Good Tuesday morning. Greet the morning with gladness. This next part of the text we are studying is unpleasant and difficult to read. Especially so early in the morning!
In finishing Chapter 2 of 1 Peter, we must take into consideration the accepted practices and social structures of the time. It’s all about context. Peter writes instructions to all on attitude to God, the state, and each other. He is writing about Jesus, the suffering servant, but many have used this passage to justify slavery and poor treatment of servants.
1 Peter 2:13-25 (NRSV)
13 For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, 14 or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. 16 As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. 17 Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
The Example of Christ’s Suffering
18 Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh. 19 For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. 20 If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.
22 “He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
23 When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
I like verses 16 & 17 the most of this passage. “As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” To honor everyone would exclude the right to own slaves or treat others as less than yourself. However, with slavery being an accepted practice in that time and place, it seemed like Peter was attempting to justify their suffering by associating it with the suffering of Christ. Of course, that doesn’t make it right.
It comes from the writings of Isaiah 53 where the servant suffers in silence. Peter suggests that the most vulnerable Christians, slaves of unbelieving masters, should fit without complaint into the structures of society as a testimony to the faith, hoping that unbelievers will be converted by their behavior.
This is tough stuff, but still very important part of our scriptural history. Again, like Maya Angelou said, “When we know better, we do better.”
Blessings on your day,