Enduring by Entrusting (I Peter 2:18-25)
Passage: 1 Peter 2:18–2:25
New Life in the Same Old Place
Enduring by Entrusting
I Peter 2:18-25
May 3rd, 2009
Way of Grace Church
I. Power and Persecution
As we look together to God's word this morning, I want you to think, not only about what all of the following have in common, but also, to consider if you've ever found yourself in one or more of the following situations: An employee whose supervisor is extremely hard to work with and work for; a supervisor who always seems to have a complaint about this or that; one who is an obsessive micro-manager.
How about this one: A student whose teacher consistently blames her when there is trouble in the class; a teacher who cuts her off mid-sentence as she tries to explain herself; one who seems to play favorites when it comes to other members of the class.
Or what about this situation: An adult child whose father always seems to be interfering in the son's personal affairs; a father who tells the son how he should raise his children; how he's doing it all wrong.
I could go on: a teenager whose coach cuts him down in front of the other team members; a homeowner who is ridiculed by a homeowners' association board member; a voter who is threatened by a city councilmember; a wife who is belittled by her husband; a parishioner who is demeaned by his overbearing pastor; an older child who is pushed to excel in everything, who is ruled by her busy schedule, driven by parents who seem more concerned about their status than their child's well-being.
What exactly do all of these examples have in common? There are all pictures of men, women, or children who are suffering under abusive authority. I think all of us have found ourselves in situations like this.
But here's the critical question this morning: how do you respond in a situation like this? What do you say? What do you do? What would most people do? How would most people react?
Well this morning, the Apostle Peter, writing almost 2000 years ago, wants to speak to situations just like this. Turn with me to I Peter, chapter 2. This morning we will be looking at verses 18-25.
II. The Passage: "When...One Endures Sorrows" (2:18-25)
Before we look at these verses, let's get caught up to speed by thinking about what we've seen thus far in our study of I Peter. Let me read two sets of verses, both from chapter two, that I think will help us understand how Peter has arrived at the counsel he wants to share this morning in 2:18-25. First listen to 2:11, 12:
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
As spiritual exiles, as strangers in a strange world because of their faith in Jesus, Peter is encouraging these Christians to consider how their daily lives, their words and actions and attitudes and choices, how these things can hinder or help them as they attempt to represent Jesus; especially in those situations where they are under attack.
Now listen to the first half of 2:13, along with verses 15 and 16:
Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution...15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
So not only is Peter guiding these readers in regard to opponents in general, those who are speaking against these Christians, but as we see here, he is specifically talking about, beginning in verse 13, those who are in positions of authority.
In our last study from I Peter, we talked about the importance of a ‘life underneath', of living in submission to the structures of authority that help shape our world.
But liked we talked about last time, we struggle with being placed underneath anyone, don't we? Life underneath is always a struggle when we our ultimate desire is to be on top.
How much of what we do, how much of what we say, how much of what we think and how we respond is based simply on our desire to be on top? We live in a culture that talks a lot about our rights, and our dignity, and what we're entitled to. And there is a part of us that wants to hold on to that. Life underneath is always a struggle when we our ultimate desire is to be on top.
Last time, we talked specifically about submission to those who govern; our political leaders. In our passage this morning, Peter is continuing that discussion about subjection or submission. But this time, he has a new context he wants to address:
A. God's Call for Endurance (2:18-20)
Listen to what Peter writes in 2:18-20...
Servants, be subject [be submissive] to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 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.
So very clearly here, those being addressed at this point are those men and women who are servants.
The word Peter uses here is not the normal world for "slave" or "servant" that is used in the New Testament. This word specifically refers to slaves or servants who are working, not in a field or a shop, but in a household.
Now, when we think of slavery, we think of that horrible and merciless institution that existed in this country less than 200 years ago.
But slavery in the Roman world in the 1st century was, in general, much different. Household slaves like this were counted as members of that household. They might have been born into that household, or sold themselves into servitude. Slaves like this could fill all sorts of roles, from domestic servants to doctors and tradesmen. These slaves could also buy their freedom after a number of years.
To be clear, I'm not trying to paint this kind of slavery as ideal. It was not. But it also was not the kind of slavery we typically imagine. It was somewhere in between what we think of in terms of slavery, and a modern employer/employee relationship.
But as we see here, none of these distinctives guaranteed that a servant might not find himself or herself under the thumb of a difficult master.
Just as he expressed it in 2:13, Peter reiterates his call to submission or subjection here in 2:18. He tells these servants or slaves who have become followers of Christ not to use their freedom in Christ as an excuse to dishonor their masters, even if...even if those masters are "unjust", as Peter puts it at the end of verse 18.
