When we began this series, I mentioned that First Peter deals with some topics that Americans don't always immediately relate to. Peter talks about suffering and persecution—a topic that we neither know about nor like to talk about. Yet, as we go through these chapters, we will have to address the issue of how to deal with opposition.
In today's text, Peter also talks about some subjects that we might, at first glance, find both uncomfortable and irrelevant to our culture. In this passage Peter instructs slaves how to relate to their masters. Some may find it irrelevant, because slavery was abolished long, long ago. And some may find it uncomfortable, because it raises some questions that critics have often used against Christianity and the Bible. There are those who say that this passage, since it does not explicitly condemn slavery, therefore implicitly condones slavery. I addressed this topic in the Ephesians series, so I won't go into lengthy detail here, but I do want to speak briefly to the issue.
One third of the people in the Roman world were slaves. This amounts to 60,000,000 people. Slavery was factored into every aspect of the world economy; it was impossible then to conceive of the idea of life without it.
The biblical writers introduced a new idea into the mix: the idea of human dignity. Christian teachers had the radical belief that each person has value, that each life is worth something. Therefore, the New Testament writers challenged slave owners to treat their slaves with dignity and respect. They also challenged slaves to treat their masters with respect and to do their work wholeheartedly.
In this epistle, Peter doesn't speak to masters. He speaks to slaves, because they ...
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