(continued from Part 1)
We are to treat all people with respect, to love our fellow Christian (even those who irk us), to give reverence to our God and to honour the Government and its representatives.
Why? Because ultimately we are God’s slaves. We have been bought with a price, the precious life of Jesus. He died to bring us back to God. He rose to give us new life and new attitudes. We serve him, in part, by aiming to be good citizens.
We are to submit to our employers as well.
The people to whom Peter wrote were not socially influential. Some of them might once have been employers, and some might once have been rich and powerful. But as outcasts and strangers because they had come to trust Jesus, some were now slaves and others were perhaps in jobs that just keep body and soul together.
A motive to do what the boss says might simply be to avoid a beating if you are a slave, or to keep the job that you need to survive, but this is not the motive that Peter urges on Christians.
Peter tells the household slaves to submit to their masters for Jesus’ sake, because ultimately we are slaves to the best of Masters, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Peter knows that some masters can be twisted, harsh, unthinking and uncaring. He knows that some masters mistreat their slaves even when the slaves are doing a good job.
Peter tells Christian slaves to submit to them and patiently bear the mistreatment.
But he goes even further.
Peter says it is better to be treated badly for doing good and taking that mistreatment patiently, than to keep doing the wrong thing and taking punishment patiently.
Why? We are to keep doing good while suffering wrong because we are to imitate Christ. We are not to keep doing wrong and taking punishment patiently, because our bad behaviour brings Christ into disrepute. We need to use our minds — to think of consequences beyond our own preferences.
We are to imitate the example – Christ’s ‘copy book’ — that Jesus has left for us.
The Greek word for ‘example’ literally means to ‘write under’. It refers to the way little children learn to write by copying the letters that someone else had written for them. They followed the example given. We are to see the pattern of the life of Jesus Christ, and do as he did. We might not always get it right (see the copybook above), but we are to make our best efforts for Jesus’ sake.
We are to follow in his footsteps – imitate his way of life (walking is a metaphor for living)
What did Jesus do? He…
- Did good
- Did not speak deceptively
- Did not bad-mouth those who abused him
- Did not threaten (he has legions of angels at his command but did not use them in his own defence)
- Committed his case to God who acts justly – (cf. Rom 12)
Christ suffered unjustly – the rulers killed an innocent man – but when he suffered, he suffered for our sins, so that when he died, he died our death for us. The injustice of Christ’s death came from sinful human reaction to his life of obedience to the God we hated. That is where the injustice lies.
God was not unjust in sending His Son to live and die and rise to save us. Those acts of God were not unjust, rather, they were merciful – a demonstration of God’s goodness to bad people. God himself made himself the legal surety for his people. He would pay their debt for them. What God did was just and kind. What we did to him was unjust, because Jesus did no wrong. He had no case to answer when he was accused. What we intended for evil, God intended for good.
When Jesus died for our sins, we died to sin in Him. Hebrews tells us that for the joy set before him, Jesus went to the cross for our sakes, despising the shame, so we might be saved. In suffering unjustly, the Lord Jesus submitted to the will of God and his submission brought about great good for undeserving people like us. When we submitt to unjust treatment, God intends good to come from it.
We were lost sheep, and our good shepherd came for us. He cares for us. He has brought us back to the God we had offend, and he brought us back forgiven and acceptable to our God.
For the sake of the cross of Christ, we are to live a life of submission to the circumstances God has placed us in. We do this so that Christ might be known as a God worth serving, as a God who saves bad people and changes their out-look on life (v.12).