Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor.
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. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 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. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
‘He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.’
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. ‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’ For ‘you were like sheep going astray,’ but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
On Sunday we looked at Ephesians 6:5-9, where Paul gives instructions to masters and slaves. There is a very similar passage in Colossians 3:22-4:1. We can see from the passage above that Peter also has a message that slaves should submit to their masters. If anything, Peter goes even further by pointing back to the example of Jesus. He says that just as Christ suffered for doing good, so we should follow in his footsteps. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:16), Peter says that the result will be people seeing our good deeds and glorifying God.
Let’s be honest – these are difficult teachings. If we are experiencing unfair treatment in the workplace we might prefer it if the Bible said, “Don’t let people walk all over you.” If you have time, I would encourage you to read through the whole book of 1 Peter. There is a lot in this letter about humility in the face of suffering. And finally there is a promise that things will eventually get better:
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:10)