Theology of Suffering - Submission
In our theology of suffering, we focus on this verse: Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. (I Peter 2:13-14, NIV)
Notice the ugly word used by Peter. It is 'submit'. It is an ugly word to many Christians. They hate it. It is the enemy of human pride, of self-worth, of self-importance, yes, and that most sacred of all words, 'self-image'. It is an enemy because it denies the centrality of YOU. When you submit, you can no longer maintain your pride, your arrogance, your self-centeredness, and your desire to rule instead of being ruled.
How to Suffer for Doing Good 2
In our study of the theology of suffering we note that the New Testament Greek for this word is “submit” is a military term which means, “to rank under” as a Captain “ranks under” a Colonel. According to the passage before us, God wants all of us to submit to (or rank under) "rulers (government)." Some of us must submit to (or rank under) "Masters (employers)." And wives must submit to (or rank under) "Husbands.” In addition, this word means in certain grammatical structures, to subject oneself, to obey, to be subject to. In the passage you are looking at, submit is used in just this grammatical structure. What does this point of grammar mean to you? It means that it is your job to "subject yourself" to the God-ordained authorities in your life. In practice, this boils down to the question of whether you want to submit or simply have to submit. In loving God, a believer should want to do whatever the Word says to do, instinctively recognizing that obedience is the best of all possible actions. A Christian should never need to be "subjected" to the authority of government, employers, or husbands. You should never "be forced" to do what God requires you to do willingly. Such a thing is dishonoring to God
Let's Look Inside
Theology of Suffering - Rulers
In our theology of suffering, let us look at rulers first and learn not only the direct lessons needed in order to act like Christian citizens, but also, by analogy, let us learn much more about submission and suffering for doing good.
Do you have a difficult time with some of the unchristian actions of our government? You probably do. On occasion, they are rather deplorable. But let me ask you this -- what kind of government was Peter talking about when he wrote this letter? He was talking about the Roman government of the first century that murdered Jesus Christ and would soon murder Peter and Paul also. These were not Christian, or even just governments. But still he instructs us to "submit" and to do it "for the Lord's sake". God instituted government. Even bad government is under the sovereign and providential direction of God Himself, who uses the wickedness of men to praise Himself. Paul reiterates these thoughts in Romans 13 as well. There is no question about it; Christians are to submit to their government; this fact is important in our theology of suffering.
In Peter's day, Christians were being reported to government officials as evildoers. What evil were they accused of? They were accused of being atheists! They were accused of being cannibals and eating babies! And, they were accused of being revolutionaries.
"How did they figure that?" you may ask.
They were considered atheists because they had no visible God to worship. The pagans had idols or visible gods. The Christians had none. Obviously, people reasoned they did not worship God. They were, therefore, atheists. They were accused of being cannibals because they held secret meetings (close or closed communion), in which they were heard saying they drank the blood and ate the flesh of someone called Jesus. That obviously made them cannibals. They were considered revolutionaries because they refused to show proper respect to the government by making food and drink offerings to the "genius of the emperor." In doing this, they refused to fulfill their civic responsibilities in loyalty oaths and offerings to the government. Obviously they were disloyal and, therefore, a danger to lawful government.
Now you may say, "That's silly, they weren't atheists or cannibals or revolutionaries."
In hindsight that is clear, but it was not thought to be silly at the time. These were real fears and charges, and many thousands of Christians were put to death for these supposed offenses.
In your own theology of suffering, how do you think they should respond to such evil accusations? Peter says, "For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men (I Peter 2:15, NIV)."
"Doing good? Why, I would give them a piece of my mind if they said that about me! Forget the good; they'd feel my wrath."
I understand your attitude. I understand because it is "normal" to the Adamic flesh, or your sin nature, to "overcome evil with evil." But, that is not Christianity. In the Bible, you are told to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21, NIV). You must recognize that doing good undermines the charges of evil spread by others. Responses that look like evil will never undermine these charges; instead, they would confirm them.
Are you the victim of "ignorant talk" by people who just don't know what they are talking about? Are people cussing and discussing you behind your back? You have two options. You can "give them a piece of your mind and set them straight" and thereby confirm the accuracy of their gossip, or you can, by "doing good," prove them to be seriously wrong, if not gossips and liars. Are you slandered as being sexually immoral, as being impure and debased, as being idolaters and advocates of the occult, of hatred, of discord, of jealousy, of fits of rage, of selfish ambition, of dissension, of factions, of envy, of drunkenness, and the like (Galatians 5:19-21)? If so, there is a simple solution to the problem. To these slanderers you must show "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV). You see, by doing these things you will "silence the ignorant talk of foolish men."
A theology of suffering is most demanding.