A Call to Good Works
Open Your Bible
1 Peter 2:11-25, Romans 13:1-7, Galatians 5:13-14
Injustice of any kind is hard to bear. When I’m on the receiving end of hate, my natural inclination is to defend myself. To fight back. I have little strength to shoulder the weight of false accusations, unfair treatment, or slights on my character. And yet, that’s exactly what the passage in 1 Peter 2 is asking me to do: put down my rights and “submit to every human institution” (v.13).
Before we continue, it’s important to address the part of this passage that tells slaves to submit to their masters. The Greek word used here refers to household or domestic servants who would’ve also been slaves. Slavery in the first century was different than the American version of race-based slavery of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Peter is not advocating for slavery as a system. He is instead dealing with it as a reality that some of the recipients of his letter lived under. For our purposes, it’s best to read this passage with the phrase “lowly workers” in mind. Peter was instructing Christians to endure their pain with grace.
Peter would know. On more than one occasion, an oppressive government imprisoned him for his beliefs and preaching. He would eventually be crucified. In that place of oppression, he continued preaching the gospel, trusting that God would use every ounce of his suffering for the good of the world. He submitted to the path that God had paved for him, even though that path included hardship.
If you cringe at the word “submission,” you’re in good company. Submission is extremely counter-cultural in our “YOLO” society. An acronym short for you only live once, YOLO is a rallying cry that places happiness as the ultimate aim of life. If we only have this one life to live, we might as well make it a great, fun, exciting one, right? I have to admit, it’s a pretty attractive philosophy. But it stands at complete odds with Christianity.
We also live in a society that rails against injustice with ever-increasing outrage. Police brutality, racial bias in our judicial system, gender wage gaps, sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace—these are serious problems, constantly dominating my news feeds. But the problem with focusing all of my attention and outrage on the world’s ills is that I can so easily lose sight of my own sin. I begin to want change out there far more than I desire change in my own heart.
Rather than focus his eyes on the injustice leveraged against him, Peter chose to focus on the injustices he’d perpetrated against God, forgiven by Jesus’s blood. He knew the truth: Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection replaces our temporary perspective with an eternal one.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree;
so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness (1 Peter 2:24).
As a Christ-follower, you’re not only going to live once—you’re going to live forever. Discomfort, pain, and injustice are real, but they are fleeting when compared to the glory and love of our Savior. I’d rather serve Jesus than my own happiness. And I can trust Jesus to use the injustices I see around me for the good of His kingdom.
How do I know this? Because He suffered a sham trial, a wrongful conviction, and bloody death—on my behalf. And thank God He did. Jesus transformed the ultimate injustice into the world’s greatest good.