…with Faith, Hope & Love
Since the start of the year we’ve been studying the New Testament letter – 1st Peter. I’ve really enjoyed getting stuck into the book and delving into some of the Old Testament imagery that Peter draws on. We’ve seen how Peter is eager for his readers to understand that there should be a world of difference between they way they live and the way unbelievers choose to live. On Sunday we saw that we don’t live for the rulers & authorities of this world, but we should seek to submit to them as they discharge their God given duties in praising good conduct and punishing wicked acts. When our Faith is on trial, we should know Hope in submission and show Love in action.
On Sunday I shared the story of Pastor Sohn Yang-Won. You can read the whole story here. There is a powerful moment in Pastor Sohn’s life after his two sons have been murdered during a communist up-rising. The responsible boy, a friend of theirs, is caught and convicted. Pastor Sohn writes to the court to asks that the life of the youth be spared and he asks for permission to adopt the boy and raise him as his own son!
I was struck by such a glorious picture of how God has responded to our uprising against him. After our actions resulted in the death of his son, Jesus. God chooses to set us free from the chains of sin, adopt us as his own and pour His love into our lives. Pastor Sohn clearly understood the grace that was extended to him in the Gospel! He repeatedly chose to allow the reality of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection to radically shape his response to suffering and persecution.
In his letter Peter urges us to ‘…submit to every earthly authority‘ – 1 Peter 2:13. This is a huge expectation, especially for us in today’s culture of individual importance and vain, self-seeking ambition. However, it was no less challenging for the first century recipients of the letter. In verse 18 he says, ‘…be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.’ This would’ve caused quite a stir. You see ‘unjust masters’ wouldn’t just have put them on a double shift on their day off! Slaves were owned by their masters, like you or I might own a house. They could even kill their slaves and get away with it. Some people might suggest that destroying your slave was a foolish choice…but it was your choice!
Peter (and Paul) have a clear expectation that slaves aren’t to react in anger towards their masters but their behaviour should be a living expression of the gospel that they’ve believed and that has made them citizens of another world. Some may ask, ‘why do Peter [& Paul] seem to agree with slavery – haven’t we been set free?’ Kaiser et al, explain it this way;
“This [early church teaching] both reassured the Roman society and made the real reason for persecution clear. Christian slaves should be more obedient slaves than other slaves, for they knew that the “pay” in heaven would be good. If their masters persecuted them, it should be for their faith and nothing else. Christianity was not subversive in the sense of stirring up rebellion. At the same time, it raised the slave to a new status of an equal human being before Christ. After all, in the eyes of the church slavery was just a job, and what job or social status one had on earth did not matter (Jesus did not have a great social status at any time in his life either, and he died a most shameful death, an executed slave’s death). If the job was done “as a slave of Christ” the reward was equal, whether one was a human slave or a human master. Paul’s [& Peter’s] strategy was thus that of producing an expression of the kingdom of God in the church, not that of trying to change society. (*2)
What Peter is seeking to do is to avoid critics, of which there are many, being able to discredit the gospel message because of our ungodly behaviour. He knows that the truth that had been revealled in Jesus wasn’t just about reforming society here and now, it has an eternal, cosmic goal!
This week I went to see the film ‘The Darkest Hour’. I won’t review the film here but if you haven’t seen it you should. (My brother made the excellent suggestion that it would be ideal to see ‘The Darkest Hour’ first and then follow it with the recent film ‘Dunkirk’ to have ‘maximum impact’.)
I have to admit that as I sat in the darkened cinema I had to wipe my eyes as Winston Churchill stood at the dispatch box and delivered his now famous ‘We shall fight on the beaches’ speech. It was his closing statement that really stirred my emotions. I’m sure he understood the Bible imagery he was drawing on and the huge theological truths he was referencing! It was all I could do not to stand, clap and cheer as he uttered these words;
“…until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.” (*2)
This is what Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection has set in motion – a chain of events that will culminate in His return as King and the New World will finally step forward to rescue and liberate the old!
Questions for Community Groups/Personal study – 1 Peter 2:11-25
- How would you describe Pastor Sohn’s actions towards the murder of his sons?
- What did Pastor Sohn do to submit to every authority? How did he show his faith on trial, his hope in submission and love in action?
- Peter urges us to ‘…abstain from passions of the flesh’ (vs. 11) as they’ll cut us deep. How do find healing and wholeness for these wounds? (vs. 24)
- As Christians we are called to radically different lives‘…to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps’ (vs. 21)…
- Do we find this easy? Why?
- Where is the church globally succeeding/failing?
- Where are you personally succeeding/failing?
- How does your life as a Christian reveal what Jesus’ Kingdom is like?
*1 – Kaiser, W. C., Jr., Davids, P. H., Bruce, F. F., & Brauch, M. T. (1996). Hard sayings of the Bible (p. 644). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity.
*2 – https://www.winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/1940-the-finest-hour/we-shall-fight-on-the-beaches/
27th March 2020
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