“When Your Boss Isn’t Fair” 1 Peter 2:18-25 June 19, 2011
SCRIPTURE INTRO: We’re studying 1 Peter this summer.
The theme of this letter is Christian suffering.
How as a Christian, you can live in such a way that the troubles, pains,
and sorrows that inevitably come, don’t crush you, but make you better.
First part of the letter, Peter lays the groundwork by telling us who we are
in Christ. God’s elect, a kingdom of priests, the church of the living God,
strangers and aliens in this world.
Second part of the letter, tells us how we are to live consistent with who we are.
This has a direct bearing on how we deal with the sufferings and trials of life.
INTRO: I have a friend who used to argue that soccer is anti-American.
It’s part of a communist plot against America to undermine real football.
My friend is not alone in that opinion.
Jack Kemp, former Buffalo Bills quarterback and nine term Congressman once
argued that the United States should not host the World Cup. He said:
“I think it is important for all those young men out there, who someday hope to play real football, where you throw it and kick it and run with it and put it in your hands. A distinction should be made that football is democratic, capitalistic, whereas soccer is a European socialist sport.”
I don’t know if soccer is anti-American or not,
but I’ll tell you what is anti-American—these verses in 1 Peter!
Peter was writing to slaves. Slaves were everywhere in the Roman Empire.
The Roman empire was built economically and politically on slavery.
In many places slaves outnumbered freemen ten to one.
They were not only domestic help and laborers—
they were clerks, teachers, doctors, accountants.
The majority of Gentile Christians in the early church were slaves.
Slavery then was different in some ways from slavery practiced in the South
before the Civil War. For one thing, it wasn’t limited to one race.
And some slaves were highly educated. Some were paid. Purchased freedom.
But they were slaves all the same. They longed for liberty and just conditions.
There were slave uprisings like the one led by Spartacus.
The brutality with which authorities put down revolts show how unjust this was—
6,000 slaves crucified for miles along the Appian Way.
So it surprises and disappoints Americans that the New Testament doesn’t take
a more aggressively critical stance toward slavery.
Peter should have said something different to Christians who where slaves.
He should have said:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among them are life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness.”
Even if they couldn’t do anything to get out of their predicament,
it would have comforted them if he had emphasized the vicious evils of slavery,
and how horrible it is for one man to own another and to beat him.
And how they had a right to resist, at least in their minds, this great injustice.
Peter does acknowledge that some master are unjust.
But he doesn’t take time to discuss the evil of slavery
or even recommend its eventual abolition.
Instead, Peter teaches that Christian slaves should submit to their masters,
even the bad ones, and go extra mile to demonstrate their faithfulness as workers.
In other places the New Testament puts Christian masters under
strict obligation to treat their slaves with dignity and respect.
It tells them to treat their slaves as they themselves want to be treated.
But that hardly satisfies modern people.
In fact, this is one of the criticisms that enemies of Christianity throw at the Bible—
It supports slavery. It’s outdated, socially backwards.
Does the Bible defend slavery as an institution? Not at all.
Whenever biblical ethics take root in a nation, eventually leads to end of slavery. Slavery ended in the Great Britain and other Western nations because
of the influence of a biblical view of mankind and justice. Wilberforce.
But that’s not Peter’s concern here. He’s not talking about the nature of slavery
and what are right and just social relations for a nation.
He’s dealing with something much more profound—
How do you, as a Christian, live with injustice, unfairness in your workplace and
in other parts of life? Christian students, how do you deal with unfair teachers?
Just before this Peter talks about government authorities. Remember last week.
There was plenty of injustice that Christians were suffering.
After this will speak to Christian wives whose husbands are uncaring.
Remember this letter is about Christian suffering.
How you can come through the fire and not be burned to ashes but refined.
Lots of suffering comes from injustice at the hands of people above us.
Here’s what Peter says—It’s totally un-American. It’s un-worldly.
For a Christian, the unjust treatment you suffer is not a curse, it’s a calling.
“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example,
that you should follow in his steps.”
