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 am a fan of the Revised Common Lectionary for worship. It is a three-year cycle in which a great deal of the Scripture gets read in worship and preached on. However, there are times when what is omitted is a head scratcher. For instance in the book of 1 Peter part of the passage we are looking at is read on the fourth week after Easter but it's only verses 19-25. Now, there is nothing wrong with these verses but they aren't the main point of Peter's writing. These verses are supportive of the main point. They give the reason for living the way Peter describes both before and after these six verses.

I can tell you why the whole passage is not read. It's not read because four times the evil word "submit" and "submissive" appear. In our culture we don't want to hear that word. Wives rebel against the idea. Husbands call male submission being henpecked. And we scream about "worker's rights" and "equality" at all levels. No one talks submission anymore. But we're going to do so today. I agree with the man who wrote, "I still believe that standing up for the truth of God is the greatest thing in the world. This is the end of life. The end of life is not to be happy. The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may."[1]

I need us to realize again who is listening to this letter being read. They are Christians of both a Jewish and pagan background scattered across a section of what we call Asia Minor. They were facing hard times, maybe not persecution to the point of death but certainly the threat and fear hung over them from time-to-time.

Peter has told them that the key to their, "suffer grief in all kinds of trials" 1:6 is found in their keeping their eye on Christ and that this means living differently than the rest of the world. We are responsible to "prepare our minds for action" v. 13. It is the first step in fulfilling God's call for us to be holy as He is holy and to reverently fear God who saves us through Jesus.  It's not about not doing the "evil desires"; "empty way of life" of the laundry list of behaviors, "yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind" and the "desires, which war against [our] soul".[2]

We have to "crave pure spiritual milk" to "love our sisters and brothers deeply from the heart" and "live such good lives among the pagans that… they may see your good deeds and glorify God."[3]

This type of life, the one that desires God's with purity, the one that loves others deeply and which is calls attention to itself in positive way is only possible for those who live in submission. And that's why this theme is critical to any understanding of what it means to live for Jesus.

Jesus is the greatest example of what submitting looks like. He was not a doormat. He wasn't weak. He wasn't kept from becoming significant by submitting. Rather, He met the fullness of God's call for His life in becoming human and submitting to our human frailties and experiences. His submission to our sin allowed Him to become the payment, the debt, the ransom we owed God. Warren Wiersbe, explains that, "Submission is not subjugation. Subjugation turns a person into a thing…Submission makes a person become more of what God wants them to be…Subjugation is weakness; it is the refuge of those who are afraid of maturity. Submission is strength."[4]

Peter first speaks of four areas where this submission is to take place. But a key phrase is seen in verse 13 where he says, "for the Lord's sake". Don't forget this. Hold onto this thought. Our submitting isn't so we get justice. It's not so we look better than others do. It's not so we can get our way with God. We do it because God tells us to do it. It's part of the obedience those who love Jesus just do.

The first area concerns the government. This is going to be a hard lesson for one segment of our nation after the November elections. There are going to be people, in this room, who will have to swallow hard no matter who is elected. And that's not bad because we believe, as Christians, and particularly as Reformed, Presbyterian types, that God establishes kings, rulers and authorities. Those we are to pray for we are also to submit too.

Before you ask, it doesn't mean we obey the authorities if they tell us to do something that goes against the clear teaching of Scripture. World War 2 had the Confessing Church in Nazi Germany which refused to submit to Hitler, and rightly so. The underground church in China, Eastern Europe and elsewhere are testimony to standing up for Christ first and foremost. Respect, love, fear  and honor are the hallmark words for the follower of Jesus when it comes to God and others.

Secondly Peter tells slaves to submit to their masters. And God's not too concerned whether these masters are good or bad. The behavior of others doesn't take away our responsibility to respond to them as Christ's people. Slavery is a biblical concept. It was practiced in Jesus' day and wasn't seen as evil or horrid. It is probably an okay interpretation here to talk about employment and bosses in terms of submission. Having said that, we can always quit a job and find a new boss, that option wasn't there for the slave.

Why does one submit to another person in such a horrible situation? The answer is found in Jesus. Jesus lived a perfect life. He never lied. He never cheated. He didn't threaten or strike back at those who killed him. If we are going to live a life like His, what better place to do so than under the thumb of a pain-in-the-backside slave owner? 

We now move into submission within the home. Rev. Peter Loughman, of First Presbyterian Anchorage wrote, "When Peter says win over he doesn’t mean in a marketing kind of way, or to win as in a competition, that’s all manipulative, that’s all human effort. Peter means for the husband to come to salvation through the Holy Spirit, by the gentle and kind spirit of his wife."[5]

A woman might have her own religion but she was also expected to serve the gods of her husband.  For the pagan wife who comes to Christ you can imagine that this may be difficult.  Suddenly she is being taught there is no God but God yet she's expected to worship and participate with all the other things going on. She can become stubborn or simply given in and shut up. Either way she loses. The answer is a gentle spirit. It isn't in manipulating or tricking the husband to come to Christ. It's not about luring the man to follow. It's about living as Sarah did with Abraham. Please notice the opposites in verse 6, "doing what's right" verses "giving into fear". Living out a gentle spirit overcomes the fear we have that we'll be mistreated. Gentleness is the attitude that we won't fight back even if attacked. It is a certain knowledge that we can suffer without seeking of vengeance or being bitter.

One can become afraid when they live out a submissive life. There is no promise, guarantee or safety net that the other person will respond in love toward you. After all, as Peter points out, an owner may be harsh. In this way, submission is an act of 'faith' for the one who chooses to submit has to believe God is God no matter who is in authority.  

Men are pretty simple creatures. We're really not all that complicated and in fact that's probably why Peter's instructions are so concise.  We're to respect our wives because we don't God won't hear us. Does it get any simpler than that folks?

Women are to submit even though it may be a fearful thing to do. Men are to submit even though they appear weak by treating their wives with respect and honoring them. Peter's command sets the world on its head. Instead of having wives cloistered away, with no life of their own they are treated as joint heirs of God's love through Christ. In Jewish thought peace was linked to the amount of honor of Kavod a husband gave his wife. The Talmud says, "The man who loves his wife as much as himself and who gives her more kavod than to himself... The pattern of kavod starts with the man giving kavod to his wife. When she feels secure that he respects her, the nature of the wife is that she will give kavod back willingly"[6]

Submission in all areas of life is a key to living as God's person. Why? Because Jesus lived out a submissive life, a life that took Him from the eternity of His Kingdom into the birth canal of a human woman. He submitted to all the horrors humanity could throw at him and even death.

If anything stands in the way of our living for Jesus it is insisting we have our way, that we are honored, and that we deserve… Do you want to know what we deserve? Do you want to know the type of honor we have earned? Do you want to know what our way of doing things has done? Look at this table, for it is the sacrifice of Jesus, His body beaten, broken and scarred and His blood poured out in payment for our sins. If you really want to know than submit yourself to God and come to His table and see.


[1] Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "Paul's Letter to American Christians, November 4, 1956"

[2] 1 Peter 1:14,17 & 2:1, 11

[3] 1 Peter 2:2 & 1 Peter 1:22

[4] Warren Wiersbe, Leadership

[5] Peter Loughman First Presbyterian. Anchorage Alaska

[6] Talmud Yevamos 62b

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