Difficult reading

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Ask the Lord to open your heart and mind to hear him as you read today’s passage with its difficult concepts.

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Bible passage: 1 Peter 2:18–25

 18Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. 20But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
 22"He committed no sin,
      and no deceit was found in his mouth." 23When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).


Slavery, then and now
When Peter wrote this letter slavery was a normal part of the social landscape. Many slaves were integrated into the household and in that sense part of the ‘extended family’. Others were in much less acceptable situations and doing dangerous work, for example mining.

The sad fact is that slavery is part of our reality today. We have not yet eradicated slavery, even in our so-called modern, sophisticated cultures.

Suffering servant
At first glance this passage can seem to encourage collusion with a corrupt and unjust system. Should slaves not be encouraged to rise up and resist inhumane treatment? Is Peter being unfair and unrealistic in his encouragement to slaves to submit to their masters?

The underlying principle Peter is referring slaves to is the suffering of Jesus. Peter ‘has glimpsed a deeper truth, behind the moral quagmire which is so obvious to us when we think of people putting up with unjust and painful treatment’ (Tom Wright, Early Christian Letters for Everyone, SPCK, 2011). As Peter quotes again from Isaiah, and particularly from one of the ‘suffering servant’ passages, he is stretching our thinking towards appreciating that the death of Jesus on our behalf not only brings us life, but also gives us a pattern for a way of living life.

Elaine Duncan


Sit quietly with the Lord and consider the suffering he endured on our behalf.

Deeper Bible study

In an individualistic society, it is not easy to submit to others. It never was – but we think we should have more choice about it today. Destructive power and exploitation are insidious human tendencies, showing submission’s dark side. Indeed, for Jesus, submission led to a cross. Peter’s advice on submission began in yesterday’s reading with the key words, ‘for the Lord’s sake’ (v 13). The crucial questions are: ‘Where is our primary allegiance?’ ‘What honours God?’ ‘What furthers his purposes for this world and his church, as well as for ourselves?’ Submission first to God sets the theme for all that follows in this chapter and the next.

Controversially, Peter’s first specific advice to submit concerns slavery. Slavery then was not always as cruel as the situations depicted in our cinematic images of floggings and slave ships. The word Peter uses here suggests domestic servants, many of whom were considered part of the family, or indentured only for a time, working off debts. Other slaves served as managers of estates, tutors and respected professionals. In the culture of the time, Peter, like Paul, commended submission to the master’s authority as to God (‘God’s slaves’, v 16). Peter is not condoning violence against another person. Indeed, slavery as a systematic societal exploitation is indefensible – and Christians have often led the way in seeking to stop it.

In his recent autobiography about his imprisonment in North Korea, Kenneth Bae describes the difference it made to his engagement with his guards when, after much emotional struggle, he finally accepted that, although he rightly wanted freedom, it was God’s plan for him to be in that place at that time.1 Paul recommended taking freedom if it becomes available, because in Christ we are brothers and sisters, not masters and servants (Phlm 16; 1 Cor 7:21). Probably Peter recommended that too.

1 Kenneth Bae, Not Forgotten, Nelson, 2016 

Jennifer Turner

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Amazing Grace (My chains are gone)
John Newton (1725-1807)
John P Rees (1828- 1900)
Edwin O Excell (1851-1921)
Arr. & add. chorus Chris Tomlin & Louie Giglio
Copyright © 2006 worshiptogether.com Songs/sixsteps Music/kingswaysongs.com
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.integritymusic.com

Merciful God
Keith & Kristyn Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2006 Thankyou Music

  • Rachael Hampton | Friday, 22 February 2019

    Amp v21 says that suffering for Christ is our calling, part of our vocation. May that bring comfort to our persecuted sisters and brothers, and strengthen those of us suffering for doing right. Amen to your prayer Gilvin, and God’s strength and power be on all working to free those enslaved today. Australian parliament passed an anti slavery law last year, put forward by a Christian politician. David those people don’t only see Christians who dishonour Jesus, they also see you. What a responsibility. Roger, gullible to what? Understanding Moslem belief and practice? How else can we relate and share our beliefs, and the claims of Christ?

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Friday, 22 February 2019

    Bless you RACHAEL. Good question how else can we relate? We need to let people know how much God loves them don't we. They will serve him more out of love than ever they will out of fear. It's Saturday for you and Friday night for me. I've looked at tomorrow's reading as I'll be up and away early morning.

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