Saturday, May 16, 2015


We've been going through Peter's first letter at the Bible studies at church. In this letter Peter addresses the various groups that made up the church he was writing to. One group that has stood out to me was the slaves. They were owned by masters who could do anything to them. Anything. Life must have been incredibly difficult for them. This is what Peter says specifically to this group.

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. 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. (1 Peter 2:18-23)

Peter tells them to submit to their masters and to do that with complete respect. And it doesn't matter if any of those masters are unjust and cruel. He offers Jesus as a model to follow in their suffering. And he even tells them that they were called to their life of suffering, just as Jesus was called to His.

There is, however, one thing that he doesn't tell them. 'Hang in there. If you respond well to what's going on, life will soon get better for you. Just hang in there.' Peter would have written that if he had been a modern American. But he wasn't. He was a Christian who understood life better.

Now, this isn't to say that their lives would never get better. Peter was clear that they would. The question is, 'When?'

One important theme in his letter has to do with 'later'. More than once Peter tells them that 'later' will be so good. Here's one place where this theme shows up.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13)

I hope that you see that by 'later' Peter didn't mean in a few months or anything like that. He meant when Jesus returns, at His visible revelation to all. That's why he writes that instead of hoping that life would get better now, these Christians are to place their hope fully[!] on how it would get better 'later'. The fact of the matter is that many (most? all?!?) of the Christian slaves that Peter wrote to would die as slaves. Their lives of suffering would continue for the rest of their days. Understanding 'later' for them was very important.

Some of us are in situations that make life very trying, to say the least. We may not have masters who beat us, but we are suffering nonetheless. And because of how God's plan is working itself out, there is nothing we can do to change what is going on. Like those slaves, we have been called to our lives of suffering. Telling us that it will get better soon if we just hang in there does not help. There are some situations that will not get better, not until Jesus comes back. And so, we suffer. But there is a way of suffering that that works. As Peter counsels, we are to suffer 'entrusting [ourselves] to him who judges justly', just like Jesus did and those slaves were urged to do. And when He returns the Father will remember our faithful suffering and reward us accordingly.