If you are suffering unjustly, it’s God’s calling on your life. What do you do with a
calling from God? You follow it. How do you follow it? Three things:
1. Submit to your masters.
2. Remember God’s judgment.
3. Follow Christ’s footsteps.
MP#1 Submit to your masters
“Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those
who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.”
Submit means to obey, not grudgingly, not dragging your feet and gritting teeth,
but submit with respect. Not just to good masters who you naturally respect,
but even to the bad ones, the harsh ones.
Doesn’t that go against the grain!
When I read that, I hear Johnny Paycheck singing in the background—
“You can take this job . . . and shove it!”
Obviously, doing this takes supernatural power—and we’re going to get to that.
But the first challenge is to figure out how this even applies to us today.
We live in a very different social and economic setting than ancient Rome.
It’s true that you can be, in a sense, a slave to your work, trapped in a job.
Trapped because of your financial needs, your age, training, family situation.
But you often can get out or make a change if absolutely have to.
There are often means of recourse you have to address unfair treatment.
So how does this apply to your life now as a Christian?
The best I can do is give you three questions to honestly ask yourself.
Ask these about your situation. Pray about it. Seek God’s guidance.
1. Am I doing something to provoke this attack?
Maybe your boss is a harsh, crooked person and everybody knows it.
But that doesn’t mean that you are automatically faultless.
Peter addresses this. He says:
“How is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it?”
Peter is not defending masters beating slaves.
He’s pointing out that even as a Christian you can suffer in the workplace
for things you do wrong. Be aware of self-justification.
Years ago, there was a Christian man who complained to me over and over
about how he was being mistreated at work. And we prayed together.
But as he began to tell me more and more about the situation,
and what he was doing, and how he was working, I began to get bigger picture.
Yes, his boss was a jerk, but he wasn’t working like he should.
Once when I was a teacher there was some chatter every time I wrote on board.
So I came hard on a girl who was in the vicinity of the chatter.
She got tears in eyes and said: Mr. Sieg, you are so unfair. I wasn’t talking.
I said: Michelle, you talk all the time. She said: But I wasn’t talking this time!
If you know who you are in Christ, should be able to look for legitimate criticisms
of your work even in the harsh treatment of those in authority over you.
But what if there aren’t any legitimate criticisms? What if it’s just unfairness.
Or maybe you are even being singled out because you are a believer.
2. Do I have a proper attitude of submission?
What’s driving you? Are you most concerned about your rights?
Are you most concerned about being respected?
Or are you conscious that you are submitting to this person because of your
fundamental submission to God?
There’s a great story in Acts that illustrates this. Paul was before the Sanhedrin.
He gave an answer that they didn’t like, and the High Priest ordered that Paul
be struck on the mouth. This was a violation of Paul’s legal rights. He said:
God will strike you, you white washed tomb. You sit there and judge me according to the
law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck.
Someone said: You dare insult God’s High Priest?
Paul backed down. Said, I was wrong. God’s word says:
You shall not speak evil about the ruler of my people.
I like that story because it shows a great Christian man with a sharp mind
and a sharp tongue and a feisty personality wrestling with submission.
Is your first concern honoring God by submitting to the authority he has placed
over you, even if it is unfair. Is that your first concern?
3. How can I have the most effective witness for Christ?
Listened to a sermon this week on passage by Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill
Church in Seattle. He read a letter from young woman in his church who worked
in a health food store. Everybody there was into New Age and environmentalism. When found out she was a Christian, ostracized her. The butt of store jokes.
Very lonely at work, almost quit, but decided to stay.
Then regional manager came, interviewed everybody, as part of interview asked
their opinion of fellow employees. Indicated this would be kept private.
Well, her co-workers said some critical things about her.
Instead of keeping private, he raked her over the coals in front of everyone
at the end of his visit. She went home that day in tears, decided to quit.
But prayed about it and believed Lord wanted her to submit, even though wrong.
Went in the next day with Starbucks for everyone.
They were stunned. Absolutely did not know how to respond to her.
Finally some of them lamely said they didn’t know what told regional manager
said would be repeated. Tried to make him out to be the bad guy.
But she wouldn’t join in criticizing. That threw them for more of a loop.
