Peter was giving instruction to people who were being treated unjustly. Looking back at verse 18, we see that his original audience was household slaves. The lectionary skips that part--we Americans don't want to seem that we are in any way condoning slavery. So, how do we find Peter's message useful, instructful?
Well, some commentators point out that people even at the lowest ranks of society were included in the Christian community from the beginning.
Other commentators prefer that we not go back to verse 18 but instead read this instruction about suffering as it applies to us in the circumstances that we find ourselves.
What about Christianity causes someone to suffer unjustly?
How does doing something right cause someone to suffer?
Does any suffering that we do because we are Christians really evoke the image of Christ's suffering?
For those of us who find the membership in a Christian church full of rewards rather than threats of harm, is there something that we are neglecting? Are we not doing something that God would approve of?