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Subversive Submission

Charlie Boyd - 2/10/2019

For the last few weeks, we have been listening to the apostle Peter as he urges his exiled friends to reorient the way they think and act in a world that is growing more and more hostile to their faith in Jesus. What Peter says to them is also a challenge to us as followers of Jesus today. The fact is, we live in a post-Christian world. Our country has undergone a seismic shift from the beliefs and values held by most Americans 60 years ago. Secular culture today, and by that, I mean, the “elite framework that drives our culture—media, Hollywood, nearly all public education—has become the dominant culture and Christians today are in the absolute minority. We must reorient our thinking and begin to see ourselves as exiles. We must learn from Peter what it looks like to faithfully follow Jesus as exiles in a society that not only sees our beliefs and values as wrong but also as dangerous.

In 1 Peter 2:11-12, (that we looked at last week), Peter headlines a “big idea” that he will unpack starting in 2:13 and running all the way through 4:11. The “big idea” is something like—“Live an attractive lifestyle among people who are antagonistic to your faith. Do good to them regardless of how they treat you.” And then in 2:13-3:7 he says, “This applies to how you relate to your governing authorities and to how you relate to those in your homes.” But Peter uses a word to describe exile faithfulness that rubs a lot of us the wrong way.

READ 1 Peter 2:13-20 — This week we won’t walk straight through this passage point-by-point. Instead, I want to make three general observations about what Peter says here about faithfulness in exile.

(1) Peter calls us to a lifestyle of submission (2:13,18; also 3:1, 7) The word “be subject”(ESV) occurs three times in this passage. It is the Greek word, hypotasso, which means to put yourself under someone else. It’s the word “submit” —ouch! Submission means to voluntarily put yourself under someone else to support them and to do them good. 

Going back to v12, Peter is saying--Live an attractive lifestyle among unbelievers and to do them good by putting yourself under them in ways that show them honor and respect. Submission is not something forced—it is something you do voluntarily. “Voluntarily” comes from v.16—Live as people who are free…free as servants of God. Only people who live free as God’s servants can voluntarily/freely put themselves under someone else to serve them for their good. So according to Peter, a lifestyle of submission is the way of the exile—but it’s not the way we tend to operate, right? Most of us resort to one of two automatic reactions when we feel we’ve been wronged or mistreated. First, the aggressive reaction. Second, the passive-aggressive reaction. Peter urges is hurting friends to not hate the people who are causing them to hurt. He calls for a reaction that’s 180° opposite from how we naturally react to insult and injury. He calls us to a lifestyle of submission. It just doesn’t fit with our “Americanized” version of Christianity that tells us we must always stand up for our rights. Nevertheless...

(2) Peter says a lifestyle of submission is the “will of God.” (2:15; compare also 2:3, 19, 20, 21)

A summary statement of these two points might be something like—It is God’s will that as faithful exiles, we put ourselves under those whom God has put in authority over us to respect them and do them good.

And this applies to people in positions of governmental authority—national leaders, decision-makers, law-enforcers (2:13-17) and then the principle is applied to household servants in a typical Graeco-Roman home (2:18-2).

Side road—Why doesn’t the Bible condemn slavery? First, it doesn’t mean that God approves of slavery. So what gives? Had Peter and Paul led the charge against the human institution of slavery, it would mean leading the charge to overthrow the government and that would have eclipsed the Gospel message. It would also be in direct violation of what the Holy Spirit inspired Peter to write in v13—Submit to every human institution for the Lord’s sake—for the Gospel’s sake. Again, had they not obeyed v13 the Gospel would have been lost in a political uprising. It would take 100s of years for the time was right to do undo the injustice of slavery through democratic processes and it was Christian who led the way of abolition in both England and the United States.

The common focus running through this entire passage is that of submitting to people in authority even if they are unjust or harsh. Again, as we saw last week, Daniel and his three friends are great examples of how to live as faithful exiles in an anti-One-True-God nation. Submission doesn’t always mean silence, but it does mean when you object you do so with respect and humility.

(3) Subversive submission is the way of the exile. It is what we learn from Jesus (2:21-25).