The word there is the Greek word skolios, like in the English word, scoliosis. It literally means ‘crooked'. But the word doesn't refer here to a crooked spine, but a crooked heart.
So Peter instructs them to be subject to their masters with all respect, literally in the original Greek, with all "fear". Because he uses the word "fear" here, he may be connecting this encouragement with verse 17 where he calls them to "fear" God.
He may be saying, "Because you fear God who is in heaven, submit yourselves to your earthly masters, even those who are no good; even those who are unfair and overbearing and difficult and cruel and harsh and deceitful."
As we see at the beginning of verse 21, this response is what God has called them to do.
Now, since slavery is no longer an institution in our culture, passages like this are typically connected, and rightfully so, to the modern context of the employer/employee relationship. But as we talked about right at the outset of our time together, there are lots of situations in which we find ourselves challenged by abusive authority. I'm not just speaking to those of you this morning who have mean managers or bad bosses or severe supervisors.
But for any of us and all us who find ourselves in these relationships or circumstances, when we find ourselves in these relationships or circumstances, how will we respond? I know what all of us are tempted to do? We're tempted to fight back, to respond in the same abusive way, to defend our rights, to not let that person get away with the way they've treated us.
A few days ago, a musical version of the 1980 Dolly Parton film "Nine to Five" opened on Broadway. If you've ever seen the film, then you know the whole premise is about getting even with a horrible boss.
Maybe in coming to knowing the transforming power of Christ through faith, maybe these slaves mistakenly felt empowered to arrogantly correct or confront or threaten their masters. We don't know.
But Peter's response can be summed up in one word: endure. Verse 19: For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. What do we know from the context about this endurance?
Well, first, as we see in verse 19, endurance come from being "mindful [or conscious] of God".
Endurance is not cowardice in the face of abusive authority. You are not enduring when you simply give up or legitimate or divorce yourself from the reality of your suffering. That is not endurance.
Endurance is literally, "bearing up under"; it is persevering in the right attitude and actions because your heart and mind are set on God. That's endurance. Endurance is a response to God, not simply to the abusive authority you find yourself "bearing up under".
But, second, in order to emphasize what righteous endurance is not, consider what Peter tells us in verse 20: 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.
Endurance is not about bearing up under suffering that you bring about by your own foolishness. Some people get yelled at or written up or marginalized or skipped over or disrespected or laughed at because they say or do foolish things.
This kind of negative response is not right, but it is understandable. It's especially sad when those confessing to be Christians believe themselves to be suffering for doing good, when in fact, people are simply responding negatively to their coerciveness or pride or judgmental attitudes. They are not being beaten like a foolish slave might be, but they are reaping what they sow with their sinful attitudes and actions. This is not the endurance Peter has in mind.
But what does it look like to endure? And why should we endure? Most people would label that a foolish response. They might recommend you either fight back or get out of there. Why should we endure?
B. God's Example for Endurance (2:21-23)
Well look at what Peter goes on to write in verses 21-23:
21 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. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 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.
God has given us a perfect example of this kind of endurance in suffering: Jesus. Notice verse 22. Peter is confirming that Jesus did not suffer because he did or said something wrong. No, he was innocent. And yet, he was still reviled (v. 23). He still suffered (v. 23).
So what does endurance look like in Jesus? True endurance has two sides. It is both passive and active.
Notice verse 23. From the passive side, we are told that Jesus did not revile when he was reviled. He did not threaten when he was abused. He did not retaliate. He did not respond in kind to his attackers. He didn't try to say, "Well he started it!" Or "They provoked me." Or "They had it coming!"
All we have to do is read what the Gospels say about Jesus' final hours before his death on the cross. In Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John we read about how Jesus was mocked and reviled and taunted and maligned and accused, even though he was innocent. Even though he could have responded back against his attackers, with just cause, he did not.
So what did he do? Well, in combination with, in concert with this passive restraint, Peter tells us in verse 23 that actively, Jesus "continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly." The verb there for "entrusting" is an imperfect verb in Greek, which means that it was something that happened in the past, but it was also something that happened continually. He continued, he constantly entrusted himself to God.
Do you see what Peter is doing here? He is not only giving us a fuller description of what it means to endure, he is also giving us a fuller description of what it means to be mindful of God in our endurance. To be mindful of God goes hand in hand with entrusting ourselves to God.
But notice how Peter describes God in verse 23. He is the God who judges justly. Why does he describe him this way? He described God in terms of justice because that is the reason we entrust ourselves to God when we are being treated unjustly.
Jesus did not have to respond to his opponents because he knew God would take care of it. If there was a wrong committed, God would judge justly. If there was a false accusation uttered, God would judge justly. If there was unfair treatment, God would judge justly. If we are innocent and we suffer, God will judge justly.
