Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Nov 24 2013 - 1 Peter 2:11-3:7 – Submit!

When I was a teenager, I liked to watch the wrestling on TV on a Saturday afternoon. Sometimes one of the wrestlers would get the other in a backbreaking hold with the aim of gaining a submission – getting the other to admit defeat. I was reminded of this as I read the passage this morning. It too is all about submission: submission to civil authorities (1 Peter 2:13-14); submission to masters – to those who have the right to command your work (2:18); submission to husbands (3:1); and, by implication, submission to God (2:16). Submission does not come naturally; only when my arm is severely twisted or my back is about to break am I ready to cry, "I submit!" Submission is a sign of weakness. To submit is to admit defeat. Or is it?

Peter knew all about the human tendency to fight back; he had been the disciple who had struck off the ear of the high priest's servant with a sword. But in this he had acted against the will of his master. He urges servants, even when ill-treated, to submit to their masters: "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps" (2:21). We are to walk in the footsteps of Christ, even in situations (perhaps especially in situations) where we feel that we are treated unfairly. We are to win the day by unalloyed goodness (2:15) – by the power of a godly life; even by the power of the cross.

The call to submission is therefore an invitation to submit to Jesus Christ as our Lord and our Master. Peter reminds us that, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, 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" (2:24-25). Jesus endured the cross that we might be healed, transformed. Risen from the dead he is "the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls." He calls us each by name to follow him; to follow him in the path of submission – dying to sin and sinful responses and living to righteousness. Nor will he ever leave us to walk this path alone; he walks with us every step of the way – "the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls." 

This life of discipleship, following Christ and walking with him, is to be lived out in every aspect of our daily lives. It is to shape our life at work and in society. Above all, it is to shape our life in the home, in the relationship of husband to wife and wife to husband. It is here especially that we are to practice the grace of submission as we live in love for and consideration of one another. Such shared lives find expression also in frequent times of prayer, for they have their focus in Christ and the coming of his kingdom.

Such submission is not weakness nor is a life shaped by such submission a servile life. It is a life marked by gratitude, freedom and contentment – the freedom of knowing that we are children of God and that we do not need to prove ourselves to others or fight to establish a position for ourselves. We have become content with Christ and glad to follow him.

Loving Saviour, you taught us submission when we came to own that you are Lord, Lord over all the universe and Lord of our lives. Help us to live this day in glad submission to your gracious rule, recognising that you are the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. Help us to live in ready submission to one another and even to those who do not yet know you. Help us to display the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit – for your name’s sake and for your glory.

Peter Misselbrook