We must actively submit to those causing our suffering.
In the previous three posts from 1 Peter, I explained that suffering is a reality of this life. Peter tells us there are three causes of our suffering: Sin, Salvation, and Self. Our response to suffering is to submit to it, like Jesus did. For this post, we need to understand that we are called to submit to those that cause our suffering too.
Take 1 Peter 3:1 as an example. How does the wife of an unbelieving and verbally abusive husband respond to suffering? Does submission mean to become passive in her conversations with her spouse? Should she whine and moan to all her church friends about her horrible husband? Should she seek divorce? Absolutely not. She is to submit to her husband, but it is an active submission. She is to be the best wife she can possibly be, going out of her way to be a godly spouse. Maybe the husband will be influenced by her actions and convert to Christianity as well.
1 Peter 2:18 is another great example. What do Christian slaves do when they have pagan masters that mistreat them? Do they hang their head low and just take it in silence? Do they try to run away like Onesimus did? Nope. Peter tells them to actively submit to their masters and be the best servants they can possibly be. Who knows - maybe the master will be influenced by the slave’s actions and convert to Christianity.
The proper response to suffering is to submit to it. Submit to God. Submit to the pain. Submit to the people causing your pain. But be active in how you submit, charging into it headfirst like your Savior did. Here is a list of those Peter counsels us to submit to in this letter:
(1) To Gentiles (or those outside the community of faith).
1 Peter 2:12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
(2) To God.
1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.
(3) To Government and Authority.
1 Peter 2:13–17 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
(4) To Masters (speaking to mistreated slaves).
1 Peter 2:18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.
(5) To Husbands (speaking to mistreated wives).
1 Peter 3:1–6 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands,as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
(6) To One Another.
1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
(7) To Elders.
1 Peter 5:1–5 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”