Christian Household Slaves
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Christian Household Slaves
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Christian household slaves are commanded in 1 Peter 2.18-22 to submit to their masters. Saint Peter writes, "Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it?"

Slaves and Masters

"But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 'He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.' When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly."

Greek Word Doulos

It is possible that it was more common in these churches for slaves to be Christians than masters, since masters are not addressed and since the lengthy theological foundation in 1 Timothy 6.1-2, "Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants [Greek word "doulos"] regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved." Titus 2.9-10 also establishes Christ's suffering as the pattern for Christian household slaves who must continue to suffer unjustly, "Bondservants [Greek word "doulos"] are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior."

Servant Attitude

The unique grounding on Christ reveals the special circumstances of the churches to which Peter writes to ground the behavior in the Faith. Titus 2.11-14 (also 3.3-7) reads, "For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."

Engage in the World

Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids write in "Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Development" that in any case, the church's calling to engagement in the world prohibited Christian household slaves from opting out of this social institution. To encourage anything else would be regarded by unbelievers as anarchy. How does a "servant attitude" affect our relationships to one another? Discuss the phrase "there is no longer slave or free."

"Christian Household Slaves"
by Ron Meacock © 2018

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