In this verse (1 Peter 2:18), the apostle Peter under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit exhorts servants to be submissive to their masters with all respect, even those who are unreasonable. Now to be submissive to our “masters,” like bosses and supervisors at work, is hard enough for anyone to do, but Peter calls the disciple of Christ to submit to our masters categorically and unconditionally. And this submission applies to those who are reasonable and to those who are unreasonable.
It feels like there must be a line somewhere that allows the disciple to say, “Enough is enough. This is not fair and I do not deserve this.” But actually there is no such line. Scripture calls the disciple of Jesus to submit and to bear up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. Why would Peter command disciples of Jesus to submit to unreasonable masters?
First, the disciple willingly and graciously submits to unreasonable masters because we follow Christ’s example, and Christ our King submitted to unreasonable men to the point of death and gave us this example to follow (2:21ff). So we submit to follow Christ’s example.
Second, the disciple submits to his unreasonable master because this provides a bolder and a clearer testimony to the watching world of what it means to follow Jesus. If we do what is completely unexpected and submit to unreasonable masters, the world will notice and will eventually demand an explanation. There is a strong testimony given (and isn’t that the whole point, to give a testimony to Jesus?) if a servant submits to unreasonable masters out of his love for Christ and out of his desire for obedience. From that place there are often opportunities to tell others about Christ.
Third, submitting to unreasonable treatment more quickly and more purely subdues the disciple’s fleshly pride and arrogance. The flesh hates discipline and pain and suffering, so the flesh resists all sanctification. To subdue the flesh the disciple subjects the flesh to suffering and to training. The more rigorous the training, the more quickly and effectively the disciple is trained. Thus sanctification is the reward and the gift of obedience and submission.
Many would still rebel against the suggestion that a person is to submit to unreasonable treatment by a master. You may say to me, “That is unnatural. That’s just radical. God would not want me to just take that sort of abuse. I have rights!” But actually through the apostle Peter, God explicitly commands the disciple to submit to unreasonable masters. This is exactly what God intends. Of course this is radical behavior! The disciple has been called by a radical King to live a radical life, a life that is radically distinct from the life of the uncalled. And so we submit to unreasonable masters in the hope that, in so doing, the world would make much of Christ and we would become more like Christ in all our words, thoughts and deeds.
SDG rmb 7/24/2016