11 September 20171 Peter 3:13-22
“Even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed” (v. 14)
Psalm: Psalm 77
Having already considered the personal and family relationships in yesterday's passage from Matthew's Gospel, we move on to consider in this letter what it means to the individual to become a Christian and, for that matter, part of the Church.
It is not easy for us to realise fully the isolation of the people to whom the letter was written - people who were living for the most part in a pagan society. Harvey in his Companion to the New Testament (Cambridge, CUP, 2004) suggests that it was possibly even a criminal offence to practise the Christian faith at that time; although it is not thought that charges were often brought, so it seems that Peter is encouraging the people to be strong and of good courage. He is encouraging the people to carry on doing good on behalf of Christ, not allowing themselves to be intimidated, and being prepared to justify their actions by pointing to Jesus.
Peter uses the example of Jesus to encourage his readers - the way in which Jesus never turned his back on the journey he was travelling, how he was prepared to suffer and even to go to his death to bring about the change necessary so that people could know God as God would wish to be known. In these verses, Peter is encouraging vulnerable people to be brave and strong, not to shut themselves away for protection but to be prepared to be people of action - not to be intimidated by words of abuse but in the words of the hymn to 'Stand up, stand up for Jesus'. Verse 21 reminds the reader that it is their Baptism in water which saves them from ultimate defeat from whatever the world has to offer: he might have concluded with the words 'be not afraid, I go before you always'.
- To what situations in the world today, and particularly in our part of the world, would it be necessary to write such words?
- To what extent is there a danger these days when fewer and fewer people would claim to have any religion, for believers to shut themselves away from the world and close the doors rather than be a caring evangelical force in the community. What might your response to this be?
- What examples from the Scriptures would you choose to encourage people whose faith has enabled them to take risks without being afraid, even though it might lead to suffering? And how do they support you?