The vast majority of this book deals with how Christians should respond when they suffer mistreatment. Modern readers, especially those in the United States, seem to have a very difficult time taking these commands seriously. We try to insert our own caveats, creating excuses for why we shouldn’t have to obey the instructions Peter gives to his audience.
There are no caveats. There is no nuance. No matter what sort of mistreatment a Christian is suffering, Peter tells them to respond the way Jesus responded, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” That is the simple and undeniable message of 1 Peter, do not respond in kind to those who revile and mistreat you.
But it even goes beyond just not retaliating. Peter writes, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” Peter tells his audience to “bless” (speak and do good to) those who do evil to them. Why should we be surprised 1 Peter is a book about doing good to persecutors and not responding violently to those who mistreat us? The entire New Testament preaches this message without fail.
This is the message of the cross. This is how Christians are to join with Jesus in overcoming evil: when we are mistreated we bless those who do evil to us, hate us, revile us, and even kill us. I admit, this isn’t very American. It certainly isn’t John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. It’s Jesus. This is what it looks like to follow Jesus.
Today we’re having a time of prayer and fasting as a congregation.
Gasp! He broke the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule about fasting!
Isn’t it about time we got over that? Yes, Jesus said not to tell anyone when you are fasting. He also, in the same chapter and the same context, told us to only pray in a closet. Ever seen that commandment violated? To be honest, I’ve rarely seen that one followed!
Have you ever let your left hand know what your right hand was doing when you were giving? Did that invalidate your generosity?
If we don’t talk about fasting (in the right way), we’ll never learn about fasting. And to be honest, we’ll rarely practice fasting.
I have to admit, Brother McAdams has changed my mind on a couple of things with this article. It’s well worth a read.
Some might say, “But aren’t we supposed to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus every Sunday and not just one Sunday a year?” I would agree with that. I believe we have rightly inferred from Scripture and history that early Christians met on Sundays because Jesus was raised on Sunday. However, an annual celebration of Jesus’ resurrection no more negates the weekly celebration any more than a wedding anniversary negates a husband telling his wife, “I love you” daily. They are not mutually exclusive. You can celebrate the resurrection of Jesus weekly AND you can celebrate the resurrection annually.
Others may quote Paul’s words from Galatians 4:10-11, “You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.” However, Paul is not arguing it is inherently wrong for someone to observe special days any more than he is arguing it is inherently wrong for a male to be circumcised. He was admonishing the Galatians because they were being convinced that keeping the Law of Moses (including feast days, kosher diet, and circumcision) was necessary to be part of God’s covenant people. If someone tries to convince you that you must observe Passover or Sabbath in order to be right with God, they are violating this passage.
This post really has me thinking.
I’m talking about foundations here. Starting points. I’m convinced that we’ve gotten this wrong and because of it the gift of discernment has now become synonymous with the “gift” of being a jerk. True discernment will spot error. And it’ll call error out. But that’s not the intention of the search.
Think of it this way. Hope-fueled discernment is like a guy with a metal detector out in a field because he has heard reports of a buried treasure. He’s profoundly hopeful. Not skeptical. He wants to find the treasure. And so he keeps digging. All those places where he checked and didn’t find the treasure he is going to call them out. He’ll put flags there so people know treasure isn’t to be found here. Each “miss” is marked with sorrow but tinged with hope. So he keeps on swinging that detector in the hopes of finding treasure.
That’s quite different than the guy who has heard a report of a treasure in a field but he wants to prove all the idiots wrong.
Let us remember that the Church is the alternative to all the political divisiveness and partisan politics. It is above the fray of mudslinging. Christ gives His Church a distinct role to shine our light and point to Jesus. The Church speaks to earthly powers, not for them. We speak for God. God’s power and God’s Word are the final authority and therefore, are superior to anything or anyone.
Instead, may we remember who we are instead: Christians. We are the bedraggled underdogs of the world in which God has given the Kingdom to. We are ambassadors of a higher ethic, an alternative one. When we stoop down to nationalism and partisan politics, we divide Christ. Scripture is clear on this: dividing the Body is a sin. We can do better. We can dialogue better. We can love one another, even if we disagree. We must. For if we do not, it is my fear, that we will continue to speed toward irrelevancy in an already doubting culture. Even worse, my fear is that we will repeat atrocities of the past.
The word liberty comes with a lot of baggage in our United States culture. We view our national history through the lens of liberty. We define our sense of freedom by our secular liberties. And few things cause us to get more vocal than times we feel our liberties are being stifled. “Give me liberty, or give me death!” “Live free or die!” To many of us, liberty is the single most valuable concern.
Unfortunately, we sometimes value liberty to the point that it becomes an idol. Think about Galatian 5:13–15:
For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m pulling this out of context. This is really about misusing our spiritual liberties, but these words continue to come to mind these days as Christians react to, protest, and even defy the social restrictions related to COVID-19. I’d entreat you to consider that you might be idolizing your personal liberties if:
- You are OK with potentially infecting others so you don’t have to be inconvenienced.
- You downplay information that contradicts your assumptions so you don’t need to feel accountable for your actions.
- You express your frustrations in ungodly ways.
- You feel the freedom to make your own choices outweighs the danger your choices pose to others.
Consider also Philippians 2:1–4:
If, then, there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, make my joy complete by thinking the same way, having the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others.
We all need to look out for others’ interests before our own. This period of social isolation severely tests that commitment. Who is the more powerful deity in our lives — Jesus Christ who calls on us to sacrifice self for the sake of others or Rand-style Liberty that seductively whispers to us that our own interests trump all else?
There’s a pro-life quote that’s frequently misattributed to Mother Theresa: “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” We must not become so morally impoverished that we are willing to threaten others lives so that we may live as we wish. In fact, the entire Christian call is to give up living how we wish and instead live as Christ would have us.
Show deference to others. Value others’ lives as more important than your physical liberties. Remember the liberty you have in Christ instead — an eternal liberty that nothing can separate us from. Put your hope in that, and then be patient with all else.