Unlikely Subordination (1 Peter 2:18-23)

Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” (1 Peter 2:18–20, AV)

I have worked for some very interesting people. It often happens that those for whom we work can seem tyrannical. Years ago, I worked for a company that sold printing presses. One of my responsibilities as Manger of Technical Services was after sales service. One of the companies to which I provided service had purchased the first machine of its type in the United States. This machine had a variety of issues that I needed to sort out after the installation. I worked fervently to fix the issues on the machine, providing free service, flying to the plant at a moment’s notice when needed. I felt that I went above and beyond what would be expected to help this company.

One day our newly hired General Manager decided to go with me to visit the plant that purchased the first machine. I had worked with this plant for four years. We sat down with their General Manager and Plant Manager. We were discussing one of the printing issues they were having with materials that we did not recommend for the machine when, all of a sudden, the plant manager verbally attacked me. He said things about me with my new boss present, that were just not true. Modesty forbids me from writing the very words he yelled out. The barrage was so hurtful that I almost broke down in tears.

What do we do when we are caught up in such a situation? Well, I did nothing. I just sat there and took the verbal barrage. Was this the correct thing to do? Peter’s words here tell us how to respond to mistreatment.

Peter wrote to believers that they should submit to all who rule over them. The word he uses for masters, despotes, refers to those who are in charge of the activities of people. He says that subordinates must be subject to them with all fear, meaning reverence and respect. He says we are not to just submit with respect for those who treat us well and are gentle but also, we are to respond the same way to those who mistreat us. Peter stated that this response towards a boss who mistreats us is “thankworthy,” the Greek word, charis, meaning graciousness (Strong G5485). It is a gracious thing to treat a master who mistreats us in this way.

Peter gives us the principal example to follow in verses 21-23. It is the example of Jesus as He went through His trial and crucifixion. He stated that Jesus did not revile in return when He was reviled and that He did not threaten those who caused Him suffering. He stated that we are to seek to follow the example of Jesus.

Peter further indicated that God sees how we respond to this type of unjust treatment and that it “is acceptable”to Him. The word acceptable, charis, again refers to grace or graciousness. God sees our response to unjust bosses or customers and considers our proper response as being gracious. Yes, this is not easy and the only way we can follow Christ’s example in this is through the power of God’s grace working in us. This means that we must be living by the Spirit, allowing the Spirit to drive us to heavenly heights (Gal 5:16).

Published by Steve Hankins, Th.D.

Steve has had extensive military, business and ministry experience. He has served for over 16 years in full time vocational ministry and many years of part time ministry in churches. He has led churches through start-up and recasting of vision. Now He resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he is working to help smaller churches and believers to renew their hearts and regain the joy of the Lord.

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