“For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly.” 1 Peter 2: 20
What a terrible morning to write a reflective piece on scripture. Every source providing a passage for today offered some violent action. In some, the people are tortured and stoned to death. While others are encouraged to suffer abuse or are being sawn in two. In a world already over run with violence, I’m glad to have the inspiration of scripture to support me. Can you imagine a children’s song based on this one verse? It would go something like this, “Jesus loves me this I know, because I get beaten for reasons I do not know.”
Today’s reading can be understood in a variety of ways. One could read it in a 1st Century context. A reading among people who are still trying to process how to live in the aftermath of the violent death and resurrection of Jesus. At the same time, we cannot read it without considering how these verses have been used over the years. 1 Peter 2:18 was so widely preached as justifying slavery that we now avoid reading it altogether. The meaning does not improve even when we compare ancient slaves to modern day employees. No one has the right to be beaten and mistreated in the workplace.
I invite you to read the whole second chapter of 1 Peter and let the first verse frame the context of the reading. “Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander.” The author is inviting these young believers to consider turning their beliefs into a way of living. A way of living that is distinct from the culture around them. One that does not re-pay evil with evil, or, hatred with hatred. Instead, live in a way that exposes the emptiness of the cultural norm.
When I read it, I see an approach to living similar to Mahatma Gandhi’s approach to non-violent protest. Encouraging people not to buy into the insanity of making the world less violent, by using violence as a tool. Instead, teaching people to suffer, not to endure pain, but to bring about change.
Our cultural norm is one of speed, work, anxiety, pressure and a pervasive feeling of worthlessness and failure. The aggressiveness which threatens to beat us down is often within our own heads. Today’s reading is an invitation to live a life distinct from this norm.
Click to read: 1 Peter 2
- What is our culture do you find draining to your soul?
- How do we approach issues of injustice – both personal and systematic?
- What kind of a world do you want to live in?
- And, what is preventing this from happening?
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