Hovering over the word of God this morning in quarantine north of the border. I think it’s been at least ten months since I’ve been up to my daughter’s house, over seven months since I last saw my oldest grandchildren in person — our before COVID normal was to see one another every 6 to 8 weeks. The closed border has been one of the “hard things” about this season. If not for Facetime and Zoom, it would have been much, much harder. In the overall scheme of things though, this “hard thing” really isn’t all that hard.
Hard is what “the elect exiles of the Dispersion” were experiencing, those who Peter wrote to. Persecuted for their faith, driven from their homes, doing most of life in a mostly hostile environment. Now that’s a hard season. But then, add to all that “hard” being a servant of an unjust master and that’s hard upon hard, that’s just piling on! So, it’s Peter’s words to a person in that situation during that season that causes me to pause this morning and consider a gracious thing.
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.
(1Peter 2:18-20 ESV)
Charis. Grace. That’s the word translated here in the ESV as a gracious thing. The NIV and the NKJV translate it commendable. The NASB says that such behavior will find grace with God. The CSB says it brings favor. Chew on it for a bit, and they all reflect a facet of grace’s beauty in hard situations during hard seasons.
First, for a servant to respect an unjust master is the very definition of grace, extending unmerited favor. It is literally a gracious thing. And even in their season of suffering, Peter was encouraging believers — all believers, regardless of their lot in life — to reflect the grace they had experienced. To respect others, not because they necessarily deserved it, but because while they were themselves still sinners Christ died for them (Rom. 5:8). When times are tough, and tensions are high, it’s a good time for a gracious thing.
But in addition to grace being a thing to be shown, in extending grace there’s a dynamic to be known. It’s the “I no longer live but Christ lives in me” dynamic (Gal. 2:20). The desire and ability to do a gracious thing when there’s no natural reason to want to, or natural ability to be able to, is the demonstrable proof that we really are “a new creation in Christ” (2Cor. 5:17).
So, we do a gracious thing, we experience a gracious thing, and God is pleased with a gracious thing. He delights in His children becoming more and more like His Son. He leverages our grace as a magnifying glass for His grace. He mixes our best efforts with His Holy Spirit and, through every day acts of grace, seeks to draw even unjust masters to Himself.
Hard times? Yeah, to varying degrees. But great times for a gracious thing.
Because of grace. For His glory.