Yesterday’s post sets up today’s. Peter is addressing the powerless — much more powerless than we can probably recognize today. And they are “slaves” (the Greek word probably indicates “household slaves”). Peter is addressing the gamut of the “household” (2:18–3:7) so it makes sense to include “household slaves.” Peter’s concern is how they should live, as Christians, in a Roman world that is just beginning to hear about Jesus as Lord and Messiah.
First, Peter doesn’t even consider liberation, and he doesn’t think rebellion a Christian option. Instead, he thinks they should “live within the order” — this continues what he says at 2:13. The Christian option, the only Christian option, Peter urges, is to live “within the order.”
Second, living within the order is one of degrees: we can protest, we can even get arrested, and we can do all this “within the order” (there is, after all, a protocol for such actions), and we can write to politicians and law-makers. Peter sees one degree: live within the order by being good.
Third, Peter focuses here on learning to live before God — and this is useful for any emerging situation.
I believe Peter didn’t think there was any other option: and he finds the life and suffering of Jesus an absolutely perfect example. Jesus, too, was thrust into a situation where he was suffering for doing good, and he simply cast his eyes on the Father and awaited that vindication. So, fourth, Peter appeals to the example of Jesus.
What can we say? There are times when Peter’s advice on how to handle unjust suffering is exactly how we would act; there are times when we’d not do this. There are times when, because we are entitled to justice, because we have laws we can appeal to, because we have a legal system that can bring a better justice, that we just might rise up and fight for justice (“within the order”).
What do you think — are there times to abandon the order, and rebel against injustice?
Tomorrow I’ll look at the pacifistic strain of interpretation.