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He Hit Me First!

October 26, 2020

He Hit Me First!

Last week, after our gathering a couple of kids were running around playing here in the gym, and while I didn’t see anything that went down, I overheard one of the parents stop the action, and say to one of the kids, “did you punch him?” And the other kid responded, “yes, because he kicked me in the stomach.” Now, because I’m a parent as well, I’ve heard that same thing over and over, as most of you have. Why did you hit him? Because he hit me first! Why did you take that from her? I’m only taking it back because she took it from me! And every Christian parent on the planet hopefully has tried to explain, “no, just because it’s done to you doesn’t make it right! You can’t act like that.” At our house, we get a little snarky with that attitude sometimes and say – “oh, good! You returned evil for evil, just like Jesus taught us.” 


But there is something about revenge that just gets our blood pumping. Even though the character, Inigo Montoya from the movie Princess Bride says “There’s not a lot of money in revenge”, Hollywood would have to say very much otherwise. We absolutely LOVE revenge. We’re drawn to it. We love a good “get-even” story. If you hurt me and I cry, I want to see you cry. If you take something from me that causes me pain, I want to see you in pain. If you make me suffer, I want to know you’re suffering in return. 


And on one hand, we should celebrate the fact that we want justice to be served. Genesis 1:27 says we are made in the image of God, and that deep ache for justice is one of the ways we image him:


  • Psalm 37:28 – the Lord loves justice and will not abandon his faithful ones. They are kept safe forever, but the children of the wicked will be destroyed.
  • Isaiah 61:8 – for I the Lord love justice!


So for the kid who got kicked in the stomach, being eager for things to be made right is not the problem. The Lord is also eager for justice. But the problem is where we often go for justice. The reality is we often find ways, like that young man last week, to take things into our own hands. 


The apostle Peter’s train of thought here in 1 Peter is that he believes there is a connection between our behavior and our beliefs. The kick in the stomach says what we believe about God, the cold shoulder to your spouse says what you believe about God, walking off the job after being mistreated says what you believe about God.


Now remember the context for 1 Peter – he’s writing this letter to Christians, who have been forcibly removed from their homes and transplanted into different cultures and regions by the emperor. Now the emperor isn’t a Believer, nor does he care if this new religion has popped up in his empire – unless that belief system upsets or disrupts what he has going on. 


So these Christians are under incredible scrutiny as they go about their lives. And Peter knows this, and is concerned about how a watching world will perceive these believers. So last week, we talked about Peter encouraging these believers to respect and submit to civil authority, whether they are good or evil. The goal is that the watching world would have nothing bad to say about Christians in light of how they respond to being under civil authority – good or bad. And he says submit to them and do good. Don’t just obey the speed limit – do good while you’re at it. The end result of submitting and doing good, even in the face of persecution, is that someone will attempt to come at you with slander or something, realize they have no evidence against you, and end up giving glory to God instead! That our submission and doing good could contribute to someone’s salvation by pointing them to a better King.


And today, Peter continues that thought of how a watching world views Christians, this time in the arena of the home. 


[18] Household slaves, submit to your masters with all reverence not only to the good and gentle ones but also to the cruel. 


Now, right away, we have to pause and define this term “slaves”, because in 21st century America, the first place our mind goes is to chattel slavery and the horrific treatment of humans that happened in some places in the early days of our country. Some of your translations might use the word “servants” to try and distance this phrase from that vision of slavery. But the word used by Peter in the original Greek language describes a person we don’t really have a word for. Slave is too far, but servant isn’t far enough. 


They were generally treated well, and were not only workers, but also managers, overseers, skilled musicians, doctors, nurses, artists, teachers, etc. They were normally paid for their services and could expect to eventually purchase their freedom. While Roman culture respected these servants on one level, their legal standing was at the bottom of society’s totem pole. In fact, one first century author said, “When it comes to slaves there is no such thing as injustice.”


So if that’s true, perhaps a slave who is now a born again follower of Jesus may have wondered or perhaps even hopefully wished that their new birth into a living hope would relieve them from the oppressive social expectations of their job. That since they are free in Christ, that they would get a pass from that kind of treatment, and not have to take the injustice anymore.


