1 Peter 3:1-6 (ESV)
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives—  when they see your respectful and pure conduct.  Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing—  but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.  For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands,  as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
Where to begin? So many women today chafe at these words, “be subject to your own husbands.” But I think it is good to heed this, especially when dealing with unbelieving spouses. Seems often women converted to Christianity and the husbands did not. Often women were married off to unbelieving husbands. In anycase it is nothing new to see women and unbelieving husbands together. That is what it means here that the husband does not “obey the word.”
The word here in Greek is apeitho. It can mean to disobey. The root of the word peitho means to be persuaded, or convinced. So perhaps the word is better thought of as remaining unconvinced, not believing the word. Of course, the ultimate sin is to not believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, to spurn the grace of God. So in that sense they disobey. Yet I still cringe at this particular translation. Believing is a bit more that obeying the law of God which is how this translation is going to be read by the average reader. It reinforces a legalistic understanding of Christianity, and that is not what it is trying to do.
This passage is, though, telling women how to win over the husbands they love and cherish. Today in my neck of the woods I run into this question all the time. “What do I do about my husband? He doesn’t believe? He won’t go to Church with me?” And here is the answer. In short Paul is saying love your husbands. Be subject to them, subject yourself to them in love. It is how men are loved, to have a woman who respects him, subjects herself to him, etc. Men love that. They love in return. They respond to it very well. And it isn’t very common. The world doesn’t tell women to do this, it certainly doesn’t tell them to do that anymore.
Do not let your adorning be external. Now this has been read at times to mean that women shouldn’t braid their hair or wear earings. That is a pretty naïve reading of the text. A man as wealthy as Abraham did not dress his most beautiful wife, seducer of two kings, in rags. Actually I think this is sometimes one area that upsets men, is their wives don’t dress up for them. There aren’t too many men that want to come home to find their wife in pajamas. Sorry, they don’t. Women come home from work and the first thing they want to do is dress down. The husband gets the idea his wife will dress up for anyone but him. Paul isn’t saying you can’t do your hair up and look nice, even drop dead gorgeous. He is saying don’t let the beauty stop there, rather let your adornment be more than just the externals, let it be in the hidden person of the heart. Let love be your true adornment, let it manifest itself in what you do for the one you love.
This will turn a man. This will make a man want to come to church. Don’t nag. Nagging will only make him look forward to Sunday morning when you are at church, and he doesn’t have to listen to your nagging. Rather in a quiet spirit, pray for him and love him. In this way you show yourselves to be daughters of Sarah, not fearing anything frightening, but trusting solely in the lord who has forgiven you sins, and given you the freedom to truly love your husbands.