The Pilgrims’ Guidebook: The principle of submission (2)

I Peter 2:18-21

Under the Roman Empire, slaves had no status; even if well treated, they were mere chattels, without any rights or legal protection. But Peter addresses Christian servants (including slaves) as people with free will – because they can still choose whether to obey their master willingly or unwillingly. Christian servants should not be defiant, rebellious or insolent, but respectful and obedient. It should make no difference whether our ‘boss’ is considerate or abusive; there is nothing particularly Christian about obeying a good and reasonable master, nor about enduring a punishment that is justly administered.

But the Christian should also submit to undeserved punishment. We do this not because we are weak, or afraid of men, or because we hope to ‘earn’ better treatment as a result. We endure it for God’s sake, to bring Him glory. Peter is not here advocating collusion with wickedness and abuse (if it is illegal, it should be brought to the attention of the law), but advising us how to behave ‘Christianly’ in an evil situation. The natural response to undeserved punishment (the response of our sinful nature) is to retaliate, to ‘get our own back’ in some way. The alternatives are (at best) stoic resignation, or (at worst) despair and depression. But acceptance of undeserved suffering with patience and without resentment is distinctively Christian. It is a hard thing to do, but we are called to do it in the knowledge that we have an assured status before God and that He will vindicate us in the end.

More than this, it is our calling to follow in the footsteps of the King of kings (Luke 9:23). Because Jesus was ready and willing to suffer for us, we must be ready and willing to suffer for Him. He has already led the way; He does not ask anything of us that He has not done Himself.

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