Category: 1 Peter

1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on May 28, 2017.

Like any good work of prose, the book of 1 Peter returns to its major themes as it approaches its conclusion. In 4:12-14, 5:6-11 the text points the reader to what has been asserted from the beginning, that suffering is part of the Christian experience. The closing, however, is not mere recapitulation. It gives fresh insight into the purposes of suffering and direction about how to endure suffering.

The believer is not to be surprised by suffering. On Palm Sunday 2017 terrorists attacked two Coptic Christian congregations in Egypt killing 44 and wounding over 100. Christians in the Middle East and other parts of the world routinely face suffering in the form of persecution. The persecution of believers has become so widespread and frequent that seeing reports of it on the news is almost normal. If this text were to be read by Christians in Egypt, the application would be straightforward. Do no be surprised that suffering and persecution is part of your experience. Jesus suffered, and believers are not above their Master.

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1 Peter 3:13-22

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on May 21, 2017.

This passage is full of difficulties, allusions to apocryphal literature, and obscure references that make it easy to get lost in the process of interpretation. In fact, if the minister is not very careful, he or she will be found trying to find out who are the spirits in prison, why Jesus preached to them, and how His preaching affected them, among other difficulties. Rather than get lost in these obvious difficulties, it would be better for the minister to focus on what can be readily understood in the passage. By looking at the book as a whole and the context of the passage, the meaning of the passage can be discerned.

In 1 Peter suffering is a very common theme. In the very beginning of the book, believers are encouraged to endure trials and suffering just as the prophets had endured them. Not only does the concept of suffering appear in the opening of the book, but it is also found throughout the text. The word suffering appears twenty times in the book. Further, the author goes out of his way to use the term suffering when it is not necessary. For example, the author uses “suffering” instead of “death” in 4:1 when referring to the crucifixion of Jesus. In 3:18 there is good reason to believe “suffered” is the correct word instead of “died” as some translations use.

Now I Peter’s emphasis on suffering does not necessarily mean that this passage is about suffering, but the context leans heavily in that direction. Verse 13 begins by talking about the harm that could come to the believer and discusses suffering immediately. Not only that, the passage mentions Christ’s suffering repeatedly; and it is followed by another section on suffering beginning in 4:1. If one is to get to the heart of the passage’s meaning one must look at it in the context of suffering.

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1 Peter 2:2-10

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on May 14, 2017.

It was an ordinary day. I was talking with my four-year-old daughter who was riding in the back of my car. Even at her young age, she was spiritually sensitive, so we were talking about God. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, she began to cry almost uncontrollably. She cried, “Daddy I can’t see God anymore.” I had no idea what she meant. Reasoning that humans cannot see God, I wondered if she had mistaken God for an object in nature like a cloud or something else. As much as I tried, I could not make sense of what she was seeing and feeling. As I looked at her tear stained cheeks, I did my best to explain that God was everywhere and that while we cannot see God, God is with us. I found my attempt to comfort her feeble. Although she was only 4, my daughter had expressed a common human ailment. She had lost sight of God. In a culture where the number of persons opting out of faith is growing, and others are desperate for the presence of God, helping people who have lost sight of God is an important part of the task of the Church.

So what does one do when one loses sight of God? Where can God be found? 1 Peter 2:2-10 serves as an answer to these and similar questions, although not in an obvious way. Verse 4 reads, “Come to Him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house….” (NRSV). The word “house” was frequently used for the temple in the Old Testament; so the text is claiming that believers are the new temple of God.

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1 Peter 2:19-25

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on May 7, 2017.

We live in a society that questions authority figures. We consider it a badge of honor when someone successfully challenges “the powers that be.” Although 1 Peter would not encourage us to ignore unethical behavior in organizations, the writer values endurance through difficulty over retaliation toward oppressors. To endure pain is to resist it. First Peter challenges exiles to behave like sheep in a flock under the authority of a shepherd. The book instructs them to maintain respect for human authority figures, especially those with whom they disagree and to endure opposition as a form of Christian mission.

Verses 19-25 are included as part of the instructions for persons who work together in a family business where the authority figure is not a follower of Jesus. Most ancient households were businesses in miniature. In 1 Peter 2-3, there are instructions for all persons (2:13-17; 3:8-22), slaves (2:18), wives (3:1-6), and husbands (3:7), depending on their position in the home workplace. Presumably, Christians will work for someone who does not share a belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Just as we learned in chapter 1 that Christians are not to live segregated lives, so in chapters 2 and 3 believers are encouraged to work in environments where they will encounter nonbelievers.

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