March 9, 2022
1 Peter 2:18-20 NIV
18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.
It is fascinating to see where Peter takes us next. We might expect him to lay out a matrix of ifs and thens, buts and ors, unless-es and untils when it comes to submission to the governing authorities. Instead he starts talking to the Christian slaves.
In five words he lifts the church out of the endless questions and dilemmas about how we are to deal with human authorities. In five little words he tells us that submitting to human authorities does not make us subject to them because we are subject only to God—in fact, the only way we can live in submission to human authorities is to be subject to God alone. Did you catch those five little words in verse 18?
18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters,
For specificity’s sake, they are, “IN REVERENT FEAR OF GOD.”
Wait! What? Christian slaves?! Why is Peter not taking on the whole institution of slavery here? How could he stand for this? And to address it and not rebuke it seems to be to acquiesce in it, right?
Wrong. Peter is not somehow affirming the practice of slave holding. Tragically, many of our forebears read this text and others like it as a way of biblically affirming the institution of slavery. Peter was dealing with the world as he found it and working within its evil constraints through a quite supernatural albeit subversive strategy to upend it.
Let’s be clear though, Peter was not advocating for gradualism—that it is somehow OK to accept things as they are in light of the complexities of the world and things will somehow get better slowly over time. Nor was he arguing for personalism—that evil can only be defeated person by person through individual repentance. Nor was he dealing with structuralism—this notion that sin and evil are not so much personal but structural and therefore society must to be deconstructed brick by brick and re-engineered in order to be somehow rid of its sin and evil influences.
Question: So what is Peter’s quite supernatural albeit subversive strategy? Answer: The Church Jesus is building: God’s chosen people. A royal priesthood. A holy nation. God’s special possession. There is only one strategy: The Church Jesus is building; which begins, middles, and ends with absolute adoring allegiance to Jesus Messiah.
18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.
The Church Jesus is building is not spending their time and energy wringing their hands and ranting their heads off about every little (or big) thing Fox News is against or CNN is for. The Church Jesus is building left the Democrats and the Republicans (or insert your nation’s political machinery here) behind a long time ago. The Church Jesus is building is not living in a state of constant reactivity to the world around us, but rather “in reverent fear of God,” in an ever ready responsiveness to the Revelation of Jesus Messiah who has made us and redeemed us and who now calls and commissions us as a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and God’s special possession.
The Church Jesus is building is asking questions like these:
- How do we live together “in reverent fear of God”, in radical obedience to God’s Word and in humble submission to one another?
- Where does submission to human authorities give way to the “reverent fear of God” and become grace-filled, humble resistance—even to the point of suffering and death?
- What does it look like to “suffer for doing good and endure it”?
Those five little words from today’s text say it all. They say what we have lost. They say what we must find again. They say with extraordinary economy what I will spend the rest of my words for the rest of my life trying to say:
in reverent fear of God
Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Thank you, that not only are you God incarnate, but you walked this Earth in the brilliance of a life lived in reverent fear of God. I confess to often living in a kind of casual familiarity with you. Holy Spirit, would you lead me in this way of abiding relationship with God that is marked both by intimate relationship and awe-filled reverence; by holiness and love? Praying in Jesus’ name, Amen.
What are the questions you might add to the list of 3 above—the ones the Church Jesus is building might be asking?
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For the Awakening,