Submitting to slavers

This morning, we read 1 Peter 2:18:

Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are perverse. (NET Bible)

 Friends under siege

My heart is heavy for my LGBTIQ+ friends who are, once again, in the firing line of the church.  I am astounded at their strength.  Having your body and soul under constant public attack – by the very community where you should find love, rest and home – must be unimaginably painful.   

How do we fight?

I keep wondering how those of us who identify as allies are present in this war. 

My thoughts here are specifically as and for allies.  Not for a single moment do I want to tell LGBTIQ+ believers how they should act or survive this current storm.  I cannot image the emotional and spiritual strength needed.  I refuse to add another voice telling you what to do and how to do it.

As an ally, one of my greatest challenges these last years, have been to not become what I oppose.  How do I fight without fighting?  How do I engage abusers with love – in a way that they also experience as love?

And then Peter

Then 1 Peter shows up.  1 Peter has a long history of being abused for abuse.  It is interesting that the Lectionary skips over verse 18.  It is also interesting that those who use 1 Peter 3 to advocate for women’s submission, conveniently leave out the context of slavery.  This morning, 1 Peter 2 challenged me to consider how we respond to injustice.  I am indeed not a slave.  Nor are my LGBTIQ+ friends.  Yet I find the similarities compelling, in discerning how to respond to injustice.  

Struggling with Peter

There are those who argue that by the very act of addressing slaves, the slaves are given agency.  Their humanity is recognized.  Intriguing though the thought might be, it is questionable whether commanding someone to submit to abuse is in fact giving them agency.

Perhaps we misunderstand?  N.T. Wright argues

He isn’t simply recommending that people remain passive while suffering violence. He is urging them to realize that somehow, strangely, the sufferings of the Messiah are not only the means by which we ourselves are rescued from our own sin. They are the means, when extended through the life of his people, by which the world itself may be brought to a new place.

Tom, Wright. Early Christian Letters for Everyone (New Testament for Everyone) (p. 71). SPCK.

So the way I “suffer” or react to injustice, might be a means of salvation for others.  The thing is, in this particular case, I’m not the one suffering the injustice.  I’m the bystander.  I simply can’t tell someone who is being abused to submit.  Then I become an abuser as well.

Furthermore, it is very dangerous to claim suffering “because of conscience toward God” (v19).  Too often this becomes a justification for our own actions, claiming that we are suffering because we are obedient.  If everyone is suffering, surely someone is disobedient.   

Wright also states:

Somehow, he is saying, we must see all the unjust suffering of God’s people as caught up within the suffering of his son.

Tom, Wright. Early Christian Letters for Everyone (New Testament for Everyone) (p. 71). SPCK.

Again, I think Wright tries to explain the discomfort away too soon, too easily.  But it is true that a focus on Christ, and the way he dealt with injustice, can point us in the right direction.

Now what?

Here is where I’m at, considering injustice and not becoming what we oppose.  These are first thoughts, still in development. 

I do not believe that we are called to submit to “slavers”, to injustice.  I do believe, however, that we are called to love even slavers.  That we are called to engage with them in such a way, that they get a glimpse of the Christ we know and follow.  In us, they need to see the strength of vulnerability, the embodiedness of caring, the fierceness of love.

How?  That is the question!

For me, this means that I need to “guard my heart”.  I have to spend time with God, allowing God to wash away the darkness and hatred that I’ve seen, that threaten to consume me.  I must make sure that I see, hear and feel more love than hate, more beauty than mud. Which is time consuming!

It also means that sometimes, I need to take a step back.   Disengage.  Look at some cat pictures.  Listen to beautiful music.  Pray.  Spend time with lovely friends.

It means that I must constantly check my heart, to always walk in the opposite spirit.  Which is only possible with a well-guarded heart!  It is only when I take time to know God, to align with God, that I am able to discern what “walking in the opposite spirit” means in a particular circumstance.

It means that I need the support of fellow believers.  I need believers in whose company I can vent, who will allow me to release the poison – but who will also lovingly hold me accountable and remind me to check my heart.

I’m learning as I go.  I often make mistakes.  I’ve claimed these words by Laura Jean Truman as my prayer and guide:

God,

Keep my anger from becoming meanness.

Keep my sorrow from collapsing into self-pity.

Keep my heart soft enough to keep breaking.  Keep my anger turned towards justice, not cruelty. 

Remind me that all of this, every bit of it, is for love.

Keep me fiercely kind.

Amen.

One thought on “Submitting to slavers

  1. Thank you. These words are what I needed to read today. I feel so overwhelmed by injustice and find myself so angry. And I want to respond with love but instead lash out, return the hurt. Will heed the good advice.

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