They never asked her forgiveness for the way they had treated her up to that point.
But their attitude toward her changed. Never mocked her or faith again.
She said: I could have left that job at any time, but if I had left too soon,
would have missed this great opportunity to honor Christ.
For a Christian, the unjust treatment you suffer is not a curse, it’s a calling.
How do you follow that calling?
Submit to your masters.
MP#2 Remember God’s judgment
It’s not enough just to submit to unjust masters.
Lots of people do that who don’t know the Lord.
They submit out of fear. They submit out of apathy.
They submit by stoicism and willpower. There is no value in any of those things.
Peter says that the only submission that counts is that which is done with a
profound awareness of God’s judgment of our lives.
Look with me again at verses 19 and 20.
“For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering
because he is conscious of God.”
Now, middle of verse 20: “If you suffer for doing good and you endure it,
this is commendable before God.”
Another translation says: “This is a fine thing in God’s sight.”
Peter is saying, Look, as a Christian you can’t ask yourself the normal questions
about unjust treatment or anything for that matter. You can’t ask:
What do I want to do?
What will bring me immediate pleasure?
What is fair for me in this situation?
You have to develop a mindset where you are always conscious of God.
What does God want of me?
What will please and honor him?
What could I do in this situation that would be a fine thing in his sight.
A true Christian is someone who lives and breathes and has his being in God.
A true Christian has a profound God-consciousness—
the holiness of God, the glory of God, the judgment of God.
Howard Hendricks tells the story of once being on an airplane that was delayed
on the ground. The passengers were becoming increasingly impatient.
One obnoxious man began to vent his frustrations on one of the flight attendants.
He became quite rude and abusive. (Obviously pre 911!)
But no matter what he said, she responded graciously and courteously.
Finally, after they got airborne, she came by Dr. Hendricks’ seat he got her attention
and said: Ma’am, I saw the way you handled that passenger. I would like to get
your name so I can write a letter of commendation to your employer.
He was completely taken by surprise when she said:
“Thank you, sir, but I don’t work for American Airlines.”
He kind of sputtered and said: “You don’t?”
She said: “No, I work for my Lord Jesus Christ.”
She went on to explain that before each flight, she and her husband would pray
that she would be a good representative of Christ on her job and serve God first.
Peter doesn’t say it’s commendable if you bear up under the pain of unjust suffering
by being a stoic, by toughing it out. Lots of people do that.
By bearing up under abuse because it’s company policy.
It’s commendable if you are conscious of God. That’s a fine thing in God’s sight.
Is that the way you view injustices done to you?
There’s one more aspect of this that takes it to another level.
It’s in verse 23, speaking of Christ’s suffering on the cross:
“He entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”
I think this is in here for Christians who really suffer gross injustice.
The kind I hope we never face in America but the kind Christians face in many
parts of the world—imprisonment, destruction of property,
physical and sexual abuse—simply because they are Christians.
The kinds of things that happen every day in Communist and Islamic countries.
Peter probably knew that this kind of extreme persecution was coming
with Nero on the throne. Not only do you in a sense remember God’s
daily judgment, that you are conscious of him daily in all decisions.
But when you face really tough things, you remember his final judgment.
You entrust yourself to him who judges justly.
It doesn’t say he judges immediately, only justly.
It’s weak and unmanly just to surrender to injustice out of fear or despair.
But it’s the brave and heroic when you accept person injustice and willingly
submit to it as an act of faith in God’s final judgment.
What will the cruel and unjust master think, and what will the Christian slave think
when they both stand before the Great White Throne?
I wonder sometimes if we have lost our Christian imagination.
Do we think about this enough? Do we talk to our children about this enough?
It’s repeated over and over in Scripture.
The Day of the Lord, the Second Coming of Christ, the Books Being Opened.
View your injustices through that lens, and it will change everything.
For a Christian, the unjust treatment you suffer is not a curse, it’s a calling.
How do you follow calling? Submit to your masters, remember God’s judgment.
But we need something more.
We need someone to take us by the hand and walk us through. Brings to third . . .
MP#3 Follow Christ’s footsteps
“Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
And then Peter describes the footsteps of Jesus Christ.
