For only $114 you can buy 3.3 ounces of “Eternity” that will make you smell like BO (death) and flowers. It’s Christmas, perfume advertisements are everywhere, and they seem to work, for we all would like to think that we can purchase eternity in a bottle and apply it externally to the skin.
1 Peter 3:3, “Do not let your adorning (Greek: kosmos) be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the wearing of clothes.” Apparently, the early Christians wore clothes, and God adorns his bride with jewelry in the Old Testament. Pastors often adorn themselves with a robe, and to lose that robe is to be “defrocked.” If anyone ever tells you to “frock off,” if you simply defrock yourself, the insult loses all of its power.
Cosmetics are something of a lie, aren’t they? We adorn ourselves with “eternity” to hide our temporality—the fact that we are all dying. If you adorn yourself with titles, wealth, and “righteousness,” perhaps you’re doing just the same thing.
That’s the problem with cosmetics and the law; they’re both a trap. We all want to be seen, touched, and known, so we adorn ourselves, but then when we’re seen, it’s not actually us that others are seeing, touching, or knowing. We all want to act good so that people will think that we are good. But when they begin to know us and love us, it’s not us that they’re loving or knowing; it’s an imposter. And where are we? We’re imprisoned in a fortress of our own construction.
It’s like building a bigger and bigger home in order to impress the neighbors and then getting lost and imprisoned alone in the house that you built.
God had Moses build him a tent. And when David wanted to turn that tent into a stone temple, God was awfully ambivalent about the idea. He told David, “I have moved about with the people. You will not build me a house, but a Son of David will.”
In high school, I was attracted to my bride because she looked amazing, but she captured my heart when I saw that she had made herself vulnerable to me—when I saw the beauty of her unadorned soul. On our wedding day, she was adorned with cosmetics, amazing hair, a new gold ring, and a spectacular gown—an absolutely glorious temple. And yet, all I could think about was my unadorned bride for I would now touch her in the one place that for all of her life—since about the age of two—she had covered in shame. And she wouldn’t run from me in terror but hang on to me in joy. We all cover our “place of shame” and yet we all desperately long for “intimate communion.” That’s just weird or, in Biblical lingo, “Holy.”
“It’s not good that the Adam is alone,” said God. So, he made the Adam male and female and put them in a garden with an evil snake and the strangest tree. When they took the Good in flesh and the Life, which was hanging on the tree, they then covered themselves in fig leaves—they covered themselves in the very spot where they had been told to commune and bear fruit, the fruit of life; they invented clothes and cosmetics. The English word “cosmetic,” comes from the Greek word, “kosmos,” which almost everywhere else in Scripture is translated as “world.” If you let your world be your own external adorning, whatever threatens that “world” will feel like shame and a scandal; you will enforce your fig leaves with stone and die… Actually, it has already happened. Death is not non-existence; death is being alone. “The Life” once died, for he was buried in a temple of stone.
Our text, 1 Peter 2:13-3:7, is perceived by most Christians as scandalous, threatening, and quite shaming. Perhaps the scandal is the cross, the threat is to our own tomb, and we haven’t read this text well because of our shame?
1 Peter 2:13-17, “Be subject to every human institution…Honor everyone… Honor the Emperor.” What did Peter (and Jesus) see in Nero? Whatever it was, they thought it was worth dying for. Peter (and Jesus) intentionally suffered and died for Nero. Peter didn’t sacrifice himself to Nero, but he did sacrifice himself to God at a temple named Nero. He must’ve believed that even in Nero there was “imperishable spora (female seed, neshamah, ruach)” to be fertilized by the imperishable “sperma,” the Word of God. That spora must be the Breath of God breathed into the bag of dust that became each one of us. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you that you have from God (1 Cor. 6:19)?” A temple . . . within a Temple?
1 Peter 2:18-25, “Servants (slaves) being subject to your masters… He himself carried up our sins in his body on the tree… For you were straying like sheep but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” How did the Shepherd entice the sheep (the souls) back into the fold, that is his body, his temple, the New Jerusalem coming down? The King of Kings was defrocked—stripped of all external adorning—and crucified, just outside our city walls where his unadorned soul delivered up his Spirit. It’s Eternity in our hearts that recognizes Eternity on the tree. And Eternity on the tree that causes our walls to crumble and the veil to rip. And Eternity that wells up from the Inner Sanctuary and fills our old man with the eternal man, our empty stone temple with Life. And it’s Eternity that begins to flow between us and our neighbors in a communion of Eternal Life, the Kingdom at hand. I think we call the process “falling in love;” it’s romance; it’s one unadorned soul calling to another unadorned soul, saying “Rise and live. Remember who we are.” It is surrendered weakness. And in the End, it is the only real power that there is. To be created and to be saved is the be caught up in the Romance of God that is God.
1 Peter 3:1-6, “Likewise wives being subject to your own husbands… that they may be won (romanced)… do not let your kosmos be external… but let it be the hidden man (anthropos) of the heart in the imperishability of the gentle and tranquil Spirit… as Sarah obeyed Abraham calling him ‘lord.’” Sarah only called him this once. It was in Genesis 18 just after The God/Man said, “This time next year I will return and Sarah, your wife, will have a son.” Sarah laughed to herself, “saying, ‘After I am worn out, and my Lord (adon) is old shall I have pleasure (in Hebrew: eden)?” The God/Man hears and says, “Why did she laugh? Is anything too hard for the Lord (Yahweh)?”
Jesus is touching Abraham and Sarah in their place of greatest shame; he is touching them with Hope. They had spent their entire lifetime trying to bear the promised fruit but remained barren. With laughter, Sarah acknowledged their shame. Abraham is 99 years old . . . but in Abraham’s place of unadorned weakness, his naked shame, she called him ‘lord.’” She romanced him. It worked. She literally gave birth to the New Creation.
Peter knows that Nero is trapped in hell, slave masters are slaves to evil, and abusive husbands have no real power. But he is now speaking to the weak who comprised the early church and he is saying, “Don’t give up your true power trying to be like those who have no power, already enslaved and alone in hell.”
1 Peter 3:7, “Likewise husbands… showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel.” On average women have weaker bodies than men because they are constructed with a certain “weakness” in their vessel that turns out to be an immeasurable strength, without which there would be no hope for humanity. It’s hard to think of anyone weaker than the Jewish peasant girl from the backwater town of Nazareth named Mary, and yet there is no mere mortal who has ever wielded such power. And all because she said, “Let it be to me according to your Word.”
And yet, Jesus didn’t call himself “The Son of Mary;” he called himself “The Son of Man (Adam, all of us).” If you attempt to adorn yourself with righteousness, you only make an imitation Christ (an anti-Christ). But if you commune with the eternal man and allow him to touch you in your place of temporal shame, in the eternal sanctuary of your soul, you will give birth to Righteousness and be covered in Righteousness from the inside out—not self-righteousness but Christ. You will lose your cosmos (that’s frightening) and find it in Him (that’s ecstasy). That’s Eternal Life. That’s the Romance of God that is God.