1 Peter 2:18-20 ESV
“Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.”
Now, the subject matter here is that of servants who have masters over them. Now the Greek word translated as servant here is not the same Greek word which means “slave,” yet there is a sense here that “servant” is more in a position of “slave” just by what is described here. But since slavery is not something that is legal now in the USA, that I know of, where I live, thus we don’t deal much with this subject in our present time here in America.
Nonetheless abuse, unjust suffering, persecution, and mistreatment being doled out by people in positions of authority over others is not uncommon in America. We do have some laws against such things but not all abuse is reported, and not all mistreatment is provable, and not everyone who is in a position to do anything about it will actually do anything about it. And so such abuse of people by people in positions of authority is a big problem.
So, what should be our response to abuse? Well, definitely the Scriptures teach us that we are to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us and that we are to do good to those who mistreat us and that we are not to get even with those who sin against us. Vengeance belongs to God and to God alone and he is the one to repay people for the evil that they do to us, not us. Our job is to love them and to do good to them.
But should we subject ourselves to abuse and submit to it if we are not in a position of a slave? What did Jesus and the New Testament apostles do? Well, they obeyed God rather than man when man demanded of them what was contrary to the will of God. And they stood up for themselves against mistreatment. Paul even appealed to Caesar for protection. And he spoke in his own defense often. And sometimes they fled to another place, too.
But to a certain degree they did subject themselves to abuse just by obeying the Lord and doing what he said to do and by spreading the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that we must die with Christ to sin and live to him and to his righteousness, and that we must obey our Lord and his commands (New Covenant). They willingly suffered abuse in order to obey the Lord and to spread the gospel so that many more people would be saved from their slavery to sin and would now walk in obedience to the Lord.
Called to Suffer
1 Peter 2:21-23 ESV
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
Now Jesus didn’t just submit himself to the abuse of his persecutors. He stood up for himself against them on a regular basis. And he confronted them with their sins. He did not conform to what they wanted him to be but he continued to be who he was despite their objections. So subjecting ourselves to mistreatment in order to spread the truth of the gospel never involves us compromising faith or convictions or the truth or the word of God or holiness and morality. Obeying Jesus Christ always comes first.
Jesus did not yield to them until it was God’s timing for him to go to that cross, and then he surrendered himself to them to be beaten and killed. He did not allow himself to be taken captive by them or to be silenced until it was his time to die for our sins. He kept doing what he was supposed to do despite their objections and mistreatments. And he confronted them when they tried to lay traps for him, and he definitely spoke the truth to them about their actions, and he did so with much conviction and strength.
So Jesus was no weakling. He didn’t let people just walk all over him. He stood up for what was right and he called out evil and injustice. And he protected people from harm, and he healed their diseases, and he comforted the sorrowful, and he delivered them from their demons, and he raised the dead, and he fed the hungry. But he also overturned tables in the temple when merchants were doing wrong there. And he used a whip. So Jesus didn’t just lay down and play dead when he was opposed.
So when this says here that we are to follow in his steps, we need to pay attention to all that Jesus said during his life on this earth, for he stood strong on the truth and against evil and against evildoers, yet he did not sin. He did not, in his human body, “trade tit for tat,” i.e. do to others what they did to him so that he could get even with them, and neither should we.
Forgiving others doesn’t mean we give them permission to keep sinning against us, and we can definitely set boundaries, as Jesus did, and sometimes we may have to walk away from situations, but we don’t sin against others just because they sinned against us. Instead we love them and we forgive them and we do good to them and we pray for them.
That We Might Die
1 Peter 2:24-25 ESV
“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. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
Now here we have a true picture of the purpose of Jesus’ death for us on that cross. Jesus did not go through that horrible suffering just to forgive our sins so we can escape hell and go to heaven when we die only to leave us still in slavery (addiction) to sin with no way out. Jesus died for us that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, that we might no longer live as slaves to sin but as slaves to God and to his righteousness (Rom 6:1-23).
And Jesus gave himself up for us on that cross and was resurrected from the dead that we might no longer live for ourselves but for himself. And he shed his blood for us on that cross to buy us back for God (to redeem us) so that we will now be our Lord’s possession, and so that we might honor God with our bodies (with our lives). And God’s grace, which brings salvation, trains us to renounce ungodliness and fleshly lusts and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives (2 Co 5:15; 1 Co 6:19-20; Titus 2:11-14).
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
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