Manage episode 364123640 series 3023172
Our passage today begins with this verse:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Peter 4:12)
Peter's community is going through something very difficult. To grasp what that is, we need to unpack the context a little bit. Peter is writing to a community of mostly Gentiles. Before they became Christians, they used to be a part of their communities. They lived the same way as them. They were insiders in the culture and community. But everything changed after they met Christ. After meeting Christ, they found their reason for living. The way they thought changed. The way they behaved changed. The people they hung out with changed.
When people change, it disturbs those around them. It disrupts the equilibrium. It is unsettling. Their change attracted hostility. It aroused suspicion. They became marginalized in their own communities. The people are going through a very hard time. They are second guessing themselves.
But Peter has a message for them:
But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. (1 Peter 4:13-14)
Rejoice. Your are blessed.
Love and Suffering
Peter is telling them to embrace suffering and hold fast to what they had found in Christ
When you love something, you suffer. This is a universal truth. When you truly love something and give of yourself to it, it will bring suffering. Parents' suffering: parents love their children, but that love brings suffering. When your children suffer, you suffer. But suffering borne of love bears the fruit of life. God loved the world so much that he sent his only son, Jesus. Jesus' suffering in love saves us, gives us life.
To meet Christ is to experience fullness of God's love – to be enveloped by love. Love is what brings life. Love makes things come alive.
To really live, need to be driven by love. If you haven't found something or someone to love, then you haven't found a reason to live. Calling: unique way in which love is manifested. Love is universal, calling is unique. The shape that love is manifested in each person is unique. Calling is your special unique contribution of love to the world that only you can contribute. It's not about your job, but how you live your life and bless others. That is unique to you. I am a minister by job, but my calling is not so much about the duties I perform. It is about who I am. Who I am comes through in how I do my job and relate to others. Ultimately, it is me as a person who is called to love regardless of whether I'm a minister or not, not me as a minister. We are all uniquely created to offer our unique contribution of love to this world. When we are in Christ, we discover who we are. In Christ's love, we find our unique expression of that love.
But that love brings about suffering. Peter's community found this love in Christ, but they were suffering from the hostility from others.
When you experience hostility, it does something to you. Weakens your resolve. Makes you doubt yourself. Instead of feeling free to love, it makes you fear, becoming driven by the need to be accepted and blend in.
Discrimination and prejudice have corrosive effects. It makes you feel like what you have to offer is not worth much. Not only that, but that it's undesired. When you're made an outsider, it eats away at your sense of self-worth. Many of you experienced that. That is what is pernicious about racism: you are made to feel that you are less valuable and have less to offer simply by who you are in appearance or background.
Rejection and prejudice can distort who you are. You become very defensive: try to prove yourself and show how special you are, or hide who you are and try to blend in. Avoid difference and run away from what's unique about yourself. Bury your unique contribution of love. To be driven more by calculation than by love
To live life that's true requires courage. You need to be willing to face the fire that can come your way. You need to face the fiery ordeals that Peter is talking about. These fires will test who you are and what you're made of.
Peter is trying to forge a new identity for those who are in Christ. It's a new identity sealed in his blood. The blood that came from his suffering. We are those who share the sufferings of Christ. Those sufferings give us life. We too take up the path to the cross that Jesus took. We have faith that we will rise with him and share in his glory
Yes, rejection by others takes its toll on us. Even the resurrected Jesus retained the marks on his hands and his sides he received during his crucifixion. We too rise again with Christ, but our marks remain.
My inability to function normally in white settings. Awkward, self-conscious, can't be fully myself. Permanent limp in my sociability. Used to be down on myself about it. But now I accept it and embrace it. By grace, God uses my infirmities for his good purposes
Driven by Love
God does not use us in spite of our infirmities, God uses us because of them. Our infirmities are the raw materials that God takes to make something beautiful. Our hurts and pains are reshaped into fuel for love. They are never gone, but they become repurposed and refashioned to bless others. That is the wonderful gift of grace. Grace gives us new life
I am thankful for Peter's letter of exhortation. He's telling us to hold fast to our convictions. Find your reason to live, and be strong. I want us at St. Timothy to be confident in Christ. To be driven by love, not by fear or calculation. I want us to take risks and put ourselves out there; to stick our necks out for love and what we believe in. Let us live boldly and courageously! That is the life God desires for us in Christ
He knows the journey is difficult. So he offers words of comfort as well.
Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
Yes, our God cares for you. While we are going through the fiery ordeal, our God cares for us and will take care of us.
And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:10-11)