Is this how you have responded to unjust suffering? Is this how you are responding? With that difficult boss, or unfair teacher, or demeaning husband, or short-fused coach? Have you, are you, enduring with restraint? Are you enduring by entrusting the whole situation to God; trusting that He will resolve it perfectly in His perfect timing?
Or have you been quick to fire back? Have you gone home and railed against this or that person? Have you thought of ways to retaliate or run away? It's so hard, isn't it? We so badly want to fire back and say, "Hey, this isn't fair!" We want to say, "Oh, you're one to talk!" We want so badly to tear that person down and justify ourselves.
How in the world is a normal person supposed to bear up under this kind of unfair treatment and continue being submissive to a person like this?
C. God's Provision for Endurance (2:24, 25)
Look with me at the final two verses here, verses 24 and 25. Peter writes:
24 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. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Did you notice back in verse 21 that it says, "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you..."
The suffering of Jesus was not without purpose. Yes, His suffering provided us with an example. But in verses 24 and 25 Peter tells us the purpose is even bigger than that. Why did Christ endure in the face of unjust suffering? Because he was bearing our sins in his body on the cross. The word tree here is not literally the word for tree, but is a term used for a variety of objects made out wood, including a cross.
You may recognize, or your Bible might make note of the fact that a large portion of verses 22-25 are taken directly from or are clear allusions to Isaiah 53:4-12.
What this tells us is that Peter believed Jesus to be the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, written some 700 years before the birth of Christ. Jesus was the suffering servant that the prophet spoke about. He was the One God would send to "justify the many" and "bear their iniquities" (Isaiah 53:11).
Jesus was not simply our example. He was our substitute. He stood in our place in regard to God's justice. What we deserve for our self-grasping, God-neglecting, sin-pursuing hearts, what we deserve, Jesus took on himself. He died in our place. He was punished in our place.
Don't you see what that means? It was ultimately our ‘crookedness' that caused Jesus to suffer unjustly.
But His endurance and His sacrifice accomplished more than just our forgiveness before God. He also made possible our transformation. How can we endure like Jesus in the face of unjust suffering, under the thumb of abusive authorities? How can we endure and not respond with either fight or flight?
We can because through faith in Jesus, we can "die to sin and live to righteousness". We don't have to retaliate or retreat because of our wounds because "by his wounds we can be healed". We do not have fear what abusive authorities, what abusive people say about us or do against us because there is a Shepherd and an Overseer who is protecting our soul.
People have endured suffering all over the world, all throughout history. But only those who are made new, who are born again by grace through faith can endure by being truly mindful of God, because only through Jesus and His death can we truly know God.
How do we respond to unjust suffering if we are now alive to righteousness because of what Jesus accomplished at the cross? Will we bear up under that suffering?
Will we endure by entrusting ourselves to the God who judges justly, to the God who judged His own Son in our place?
And so the cross changes our entrusting in that we don't simply endure suffering believing that our opponent will get what's coming to Him from God. No, we can entrust ourselves and our circumstances to God believing that God will make right what is wrong, and he will either do so through the justice of the final judgment, or through the justice of the cross.
III. The Purpose of Our Endurance
This brings us to a final point this morning. What is the purpose of our endurance? Why would someone choose to bear up under abusive authority, rather than firing back or just walking away? Well, just as Peter explained: (verse 21) 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.
Jesus endured for the good of others; for our good. And so we endure for the same purpose. Not that we can bear anyone's sin as a substitute, but our endurance can point them to what Jesus did. Remember verse 12, of this chapter: we endure in righteousness, so that our opponents might "see [our] good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation."
Paul, in his letter to Titus put it this way: Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn [the Greek word is cosmeo [Eng. "cosmetics"]...that they may beautify] the doctrine of God our Savior.
Christlike endurance is a gracious thing before God, as verses 19 and 20 confirm. And it is gracious in His eyes, not only because it is an expression of faith in Him, but also because it speaks so clearly to others about the power of God at work within us; it beautifies what we say we believe. It makes our message about Christ that much more appealing when we respond differently than the norm.
Let's be clear, this kind of endurance is not about not addressing corruption or abuse when we are able to do so. It is our duty, with respect and love, to help others by addressing injustice through the proper means. But it should not be about our rights. It should not be motivated by a desire to get even. Our endurance is focused on the good of others and the glory of God.
What are you confirming through your actions? What are you proving through your response to unjust suffering? That you care more about your rights and your reputation; about revenge? Or that you trust God and want others to know the suffering that Jesus endured and the forgiveness He purchased for his enemies, for his opponents?
Brothers and sisters, when we suffer under abusive authority, or under any attacks like this, may God grant us the grace to endure by entrusting ourselves to Him. And through that endurance, may others see the loving endurance of Jesus for their sake.