He describes the way he walked through the great injustice of the cross.
“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
When you are under pressure, you say things you wouldn’t normally say.
You might look back later and say, I didn’t mean that. Wasn’t the real me.
I was under a lot of pressure. It was the pressure that made me say that.
But the Bible says, No, that was the real you.
“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
I like the way Paul Tripp puts it.
He says you shouldn’t say: I’m sorry I said that, I didn’t mean it.
You should say: Please forgive me for saying exactly what I thought.
Billy Coleman made this point at the concert held after the tornado.
He said that when he was a football coach, at first practice every year he would
take an orange in one hand and a lemon in another, squeeze until crushed.
Say to players: Boys, when you are under pressure, the real you will come out—
either something sweet, or something sour.
What happened when Jesus was squeezed? What came out of his mouth?
Nothing wrong, nothing selfish. Only words of love and forgiveness.
Peter elaborates: They hurled insults at him.
He did not retaliate. He did not make threats.
Can you imagine how different Christianity would be if Jesus had said to the two
thieves who were mocking him—Go to hell, both of you! It’s horrible to imagine.
Instead he was silent until one thief was broken and then he said:
“Today you will be with me in paradise.”
What if he had looked at those who were mocking him and had said:
God damn you all. What would that have meant for our salvation?
Instead he said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Now, Peter says, that’s the pattern for you to follow. Walk in those footsteps.
Do you want me to stop my sermon now? Walk in his footsteps.
That’s the message for the week. Amen. Benediction. Go home and do it.
If “Be Like Jesus” is the end of the message, you have the most depressing,
legalistic, impossible message imaginable. Nobody can be like Jesus.
Nobody can suffer and die like he did. Trying to do it will crush you.
Praise God Peter doesn’t stop there. Look at verses 24 and 25 again.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for
righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray,
but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Jesus suffering was not just an example—his suffering was substitutionary.
He didn’t just show us how to suffer injustice,
he bore in his body on the tree our sins, the injustices we committed against him.
Do you remember that stanza of the hymn: How Deep The Father’s Love For Us
Behold the Man upon a cross, My guilt upon His shoulders.
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there, Until it was accomplished.
His dying breath has brought me life I know that it is finished.
We don’t just get treated unfairly at times, we dish it out.
We’ve all been unfair, we’ve all been unjust.
We’ve all at one time or another mistreated those people who are below us.
Only the grace of God that has kept you from showing your true colors and being
very cruel. All of your sins against other people, your harsh words, your
impatience, your sarcasm and indifference—Jesus carried those in his own body.
Have you asked Jesus to forgive you of those things?
Dads, it’s Fathers Day. Have you ever asked your children to forgive you for sins
you’ve committed against them? For harsh words, harsh discipline.
For lashing out because your comfort, your peace, your respect violated?
You ought to be the chief repenter in the home. How will your children learn
they are sinners and need Jesus if you put on a front of perfection and never
admit your sins to them?
Repent, be assured of your forgiveness in Christ. Then, what does Peter say:
Christ is the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul.
He’s going to guide you. He’s going to show you how to walk in his steps.
Oh, he is our example. He is our great example.
But he’s more than that—he’s our great enabler. He’s our strength.
And where it is that you become most aware of his presence and power?
It’s when you are suffering. It’s especially when you are suffering like he did.
Suffering injustice and unfairness. That’s when you can be closest to him.
And that’s why Peter says that when a Christian suffers injustice it’s not a curse—
it’s a calling. It’s a calling to know and experience Jesus as real.
You’re about to come to the Lord’s Table. We’re going to remember the meal
he ate with his disciples on the night he was betrayed.
Eat this meal in faith, and Jesus will come to you and lead you.
Listen, I have to say one more thing.
If you aren’t a Christian. If you have never given your life to Jesus Christ.
Then your suffering in this life is not a calling, it’s a curse.
It’s an appetizer for hell. There is nothing redemptive about it.
Instead of making you better, makes you more self-absorbed and unhappy.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Let your suffering lead you to Jesus Christ.
Come to him in prayer. Ask him to forgive you and give life to him.