What is the worst that they could do?
We might ask ourselves this question if we find ourselves in a situation where we are in a position of relative strength and we are wondering what the consequences of our next action might be. What is the worst that they could do to me, we might ask, if I take this next step? If I complete this next action?
In that case, we are probably calculating that the worst is not all that bad. We are probably thinking that we are in a good position and we can move forward without significant consequences or issue.
But that is a completely different scenario from what Peter is talking about here. In this case, he has been talking to the believers to submit themselves to the government. Or he spoke to slaves to submit themselves to their masters. Or to wives to submit themselves to their husbands.
And why should each of these be submitting?
Because through their submission, through their hard work, or through their loving kindness back to the people who are over them – whether they should be over them or not, whether they treat them well or not – they try to reach those people for Christ so that they might also be saved.
But what would give Peter the right to ask people to do this? Is slavery right? Is it right that a husband would “lord” authoritatively over his wife? No, of course not. But that isn’t the point. Peter isn’t talking about rights, or even what is right. That is far from the point. He is talking about eternity.
For the sake of this person in eternity, God calls his people to reach others.
For the sake of this person in eternity, God wants his people to give themselves now for a reward that they will receive forever.
For the sake of this person in eternity, God wants his people to lay down their rights, even to lay down what is right, to make Christ known.
But how would Christ be known through these people’s actions?
Christ gave himself to reach his enemies.
Not the “good” people. Not the religious people. Not those who are part of the church, the synagogue, the mosque, or whatever other religious structure.
No, he gave himself for his enemies.
All people – I repeat – All people are, or have been, Christ’s enemies. All people have sinned. All people have rebelled against God. Whether in many ways or in a few ways. Whether other people see them as good people or not. None of the ways that man measures his sin matters. The only thing that matters is how God sees us before Him.
So Christ came to die for his enemies. He came to give himself for others. He came to give himself.
And so this is Peter’s justification. Christ did it first. Christ gave up his rights. He didn’t consider what was “right”. He thought only about eternity. He thoughts about establishing his Kingdom for eternity. He thought about the eternal future of the people – his enemies – that he came to purchase, to save and bring into his Kingdom.
And so Peter calls each of us, in our various roles, to do the same. To give ourselves for others. Citizens, foreigners, slaves, wives. Peter calls each of them to give themselves for the eternal salvation of others, and he calls us to do that for others because Christ did it first for each of us.
But we should also know that it could be bad. It won’t all be roses and rainbows. This will be difficult. This is going to be painful. But Peter says to not fear.
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”1 Peter 3:14
Peter says that we will likely suffer, but even if we are going to suffer, we shouldn’t fear. Why shouldn’t we fear? Because what is the worst that they can do? Remembering what Jesus told his disciples, the worst that they can do is kill the body, but they can’t touch the soul. Only God can speak to the soul and where it will go.
So, could this be difficult? Could it really be bad? Yes, absolutely. But do not fear. Christ is with you.