After last weeks discussion of context, we hope we don’t have to go into context of the context, but if you need a quick refresher, I would suggest brief yourself on last weeks message, title True Christianity. The summary is that Christianity is not just an addition to our worldly life. It turns everything upside down and inside out. Christ in us now becomes our identity. Not the build we frequent, the friends we have or the clothes and jewelry we wear.
18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to the kind and gentle but also to the overbearing. 19 For one is approved if, mindful of God, he endures pain while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it, if when you do wrong and are beaten for it you take it patiently? But if when you do right and suffer for it you take it patiently, you have God’s approval. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. – 1 Peter 2:18-25 RSV
Peter has shifted focus from our salvation and where we are going to how to live here and now. We join back in with Peter as he takes up another tough situation: what if you are a servant with an unbelieving master or even a crooked and abusive master? What does true Christianity look like in that situation?
Christian Servants with Unbelieving Masters
Peter tells us what it looks like.
- Verse 18: Christian servants are submissive with all respect to their masters.
- Verse 19: Christian servants bear up under sorrows when they suffer unjustly.
- Verse 20: Christian servants do good and when they suffer for it, they bear the suffering patiently.
- Verse 23: Christian servants do not return evil for evil; when reviled, they do not revile back or threaten.
In other words Christians are not defiant or rebellious or insolent. They have a spirit of meekness and submission and compliance—even when their masters are unreasonable and abusive. Many times there are groups that call themselves Christians and they just want to use Christ and the bible in a way to justify their own desires. They claim that Jesus was an outcast, a rebel. They claim that he stood for justice, that he would make a difference in this world. That is correct, but he would do it with his style, not how they tend to act.
Can you be submissive and have respect with an unruly or inconsiderate boss or leader?
Jesus was an outcast, not by his actions, but my society’s actions. Jesus does stand for justice, but he did not make everything right while he was here. There were many not healed, there were many sad and horrible things that happened around him while he lived. But he still aligned with the character described in the bullets above. How? Because he was a foreigner, he was not from this world. This world is not His home.
What Does This Have to Do with Showing God?
If all those bullets of character are true, how do we show God to the world by acting that way? How does tolerating others and just being the whipping boy “declare the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light”? How is this a kind of life that will cause people “to glorify God on the day of visitation”?
The first part of the answer is that this heart and this demeanor are utterly contrary to our fallen human nature. It opposes our natural instinct. I would bet that even while we are sitting around the table, there are strong feelings of resistance rising against this call for meekness and submission and compliance—let alone to unreasonable and abusive masters. (or facilitator of a bible study)
By nature we hate to give the impression of weakness. We hate to look like someone got the advantage of us. We hate to let false accusations against us stand. We hate it when unreasonable and abusive people seem to have the last say. Tremendous powers within us recoil and push us toward retaliation.
We even tend to complain and declare how we think we should be treated, we point out things that are unfair. Yet we plead to be more like Jesus.
How many times does Jesus complain about this situation, that people were unfair to him?
So what Peter calls for here is utterly contrary to our fallen human nature. That’s the first thing to say when we ask: What does this demeanor have to do with showing God? If we triumph over our own fallen nature and live at this amazing level, it is strong evidence that something more than nature—outside nature, above nature—is at work in our lives, which is our relationship with Jesus.
Five Lifestyle Evidences of God
In this section Peter tells us five times that this amazing kind of life, so contrary to human nature, is owed to our connection with God. God is being shown, because God is the key to this utterly counter-natural way of life. We can’t be this way without the power of God to guide us, restrain us and ease us.
In other words, having a relationship with Jesus DOES make a difference. A radical difference. The root of our fallen nature is severed by the axe of God. Christians now are living from radically different premises, different values, different priorities, a different focus altogether.
Notice the five times that Peter connects to God this radical freedom from our old, natural spirit of retaliation.
1. Conscience Toward God
19For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. – 1 Peter 2:19 NASB
We do not endure sorrow and unjust suffering out of the fear of man or even out of our own weakness. Those are irrelevant. We bear it “for the sake of conscience toward God.” That is, we take God into account. We look to God and not to our circumstances. God is the unseen factor for the world. They will never understand our behavior when we live to God. Our hope through tough times is based on His foundation, our cornerstone.
We are not to give up or skip out on opportunities or duty because they get difficult. We also are not to seek revenge or conspire to hurt others because we have been hurt. This is about being a good worker so we reflect Christ and give Him glory. It is also about being a good witness by showing that extra-ordinary virtue of Christ.
The backside of this is there is no glory or honor in enduring rebuke and punishment that we deserve!
2. Favor with God
20 Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. – 1 Peter 2:20 NLT
Peter probably means here that God delights in behavior that reflects utter reliance on his grace when the supports of the world are knocked out. When a Christian, out of “conscience toward God,” looks to God for strength and courage and hope and peace in a time of suffering; and as a result bears the suffering patiently, God sees it as a tribute to his grace. God is shown in it. And when God is shown God is pleased.
32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. – Luke 6:32-33 ESV
3. Called by God to Suffer
Here is a verse many “happy American Christians” want to avoid. We know it won’t be their life verse.
21a For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering – 1 Peter 2:21a
The point is that this kind of non-retaliating, gracious, submissive behavior is owing to a call from God. “You have been called for this.” Suffering unjustly in this world is not a coincidence for Christians; it’s a calling. “To this you were called.”
