Thursday 07 September 2017

Bible Book:
1 Peter

“As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honour everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honour the emperor.” (vv. 16-17)

1 Peter 2:11-25 Thursday 7 September 2017

Psalm: Psalm 74:13-23


It is here, in today's passage, that we can really begin to seehow different 'Peter' was, perhaps, from Paul. Alienated and exiledfrom Israel and their fellow, non-Christian, Jews, viewed withsuspicion by those Gentile Christians who followed Paul's lead, andpersecuted (as were both Jews and Christians) by the Romanauthorities, 'Peter's' community was in a very vulnerable position.So in verse 13 he urged his readers to "honour the emperor" as the"supreme" authority on earth, in apparent contrast to Paul'sinsistence that Christians can have only one Lord, and that isJesus, not the emperor. But, if you feel exposed on all sides, itis understandable that you want the protection of the law (which ofcourse Paul himself did, in Acts25) by showing yourselves to be loyal citizens.

The place of slaves within the Christian community was aparticularly sensitive social and political issue. Paul had,famously, declared that "in Christ" there is "neither slave norfree" (Galatians 3:28) and he had urged Philemon totreat his slave, Onesimus, as his "beloved brother" (Philemon v. 16) (also have a look at 1Corinthians 7:21-24). But 'Peter' seems here to be urgingslaves to be docile and submissive, and to behave as proper slavesshould (there is a similar passage in Titus2:9-10, probably not written by Paul). Slave uprisings werequite common (remember Spartacus?) and anything that encouragedslaves to think of themselves as 'free' was to be discouraged. Tosuffer injustice meekly would, said 'Peter', earn God's approvaland would be following Christ's example. Now, it's possible thatPaul, too, accepted the status quo, and believed that slavesshould, in all circumstances, just put up with their lot - but hedoes seem to be rather more disruptive and subversive in histhinking than 'Peter'. Slaves, inspired by Paul's teaching, mightstart to get ideas above their station, but 'Peter' would keep themfirmly in their place, appealing again to Isaiah, and the famous chapter 53 for support.

To Ponder

  • "For the Lord's sake accept the authority of every humaninstitution" (v. 13). Do you agree with 'Peter'? Why? What abouthuman institutions which stand in the way of the flourishing ofcreation, for example?
  • For much of the history of the Church, passages like this havebeen used to endorse the authority of the state (the divine rightof emperors and kings, for example) and to justify cruel andexploitative institutions such as slavery. What would you say,then, to a 19th-century Church of England bishop whose personalwealth (and the wealth of his diocese) was largely based on incomefrom West Indian sugar plantations?
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