Be Still Know
1 Peter 2.18 NLT
‘You who are slaves must submit to your masters with all respect. Do what they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel.’
Everything about slavery is horrifying. The idea that someone could own another human being sounds barbaric, and so it is difficult for us to handle a verse like this which doesn’t seem to raise any objections to the institution of slavery. Indeed, slaves were told to respect their masters and to obey them, even when they were cruel. At the time of the early Church, slavery was extremely common. About 20 percent of the population were slaves and there was never any serious thought that the institution should be dismantled. It’s also important to realise that under Roman law, slavery was heavily regulated. Slaves received very low wages but they lived with the hope that, one day, they might be able to purchase their freedom. Slavery at any time is an odious idea, but clearly the experience was nowhere near as hellish or dehumanising as it became during the centuries of the transatlantic slave trade.
It has been suggested that a better translation of the word slave could be servant, or even employee. Suddenly this verse has something to say to our own day. We should show respect to our employers, and we should do so because, ultimately, all authority derives from God. This means that we should be respectful of them, even when they are wrong. This is tough talk, but Peter knows that such an attitude is far more likely to commend the Christian faith than retaliation. Peter strengthens his argument by reminding his readers that even though Jesus was terribly mistreated, he didn’t fight back. He could easily have commanded a legion of angels to destroy his oppressors, but he didn’t. Tough as it undoubtedly is to suffer ill treatment, we need to learn from Jesus and walk in his steps.
Question: How would you respond if your employer treated you in a cruel way?
Prayer: Loving Father, give me your strength to live in a way that pleases you, even when it’s really hard to do so. Amen
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