1 Peterby David Burge
Most people live with some kind of fear. We might fear that we will lose our job, or that we won't have enough money. We might fear a broken marriage or perhaps a life of singleness. Some of us worry about our children's future or what people think of us. Or we fear embarrassment and shame.
The good news for Christians is that when we trust and fear God, we need not live in fear of people, bad situations, or threats of any kind (see Genesis 15:1; Exodus 14:13; Deuteronomy 31:7-8). When Jesus' disciples worry or are afraid, He urges them to trust their Father who cares for them (Matthew 6:30-31). As Christians, we can confidently say: ″The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid; what can mere mortals do to me?″ (Hebrews 13:6).
Fearing God has been a theme in 1 Peter (as we saw in 1:17 and 2:17), and it continues into today's reading. In verse 17, Peter urged the church to fear God; in verse 18, he now urges slaves to submit to their masters ″in reverent fear of God″, or ″with all respect″ (v. 18 ESV). If they fear God and are ″conscious of God″ (v. 19), they can submit to their masters more easily.
So what does it mean to fear God and be conscious of God? You may be familiar with this phrase from Proverbs 9:10: ″The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.″ It describes a posture before God that is full of awe, reverence, faith, and that recognises our weakness and unworthiness as creatures before our majestic and holy God.
Some servants in Peter's time were loved by their masters, but others were terribly mistreated. For the mistreated, Peter's words would have been difficult to accept. But with this awe and reverence for God, Christians can submit to all kinds of temporary hardship, knowing that our lives are in His good, eternal hands.
In 1 Peter 2:18, Peter includes not only the gentle masters, but also ″those who are harsh″. God sees and knows what we are enduring, and He also knows our hearts trust Him while we endure it. When we endure because we are ″conscious of God″ (v. 19), God calls it a commendable thing (vv. 19-20), or more literally, ″a gracious thing″ (ESV).
As Christians, we might be prepared to submit to God's will, but we may not be so ready to submit to the demands of people, particularly if their treatment of us is not kind or fair. But we know that through our service to all kinds of masters, we are always serving God and showing Him that we fear Him. It's comforting to know that God notices this, and calls it commendable-a gracious thing.
How might you show grace in your response to some of the demands placed upon you?
Are there situations in which you might advise a Christian friend to consider a different employer or to seek relief from a crushing situation?