Slavery has been abolished in many parts of the world ... officially. But hard and harsh employments persist, sometimes in the most surprising places. The smiling management face may hide a mean heart, or years of traditional worker-abuse might have become accepted as normality. There is nothing new in this, and although we hope that generous and friendly employers predominate, nevertheless, it is a tough life at work for some. So, Peter addresses an important question, ‘How should a believer respond to being harshly treated at work?’
The law may give rights to workers, but the court is not a good place to build relationships for Christ. Running away can relieve an immediate problem but cannot secure the future. Peter's advice is to stay and learn submission. You can almost hear his readers say, ‘But I am forced to submit, and it is unjust!’ However, there is a huge difference between the resentment of unwilling submission, and a deliberate choice to put yourself under another's authority. Take Jesus as an example: He was not forced to the cross. He willingly submitted Himself to His Father's will and chose to undergo the suffering, in obedience, out of love and with joy (Hebrews 12:2).
Jesus’ example is the key to understanding how to relate with injustice. Although He was God in a human body, Jesus had no problem in becoming a servant, submitting Himself to Father God (Philippians 2:3-8). Although crucifixion was shameful and dreadfully painful, Jesus endured it with joy because He knew that in the end He would be with His Father. Hebrews 12:2-3 tells us that Christ’s motivation - to please His Father - needs to be ours. Indeed, without that eternal perspective every injustice will only make us resentful and bitter.
The Christian finds joy in following the same principle. We belong to the Lord. Because He has bought us, He owns us. We are also called to serve Him, and so in that sense, He is our Boss as well as our God. We are engaged in His family business. He wants to use every one of our daily encounters to demonstrate His love, power, mercy and grace, to us, and to those around us. The way we react to personal injustice therefore shows how much or little we love and trust the Lord. The 'extra mile' (Matthew 5:40-42) we travel for our unreasonable manager shows that he/she does not own us - we do it for the Lord. He will reward us (Matthew 5:12). So, every day we are working for God (Colossians 3:23); and our human employment is the opportunity to prove it.
© Dr Paul Adams