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“Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.” (1 Peter 2:18-20)

To whom are we to show love? To many in the world, those deserving our love are the ones near and dear to us, as well as people who are nice to us. According to the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, God does not expect us to show love for those who oppose us. However, according to God’s law of love we are to show love for everyone, including our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44).

The Apostle Peter gives us a practical application of this way of Christian living, as he speaks of our relationship with our superiors in the workplace. This section of Scripture has often been cited in the study of the Fourth Commandment. As you may recall, God commands us, “You shall honor your father and mother . . . that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:2-3). Martin Luther explains this command by writing, “We should fear and love God that we do not despise nor anger our parents or superiors; but we should honor, serve, and obey them, and give them love and respect.”

Since there can be cases where superiors in our place of work are not so kind to us, but rather are cruel and unfair, our natural inclination is to resist the notion of showing them love and respect. However, not only are superiors our neighbors whom we are to love, but they are also God’s representatives whom we are to honor, serve, and obey whether they are good or bad.

When we patiently endure ill treatment by our boss es , this is commendable before God, because we are exercising Christian love. The apostle Paul describes what this kind of love involves, “Love is patient and kind . . . it is not irritable or resentful . . . Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4,5,7 ESV)

What would motivate us to practice such love toward a harsh boss, when our fleshly nature and the world would move us to do the exact opposite? The answer, of course, is to be found in the love of God in Christ Jesus. The apostle John writes, “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19 ESV)

Just think of the many ways and times Jesus showed His love for us and those who opposed Him when He suffered mistreatment by His enemies. Even though Jesus lived a perfect life, nevertheless His adversaries wrongly accused Him of disobeying God’s Word and the civil authorities (Matthew 26:63-65; Luke 23:2). Jesus patiently endured all this so that His righteousness could be credited to us and cover all our unrighteousness. Jesus also patiently bore all the terrible treatment of His foes (Matthew 26:67) and the painful cruelties of the Romans (Matthew 27:26). He allowed Himself to be afflicted by all this so that He could suffer the penalty for all our sins on the cross, resulting in our being forgiven of all our transgressions.

Since out of love Jesus endured all this for us as our Savior, should we not also out of love patiently bear the bad behavior of our superiors, and thus glorify God?

Mark Gullerud is retired from the pastoral ministry. He lives in Sunnyvale, California.