16 August 20131 Peter 2:21-25
‘For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.” (v. 21)
Peter the apostle is generally believed to have written this letter, to Gentile (non Jewish) Christians living in the region of Asia Minor. The recipients seem, from the contents of the letter, to have been suffering from persecution for their faith. Peter writes to encourage them, reminding them of the hope that Jesus brings. Chapter 2 verses 18-25 specifically addresses slaves.
In the first part of chapter two Peter tells his audience that they are "a chosen race" (1 Peter 2:9). He goes on to warn them to steer clear of sin living such good lives that no one can an accuse them of wrongdoing (verse 12). He marries freedom and submission interestingly in verses 13-17 and in verse 18 instructs slaves to submit gracefully to wrongful treatment from their masters. Verses such as this have been used by the Christians in the past to justify slavery, which was a normal feature of the Roman Empire. Elsewhere in the Bible masters are told to treat their slaves well (Ephesians 6:9) and Philemon is told to look upon his slave Onesimus as 'a beloved brother' (Philemon v. 16), however here Peter's focus is to encourage slaves to endure unjust suffering.
It is on this basis that we find today's passage, which starts with "to this you have been called" referring back to being called to suffer graciously for doing good, as Jesus did. The point here is not challenging the injustice, but the response of the victim to it.
Peter cites the example of Jesus as the main motivation. The word translated "example" in verse 21 means 'writing under', as in an outline to trace over or copy, like when a child learns their letters, or a sketch to fill in. "Follow in his steps" echoes this idea.
- As Christians are we primarily called to, and responsible for, the way in which we respond to injustice, or to challenge injustice? Why? What was Jesus' way in this?
- What do you think was the point of Jesus suffering injustice graciously? What weight does the purpose outlined in verse 21 have?
- What do you think is the point of us suffering injustice graciously?
- How can the image of Jesus being an example as described above be applied to our everyday lives?