THIS WEEK’S READING: 1 Peter 2
I believe this chapter needs a subtitle – 1 Peter 2: Passages of Paradox, perhaps.
My internal monologue has been a constant back and forth the past few days. I’ve mostly asked myself “how?”. How do I present the privilege of spiritual slavery in such a way that embodies the freedom given to us by Jesus?
Finding true freedom is being enslaved to Christ. It seems contradictory and my feeble words cannot even begin to explain it well, so I’ll just allow Peter to tell the story.
Here’s a little context for us: Peter is writing this letter to the persecuted Church in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. His brothers and sisters in Christ were being punished by their government because of the Gospel of Jesus, which they believed and proclaimed.
Chapter two opens with a challenge from Peter to the afflicted believers.
“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” – 1 Peter 2:1
Imagine this: in the midst of the most tear-provoking, heart-shattering, sleep-stealing, joy-extinguishing trial of your life, you are challenged by a friend not to hold onto hatred and bitterness, but to suffer righteously.
If I’m being honest, I would probably kick, scream and call my friend everything but a child of God. I would probably angrily accuse them of not understanding my storm.
This illustration is just the tip of the iceberg of the persecution experienced by the Church and how Peter led them to react… or not to react.
And what follows verse one is even more contradictory. In verse three, Peter asks the believers to rid themselves of malice because ” you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
How can I trust the Lord is good during times of trouble?
I can’t fully answer this, and we don’t have time to dive into the age-old question of why God allows bad things to happen to good people, but I do know this: The Lord is good because He is able to empathize in our heartache and trials, and He has graciously shown us how to follow Him when life is hard… because at times it will be.
“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” -1 Peter 2:21 (emphasis added)
Why do we, as followers of Jesus, suffer? What’s the point? And how can we believe the suffering will be worth it?
“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” -1 Peter 2:4-5
There’s a nugget of wisdom hidden here – “As you come to him…” is in the present tense calling us to come to Jesus again and again. It is not a one-time experience at salvation, but a continuous effort to be with Jesus as we are growing in His likeness.
Peter reminds us of this truth: Jesus was rejected by humans, but chosen by God and precious to Him. Followers of Jesus take on His identity – rejected by humans, but chosen by God and precious to Him. As we come to Jesus, little-by-little, we are molded into His likeness and we are empowered to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.
And maybe, just maybe, a spiritual sacrifice is righteous suffering.
Which leads to the first paradox: submitting ourselves to the Lord, while respecting the leadership of our country.
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.” -1 Peter 2:18
One of the last things people want right now is to submit to our government. But as followers of Jesus, we are called to do just that. This does not mean we give up our voice or no longer stand for what we believe is right in the eyes of God. However, it does mean we respectfully fight for justice, equality or fill-in-the-blank-cause in a way that glorifies the Lord.
And for the second paradox: finding freedom in Christ, yet being enslaved to God.
“Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.” -1 Peter 2:16 (emphasis added)
Let’s push our preconceived notions and definitions aside and hear what our friend Merriam-Webster has to say.
Slave. noun: a person who is strongly influenced and controlled by something.
“…people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” – 2 Peter 2:19b
We are all enslaved – our master is our choice.
We could be enslaved by sin – separated from God, falling subject to the desires of the flesh and slipping further from the holiness in which we were called.
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness,…” -Romans 6:12-13
Yes, sin is alluring and attractive. But it’s dangerous, destructive and wicked.
Dear friend, you were made for so much more than that.
There’s a better, more fulfilling, way to live. Jesus offers an abundant life.
“…but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” -Romans 6:12-14 (emphasis added)
You see, when we trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord, and allow Him to break our shackles of sin, we are making Him our master. Through Jesus, we can we be set free from sin-slavery and joyfully enslaved to the grace and commands given by God our Father.
My prayer is for us to follow Joshua‘s lead and say, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Which master are you going to choose today?