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Firstly, the submission that God commands in 1Peter is doing good.

Peter uses the verb agathopoeio (poeio = I do + agathos = good) four times, and the related noun once, in his teaching on submission:

‘It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men’ (2:15).

‘... if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God’ (2:20).

‘You are (Sarah’s) daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear’ (3:6).

‘It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil’ (3:17).

‘... those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good’ (4:19).

He speaks of doing good:

‘Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?’ (3:13)

‘... those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ ...’ (3:16)

Similarly, Peter speaks of ‘righteousness’:

‘... that we might ... live for righteousness’ (2:24).

‘But even if you suffer for what is right’ (3:14).

This doing good is not a moral ideal disconnected from the realities of life. It is doing good, pursuing right, in a life context that is neither good nor right.

It is doing good in the context of injustice.

It is doing good in the context of criticism, malice and insult.

It is doing good in the context of ignorance and misunderstanding.

It is doing good in the context of false accusation.

It is doing good in the context of suffering and mistreatment.

It is doing good in the context of threat.

It is doing good in the context of fear.

It is doing good in the context of evil.

And all of this brings us to a second dominant aspect of the principle of submission: that this submission is intimately connected to pursuing the will of God.

It is God’s will that by doing good we will silence the ignorant talk of foolish men (2:15).

The primary commitment of the Christian’s life is no longer the pursuit of sinful human desires but the pursuit of the will of God, even when, especially when, obeying God incurs suffering (4:1-3).

Peter is not saying that God has decreed that Christians should suffer. What he is saying is that if we do what is right, if we do what is God’s will, in the context of a sinful, evil world then we will suffer. We, like Christ, the holy and righteous one who fully submitted to the will of God the Father, will suffer as he suffered the rejection, insults and hatred of our fellow human beings. God’s will is for us to do good. If doing good incurs suffering, then it is better to do good, and suffer because of it, than to do evil. The Christian who chooses to do good and suffer for it demonstrates that he is truly submissive to God.

Submission then, while on the surface it looks like giving in to the humans who are mistreating and misunderstanding us, is at its fundamental level, submission to God.

It is obeying God’s commands.

It is honouring the name of Christ.

It is showing the proper respect for everyone that God demands.

It is obeying Christ’s example of non-retaliation.

It is loving and serving our fellow believers with compassion and humility.

For God’s sake, for Christ’s glory, regardless of how much it hurts.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2018