“Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.” (1 Peter 2:18–20, NASB95)
Today’s post is not as much a look at verses 2:18-20 as it is my understanding of how one individual seems to be applying these verses in a very difficult situation.
This morning as I was reviewing the news I read that the Supreme Court in the State of Washington ruled against a 71 year-old grandmother who had been in the floral business for 30 years because she would not prepare flowers for a same-sex wedding. The customers in question had been customers of hers for some time and she would continue to serve them in the future, but she could not do this one thing for them as it would violate her biblical convictions. Rather than becoming embittered against them and rebelling against the government and the courts, this woman has chosen to use the resources made available to her to defend her position in the courts, knowing that a loss might have severe consequences to her position and her possessions. Even after the ruling was announced today, she appears to have remained gracious but determined to see this case through to the end while reaffirming her willingness to suffer whatever consequences might arise as a result.
This is a reality for Christians in the United States, where our freedom to exercise our faith has long been enshrined in our Constitution. These believers are now caught between two competing authorities. They are being forced to navigate the path between them. Barronelle Stutzman, as an example today, has decided to honor God by doing what He has put on her heart while respecting the authority of the courts given to rule over our society. Notice that she did not bend to the courts will, but that she has respectfully submitted herself to the consequences of not bending while defending her position before them.
From the information that I have gleaned over time, it seems that she is diligently seeking to walk this path of which Peter wrote when he instructed us to be submissive to our masters (those in authority over us) regardless of their intent whether it is in line with what we hold as good and right or is opposed and even unreasonable. It appears that she has chosen to keep her conscience clear before God while submitting herself to the authority of the courts to suffer what is unreasonable and unjust. I have not seen any record of her lashing out harshly and, in so doing, justifying harsh treatment in response, but rather a she seems to have evidenced a steadied persistence to do what is right while she entrusts herself to God.
I do not know how this will end or how it will end with others who have found themselves similarly placed, but I pray that they will continue to strengthened to stand with a clear conscience before God, that justice will prevail, and that those opposed might be silenced by their grace.
These are difficult days, but our God is faithful. He not only strengthens us, but He has given us the instruction of His Word and the example of those we find in it. In a very similar passage inspired by the same Spirit and penned by another apostle we read, “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.” (Ephesians 6:5–8, NASB95)
“But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.”