And yet Peter writes: you are to submit to your masters “...whether they are gentle and gracious, or if they are cruel.”  That word cruel means crooked. So it’s not just physical abuse. It’s inclusive of all kinds of employer/employee injustice – withheld funds, bad business practices, etc. 


Now what’s our normal tendency when we get kicked in the stomach? Get them back! You made me suffer, I want to see you suffer. And Peter says, no: Submit to them, whether they are generous or stingy; humble or arrogant; upright or crooked. 


But follow Peter’s reasoning here:


[19] For it brings favor if, because of a consciousness of God, someone endures grief from suffering unjustly. [20] For what credit is there if when you do wrong and are beaten, you endure it? But when you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it, this brings favor with God


Peter is concerned that a hostile world is watching, and yet isn’t it interesting his concern is NOT that you earn FAVOR with the world, but with who? GOD! In James 4:4, we read “Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the friend of the world becomes the enemy of God.” 


The goal for these parents up here today is not to have a watching secular culture say, “Okay, wow, you guys are great parents!” The goal is to have God say “well done, good and faithful servants!” This word “favor” means grace. In other words, as we endure hard times, mistreated or otherwise, as parents raise children who will likely rebel or make poor choices at some point like we all do, that God gives more grace for each moment. 

God doesn’t always take us out of hard times, but gives us more grace to endure them as we look to him. We love that saving grace, right? That amazing grace that saved a wretch like me. But that same grace that called us to salvation calls us to patience and trust when other people have wronged us. 


21 You were called to this because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 


Here are the steps:

  • [22] He did not commit sin, and 
  • no deceit was found in his mouth; 
  • [23] when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; 
  • when he suffered, he did not threaten but 
  • entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. 


That’s the opposite of revenge. 

He patiently trusted himself to God even while people were making a mess of him. And what is the outcome?


[24] He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. [25] For you were like sheep going astray, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.


Turn with me in your Bibles to the book of Isaiah. One of the most familiar chapters in the Bible is Isaiah 53, and Peter has been quoting it frequently in our text today. 


Look at Isaiah 53, starting in verse 3-6. There you see what Peter is quoting… this prophecy is about the Messiah who would suffer in our place, carrying our sin in his own body. 


You want to talk about unjust suffering? 

He wasn’t nailed through the hands and feet because of HIS rebellion – it was for mine!

He wasn’t crushed because of HIS iniquities – it was for mine! 

He wasn’t punished because HE went astray – I was astray, headed for death! 


And who is this person suffering? Look down to verse 11 – He is “my righteous servant” that will justify many and carry their sin, therefore I will give him many as a portion because he willingly submitted to death, and was counted among the rebels; yet he bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels.”


The key to revenge is that you watch the other person suffer as much as you did, but Jesus willingly considered himself a slave to God, and when things got unjust, when he started getting treated in ways he didn’t deserve, when he started facing opposition for what he believed to be true about himself and about God, he didn’t call down an army of angels to give the Romans or the Pharisees what they deserved. When they mocked him, he didn’t mock them back; when they slapped him he didn’t slap them back; when they humiliated him, he didn’t humiliate them back – look at the end of v23: he continued to submit himself to his Heavenly Father, entrusting himself, Peter says, to the one who judges justly. 


He believed that his Father was a righteous judge that loves justice. Jesus believed that his Father would either repay these people through punishing them for their own sin, eternally separated from God, or that he would accomplish justice by putting their sin on the back of Jesus himself – humanity’s substitute – so that they could be forgiven. 


I had a situation at work a couple years back where I did the opposite of Jesus’ example. I was wronged, and I did all the things Jesus didn’t do – insulted that person in my head, threatened them in my head with all the things I would do to get even… my behavior also revealed what I believed. I didn’t believe God could handle it. He needed my help to make the wrongs right. 


Only when God showed me the cost of his grace toward me, could I see the power of verse 24, that Jesus was beaten for my rebellion, that Jesus suffered for my bitterness, so I could repent and be healed. I’ve been given the freedom as a slave of God, to submit instead of retaliate because I know my Shepherd’s got me and he’s carrying me back home to his presence and his all-encompassing love. 


What marvelous, freeing grace this is!