Household slaves, submit to your masters with all reverence not only to the good and gentle ones but also to the cruel. For it brings favor if, because of a consciousness of God, someone endures grief from suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if when you do wrong and are beaten, you endure it? But when you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it, this brings favor with God. (1 Peter 2:18-20)
Pastor John’s Notes:
Many people wonder why the Bible seems to be endorsing slavery at times. They will use passages like this as a reason to say that the Bible is culturally irrelevant or to discount the Bible entirely. Yet it is easy for people of one cultural location to question the logic of those in another. It is just as easy for people of one age of history to judge those of an earlier age. Whenever we do this, we miss the point of what the Bible is trying to teach us.
To set this instruction in its historical context, we should remember that in the ancient world, there was no such thing as welfare. If someone became impoverished, he might have no recourse but to sell himself out as a household slave. Such servants or slaves would live in the master’s household and serve the master’s family in return for room and board. Sometimes, household servants became like family members, so much so that there are even stipulations in the Old Testament for a public service to be performed where a household slave would become a permanent member of the family. It is within such a context that Peter is writing.
Peter instructs household servants to serve their masters well and to live as an example to the people they serve. Were we to try to find a modern comparison, we might consider our places of work and question whether or not we are serving well. Do we do the least amount of work required or do we do what we are paid to do? Do we slacken our pace the moment the supervisor walks out of sight or are we consistently diligent? Do we talk behind our bosses back or do we hold our tongues? If we are corrected, do we curse our employer behind his or her back or do we make the change that is required of us? Do we go the extra mile or do we drop everything the moment the bell rings? Peter wants us to see that our faith in Christ has an application to our immediate circumstances, even to our places of work. The manner of our living is the first step in our witness to Christ.
Lord, help me to serve the people around me, even if some things don’t go my way. Give me the gift of patience in adversity so that I might model Christ-like endurance for those I serve. Let my service become exemplary, not that I might receive any commendation, but that you might be honored in all I do.