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Opening Question
What comes to mind when you hear the word “submission”?

Introduction
In the last lesson, Peter told his hearers to keep their behavior excellent among their Greco-Roman neighbors. He now spells out how to do so in several specific social situations. Key to living in harmony with others is the need for compromise, and for someone to give in to someone else’s plans or will. Today, the word submission is frequently tied to loss if identity, of independence, and of “self.” Few people delight in submitting their own desires to someone else. But Peter reminds believers that submission is not only a negative idea, it was modeled by Christ, and forms a foundation for healthy relationships.

As Citizens
1 Peter 2:13-17 – Regardless of the type of civil authority, we are to submit as citizens of earthly government: to kings, governors, presidents or mayors. The lower strata are delegated powers from those higher for the purpose of good and right. We’re also told how to treat the King: he deserves honor, just as all other people. Only God deserves “fear”. Such advice would vary significantly from the emperor worship common in the first century.

What principles from Peter should guide us when the government doesn’t follow God’s purpose of distinguishing good and bad, of punishment of evil and praise of good?

As Servants (Employees?)
1 Peter 2:18-20 – This advice is primarily for those who function as household servants, and tells us about some of Peter’s audience: they were poorer class, without autonomy in a world where slaves made up nearly 30% of the population. How should slaves or servants live? They should always be submissive, even, or especially, when the expectations were unreasonable and hard. To do so makes God proud of them for their willingness to follow the example of Jesus. Rather that stand up and fight for their own rights, they willingly act graciously and with submission.

How does the American view of freedom color the way we read these verses? How would popular psychology address Peter’s advice? Can we draw any conclusions about how we should act as employees who deal with a difficult boss or work environment?

Christ’s Example
1 Peter 2:21-25 – Jesus’ example of suffering is ours to follow. Identifying with Christ at baptism no only initiates us into fellowship with His death, it invites resurrection power to a new covenant life. This life is at odds with the world and its values. As John says, the world hates us because it hated Jesus first. He suffered and left us an example in that as well. When faced with insults, Spirit-led heart loves the person offending enough to ask their forgiveness, and asks God to be the ultimate judge. We cannot know someone’s history or background as to why they might mistreat us, but God does. Submission to mistreatment runs counter to our desire to fight for our own rights, but Jesus left us this example, difficult as it may be.

To what degree would you agree with this statement: “our actions during times of suffering reveal our true character”?

Marriage Relationships
1 Peter 3:1-7 – This passage has often been viewed in today’s western, egalitarian culture with suspicion, condescension, or outright detest. Peter’s original audience were not so different from us today, and being told to “submit” to someone else would go against human nature. The question is, why would Peter issue such a seemingly unequal imperative? It appears that the most valuable evidence of Jesus in the world might just be through a spousal relationship that seeks for peace and good will. Physical adornment isn’t the goal, but being clothed with the character of Jesus. The example of Christ’s suffering applies to every area, including (unfortunately) a spouse who may not be a follower of Jesus. But patience and endurance might just win the unbelieving spouse to God’s side!

Christian husbands have a duty to their wives, to care for them. The lesson suggests the term “weaker” does not mean physical or emotional weakness, but the Greek term (asthen) usually infers physical weakness, sometimes through an illness. But the author’s conclusion is sound: men are treat their wives as special, delicate, worthy of careful and sensitive attention much like a porcelain vase that is treasured and can be damaged through rough behavior.

Peter cites Abraham and Sarah’s example as a model for Christian relationships. How does their example compare or contrast with our modern view of marriage? How might it be helpful advice and where can it be problematic?

Closing Comments
Submission today can imply giving up all rights to my own will, ideas, or behavior in favor of someone else’s. This goes against human nature, but also reveals our desire for self-determination, and often our bent toward selfishness. Jesus’ example of suffering unjustly with patient endurance shows God’s favor toward those willing to suspend personal rights in favor of forgiveness. It’s a difficult lesson for us.

 

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