Peter continues on this thought in the next chapter:
9Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t snap back at those who say unkind things about you. Instead, pray for God’s help for them, for we are to be kind to others, and God will bless us for it. – 1 Peter 3:9
He says it clearly, don’t return evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing, showing the character of God at the same time.
Do you ever feel like you have received a blessing when you endure an unfortunate situation?
Suffering with patience shows God because it is an answer to his calling; it is obedience to our vocation.
4. Christ as Our Example
We are not told to suffer and figure it out on our own. Christ walked it out. If we are to be more like Christ, then that is also a character that we should be seeking and maturing in.
21b just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. – 1 Peter 2:21b
Enduring unjust suffering patiently shows God because it makes the suffering of Christ real to people. People can see that this is the way Jesus was. And if you have seen Jesus, you have seen the Father (John 14:9). So this kind of demeanor shows God by showing Christ his Son.
5. Entrust Yourself to God Who Judges Righteously
23 while being reviled, He (Jesus) did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; – 1 Peter 2:23
Here is one of the most important keys to how patient endurance of unjust suffering shows God. When you endure unjust suffering “for the sake of conscience toward God,” you are not saying justice doesn’t matter; you are saying that God is the final judge and will settle accounts justly, in His time. My abuser will not have the last say. God will have the last say. This is why we don’t have to take matters into our own hands, we defer to God. As Peter says, “I entrust myself, and not just myself, but my cause and my accusers, and the whole situation and the justice that needs to be done—I hand it all over to God.”
We are not saying justice does not matter. It is a way of saying that the safest place for retaliatory justice is in God’s hands, not ours. The powerful cry of our heart that we get our rights is handed over to God. If we are to be vindicated, it will be God who vindicates us “when he has tried and purged me duly” through suffering.
Three Ideas of Application
There are a couple was we can take this lesson and apply it to our lives…
1. God’s Will and Suffering
Does God will the unjust suffering of his people? The text seems to indicate that God sometimes wills for his people to suffer unjustly. It is evident in verse 21: “you were called to this.” If we doubt that one verse, we must also realize this truth is repeated multiple times by Peter and other places in scripture.
1919 Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. – 1 Peter 4:19 NASB
17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. – 1 Peter 3:17 ESV
God wills this because he knows the best way for us to bring glory to him—sometimes by miraculously escaping suffering, and sometimes (more often) by graciously bearing suffering, that we do not deserve from men, because we trust in God.
God often wills that we suffer unjustly and that we bear it by his grace and for his glory.
2. Justice for Wrongdoing
Where is justice for the wrongdoing of abusive masters?
There are two answers. One is: justice is in God at the last day. God will settle all accounts justly. No one will get away with anything. Those who hold Christ and his people in derision and do not repent will one day cry out for the rocks and mountains to fall upon them rather than face the wrath of the Lamb (see Revelation 6:16).
This is a difficult situation of truth and reality we face. Are we saying that it is God’s will that a child is abused? That a woman or man is sexually assaulted is the will of God? No we are indicating that God’s supreme authority has not been exercised yet. That He has allowed such actions to take place, but that does not mean the case is closed.
The other answer is that God has given a measure of his authority for retaliation in this age to the state as his minister for keeping order and peace in society. 1 Peter 2:14 says that God ordains kings and governors to “punish evildoers and praise those who do right.” So God wills that governments punish those who cause Christians (or anyone else) to suffer unjustly. We may legitimately labor and struggle for such a government, but that is the structure intended by God.
We must remember, the God-given rights of the state to retaliate and punish does not nullify the God-given calling of the individual Christian to endure unjust suffering patiently. God’s glory shines partly through his dispensing of justice through the state. But it shines much more through the patient, God-centered suffering of his people.
3. The Excellencies That Are Shown
What is it about God that is shown through our patient, non-retaliating endurance of unjust suffering?
1 Peter 2:9 says that our lives are to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.” So what are the excellencies of God that shine through this kind of meekness and endurance and patience?
It is a very long list. We can only give a start down the list.
- When we suffer unjustly and patiently with our trust in God, we are surrendering some very precious things (health, comfort, ease) and so we are show the excellency of God’s superior preciousness (1 Peter 2:7).
- When we suffer with patient faith in God, we surrender much of our claim to be protected and cared for on earth and so we show the excellency of God’s superior shepherd care for us (1 Peter 2:25; 5:7).
- When we suffer with patient faith in God, we go without the glory of fighting back and winning; and so we show the excellency of God’s superior glory that he will share with us some day, and the justice of his throne that will one day settle all accounts (1 Peter 2:23; 4:13; 5:1, 4).
- When we suffer with patient faith in God, we seem to take a tremendous risk with our life—the only life most people believe we have to enjoy—and so we show the excellency of God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness (1 Peter 4:19).
- We seem to throw way our one chance for happiness by not fighting for more comforts here; and so we show the excellency of God’s power to raise us from the dead as a faithful creator and one who has all dominion in the universe (1 Peter 4:19; 5:11).
- Finally, when we endure unjust suffering meekly by trusting in God, we acknowledge that we are still sinners and are not earning anything by this patience. And so we show the excellency of God’s great grace (1 Peter 5:10).
So when your time comes, keep these great words in mind from 1 Peter 5:10,
10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you. – 1 Peter 5:10 AMP
Our walk is established in Him; He gave us a great example to follow that has been documented, now all we have to do is put it into action and not let our our psyche overrule what we know is right.