Does Submission Equate to Obedience? (TCM)
You know, submission is not a word that we like in our society. It is not a word that sounds like it denotes freedom and the pursuit of happiness. It is a word that pushes us to place ourselves behind others in priority and to consider others needs before our own. Obedience is another word that is not very popular, one that makes most people shutter at its very thought. In Christian culture, these two words are tied up in some serious misunderstandings. Misunderstandings that have allowed husbands, church leaders, and other authority figures to seriously abuse their power and exercise authority in ungodly ways.
In preparation for a Sunday school class I am teaching on the general epistles I began looking through 1 Peter 2:13-25. The text dealt with a theme that American’s squirm over…being subject to authority…namely governmental authority and perhaps even more controversial how masters and slaves should relate to one another. Now this is not a “political” post but what I am about to say will have political ramifications on Christian behavior…and some people are not going to like it. Within this text, Peter brings about the idea of being subject to authorities placed over us by God. Many have taken this to mean “obey” but that is not what is being stated here.
If it were than verses 20-21 directly contradict this assessment in talking about unjust punishment at the hand of authorities. Why would a person who is under an authority be wrongly punished…it could be for a number of reasons. Perhaps they did not do something commanded of them that was unlawful in God’s sight…and while disobeying their master in obedience to God they subject themselves to the punishment of the one who God has placed ahead of them. This is an injustice…but Peter does not seem to think this injustice is a bad thing. In fact it appears that he seems to see it as a blessing of sorts. Why? Because in our suffering unjustly we share in our Lord’s injustice…which is a “gracious thing” according to Peter in verse 19. This is peculiar to us because it does not fit the American mantra of the pursuit of happiness. People are correct for assessing this discontinuity…and should be concerned with Christians more interested in holding up that American mantra than understanding the truth that Scripture tells us.
Peter states plainly that while we may be required to disobey a command from a superior to uphold God’s law that we are not excluded from the consequences of that disobedience. In fact, we are to subject ourselves to whatever punishment comes our way because in doing so we share in Christ’s suffering and are “mindful of God.” Many take issue with this…and I can understand why. We serve a God of justice…a God whose pain for the oppressed and abused of our world is palpable and real. But, we have mistaken God’s justice for our justice…God’s hand for our hand. We are called to walk justly with our God…but that is a call to God’s people to do so…not a call for all people to do so. We have so muddied the waters between what God expects of the church and what God expects of the world that we have come close to making the two indistinguishable.
Peter clearly points us to understanding that we are indeed called to be subject to even unjust authorities…and that to endure such suffering is to share with Christ in His suffering. In the sight of God, to suffer injustice is a “gracious thing.” So when we do suffer injustice…we must remember that the wrong being done to us actually helps us to share in Christ’s suffering which is to His glory. When we subject ourselves to unjust punishment and endure, we are a witness and participant in Christ’s suffering to the world. We give voice and live out the passion story in front of unbelievers. In doing so we hope to show the person of Jesus and reflect his sacrifice to the unbelievers witnessing our unjust treatment. In this God is glorified. Peace and blessings and as always thank you for reading.