Often times, people tend to look at a Scriptural text without having any interest in the context of the passage. Instead, the passage is used to reflect one’s own view or to teach something that is not the intended meaning for the text. I call these specific texts that are associated with improper exegesis “misread texts”, for most of the time they are indeed misread. This will be a recurring series on the blog as there are far too many verses to deal with in one post.
In 1 Peter 2:18 (ESV), the following is written: “Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.” This verse is not like the other verses that I have discussed in the Misread Text series. The texts that I have examined up to this point were the mistakes of a modern generation, a modern generation that twists Scripture to accommodate any kind of view they have. The world seeks to rid God of His glory and tries to strip the power away from His Word. In doing so, we have verses misread for the sake of willful ignorance. However, this text is not like the others.
You will not see many examples, at least for the most part, of a misreading of 1 Peter 2:18. In fact, to publicly misread this text would cause attention that might even be unwanted, not only from the Christian, but also from the secularist. No, this verse is different. This Misread Text post will not be about a verse largely taken out of context in our time, but rather in one of the darkest times in our nation’s history. To review how this text was misread, and how it is related to us today, we must go back to 1800s America.
Imagine a man, standing outside of his estate in the cotton fields of Virginia, and he looks to a row of black slaves. The man’s guards stand behind them, guns ready in case of any attempt to escape. Then, the man pulls a book out of his suit jacket: The Holy Bible. He stands before the slaves and reads 1 Peter 2:18. He stresses the last phrase of the verse: but also to the unjust. He tells the people standing in front of him that they were no longer people, but mere slaves. They had no freedom, no voice, and no chance. The man reminded them that only his mercy would spare them from anything, and that he will do with them as he sees fit. Finally, as if that wasn’t enough, the slave owner then told them that this was the very will of God.
This seem far fetched? It isn’t. This story is based on an anonymous testimony I read about a slave who escaped. 1 Peter 2:18 was only one of the many verses that were used to keep slaves at bay and to keep them from rebelling. These slave owners would not only misread, but misuse the Scriptures to their own benefit of keeping the slaves under conviction from God to stay slaves. They would do this to keep the mouths of slaves silent, lest they find out that the Scriptures speak of people deserving freedom. Many mistreated, overworked, beaten, whipped, raped, and shamed slaves believed that God supported the kind of slavery they had seen, that could only be described as a great evil.
I still remember learning about the kind of slave trade as an elementary schooler. I was shocked to know that there wasn’t always a time when blacks were treated as Americans. I was saddened that there was a time when whites and blacks couldn’t sit next to each other in schools, diners, and even in local churches. Most of all, when I came to my high school years, I was outraged to learn that during those dark times, Scriptures like 1 Peter 2:18 would be used to support their racist and cruel mentality.
This verse makes it look like the Bible was for cruel slavery and racism. It wasn’t. It is incorrect however to say that owning slaves was a sin in the Bible. The truth is that Jesus even used slavery as a metaphor for the Gospel. Paul did the same in Romans 6, and it is actually one of my favorite passages and explanations of Christ’s imputed righteousness. As I Christian, I am a slave to Christ, and I am bound to Him by Law to be His forever. However, the Bible made it abundantly clear that racism was ungodly, that slaves were not to be treated cruelly, and that Christians had an absolute obligation to give loving respect to every single person. Scripture never allowed for the cruel slavery that we have seen for the majority of history, and Scripture has certainly never given any reason to believe that one race, creed, or tribe is better than another.
By now, one might be wondering what a historical mistake has anything to do with what might be going on today. My answer: Charlottesville, Virginia. What I have seen from the news clips, the articles, and the countless YouTube videos depicting violence and outrage from both sides has made me sick. Many people think that racism has somehow ended, or that racism will end…it hasn’t…and it won’t. Man is sinful, depraved, and hateful. We shouldn’t expect racism to go away any time soon. There are countless laws against segregation, extremism, and genocide, and yet we still have racist groups such as the KKK, Black Panthers, and Neo-Nazis. We have alt-right supporters, completely separating from true right-conservative values, to speak up for racism.
However, what disgusted me more than people claiming to be conservative and standing up against everything that Republicans had fought for in history, was when I saw the image of an alt-right man who held a Bible in his hand. My mind instantly jumped to the racism I have heard about in the past that was supported by taken Scripture out of context. Rage was growing within me by the second. All hatred towards racism had sprung up and all I could do was pray saying, “Why God? Why?!?” My dear friends, and my family in the faith, Satan will go very far to shield people from the truth and to divide. It is not Trump that divides, it is not Obama that divides, and it is not movements that divide; it is the devil that does that.
I know this isn’t your typical Misread Text post, but this is also not the typical time. This is a time when I see racism being more popular than ever. Whites are racist against blacks. Blacks are racist against whites. Alt-right Americans hate other countries. Americans call Mexicans names. Mexicans call Americans names. It just keeps going and going and going. So, all of these things make me want to ask this question: how long will it take to convince people that this is not a societal or government issue, but a Gospel issue?
After all the news we see people dealing with police brutality, protests, violence, and even murders over skin color. Do we really still think that mankind, that is radically depraved, could find a solution to sinful problem? It can’t be done. Look at how racism has lasted throughout history! Even people who claimed to be Christians believed that racism was something that God allowed, all because they committed the sin of twisting Scripture. The only way to be free — from anything — whether it be slavery, racist mentality, racist society, hatred, etc. is through the work of Jesus Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel is what is needed, and not some kind of societal reform.
The alt-right protestors are worried about the wrong thing. BLM protestors are worried about the wrong thing. The ‘Hebrew Israelites’ are so dead wrong, I wish there was a stronger word for wrong. *google search* (Nope, that was the strongest word I can find.) Everyone in secular society is concerned about the wrong things, not even paying any attention to the solution that is right in front of their eyes: Christ. The Bible was given to us to show us the goodness and freedom found in Christ, not to endorse any kind of evil. We need the Gospel if we are going to do anything! We need to show people the truth of the Word of God, and we need to bring the light of Christ into the world, so that the darkness of racism would shrivel at His glory!
The only proper way to end this post is to end with a passage of Scripture that calls us to call out evil doing and teaching, to seek freedom in Christ and in society, and to lovingly respect and submit to governing authorities (yes…even Trump) no matter what it may seem to people. That passage is 1 Peter 2:15-17 (ESV), “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”
Soli Deo Gloria.