To The Early Church
Let me begin by printing a reading from a study I’m doing with my congregation on Sundays. It is interesting since it is so challenging a passage with the turmoil our nation is going through right now:
For those of you following along in our Sunday Study of 1 Peter at Bethany – here is the reading for this coming Sunday January 29:
1 Peter 2:13-3:7 New Living Translation (NLT) 13 For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, 14 or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right.15 It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. 16 For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. 17 Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king.
18 You who are slaves must submit to your masters with all respect. Do what they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel. 19 For God is pleased when, conscious of his will, you patiently endure unjust treatment. 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. 21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 22 He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. 23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. 24 He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. 25 Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.
3 In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over 2 by observing your pure and reverent lives. 3 Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. 4 You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. 5 This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They put their trust in God and accepted the authority of their husbands. 6 For instance, Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master. You are her daughters when you do what is right without fear of what your husbands might do. 7 In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.
This is not a passage that anyone would tackle with ease but let me begin by saying that it speaks to respect for those who have authority. We have in many ways, and for good reasons often, lost respect for authority. Some of the things that are in 1 Peter many no longer be relevant – slavery is unlawful, Kings and princes most often have ceremonial roles, beatings for disobedience are generally and properly frowned upon, and women have a much different status. However, the idea of respect for leaders and for leaders to respect those they lead is important.
The key verse to me is v. 20 But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. 21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. Suffering is not something anyone wants to enter into voluntarily but if you live long enough it will come to you. Schools, churches, states, and nations endure hardships and suffering as well. Sometimes this was interpreted as “discipline” sent by God. What Jesus said was that God “loved the world” and by extension we should too. That includes our neighbors wherever they may be in this vast world. If we were to “follow in his steps,” we would naturally want to share this message. Love transforms.