Devotional for Tuesday, April 21, 2020

“Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.  For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.” (I Peter 2:18-19)

Last week, we talked a lot about the concept of being freed to be God’s slaves, which appears in the two verses immediately preceding these verses.  This idea of freedom is counterintuitive to anyone in the world, but it may be especially hard for us Americans to get around because freedom is our number one ideal (albeit, defined differently.)  According to one commonly referenced resource, the first American value listed is “personal control over the environment,”[1] which is the belief that a person has personal freedom i.e. the right to control one’s own destiny, and is the antithesis to fate.  Fate is a major component of the worldview of many cultures around the world, but in the U.S. it is generally viewed very negatively as un-American.  I myself have a mix of cultural values since I grew up in the Asian context as a missionary kid, but I have surprised myself how very American I am in regards to this value of personal freedom – my reactions can be extreme when freedoms are taken away from me.  For example, a few years ago at work at a government site, the powers that be were introducing a requirement that all computers must be logged into with our physical government-issued badge instead of the standard typed-password.  I was noticeably agitated during the whole build-up and execution and spent countless minuteshours mulling over the (minimally) decreased efficiency of the requirement, the process, and the equipment.  Yes, this was only a 1st World “problem,” I shamefully admit!

So for someone like me, or perhaps for you, to hear from the apostle Peter that it is commendable to bear up under unjust suffering (false accusations, overworked, delayed promotions, being taken advantage of, etc.) and that we should respect our harsh masters (or bosses) seems repulsive.  We’ve come to understand that it is commendable when we are made fun of for being Christians, but this passage it taking it one step further to say that Christians suffer willingly under injustice – regardless of if it is purposefully insulting our faith or not – simply because we are “conscious of God.”  This goes back to the concept that we are not citizens of this world, but of the kingdom to come.  Christ wasn’t either, and so He didn’t retaliate and He made no threats.  “Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (I Peter 2:23).  One day, justice will come to us, but not at our hands, and not necessarily in this world.  Is this fatalism?  Perhaps.  But the freedom is in knowing that we are free citizens in His kingdom to come, and that we are free even now to live according to that kingdom’s principles – including suffering humbly at the hands of injustice in this world by maintaining faith in our Father’s good plan and purpose.  You will surely meet personal injustice this week – even today; how will you react?  Be commendable!

[One caveat: I believe the Christian response to injustice is different when talking about someone other than yourself.  That is, whereas God seems to desire His followers to “bear up under the pain of unjust suffering,” He also makes it clear in Scripture that He values defending the rights of the oppressed and marginalized, as well as taking care of them.  In the case of Christ, He went around defending and upholding the value and dignity of such people (while also calling them to repentance and forgiving them,) and He prayed for protection for His closest disciples, but in His hour of need when all His disciples deserted Him at Gethsemane, He willingly went to the cross alone.]

[1]L. Robert Kohls, “The Values Americans Live By” (Washington, D.C.: The Washington International Center, 1984).
Posted by Luke Ellison on 4/21/2020