and you know what? neither is the world. Oh, they'll applaud you to your face, but behind your back, they'll treat you like exactly what you are: a lame joke. On the other hand, you could dress in a faded black habit. If you're spirit is kind, you will have the favor of God and the respect of large portions of the world. Not all of it, naturally, since NO ONE has that, but big chunks. That is because what is in your spirit will show in what you do. A meek spirit produces good works. A haughty spirit produces the selfish acts that win you disdain and ridicule. To paraphrase the hypnotist in "Shallow Hal", Inner beauty is the easiest thing to see, if you're looking for it, and sometimes when you're not.
This week's homework: Take inventory of your spiritual finery. Is your spirit humble? Contrite? Submissive? Meek? Where is your jewelry mounted? Is it apparent in your faith? Your righteousness? Your preparation of the gospel? When people look at you, what beauty do they see? Does that beauty honor the one who created you?
Next week: The mantle of love
Today's Reading: 1 Peter 3:1-5
3:1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;
2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.
3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: