Summary: April 21, 2002 - FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER 1 Peter 2:19-25 Title: “Christ’s example can empower all of us to endure injustice.”
April 21, 2002 - FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
Title: “Christ’s example can empower all of us to endure injustice.”
Although the author is speaking specifically to Christian slaves in this section, what he says applies to all Christians. More correctly, what applies to all Christians, that is, doctrine, applies to slaves and freemen. This is so because there is really only one standard, one truth, that applies to all, even though it might appear to be different because of differing circumstances. Because slaves would have pagan masters they would be inclined to suffer not only the usual beatings, insults, humiliations and even torture at the hands of their “superiors,” but they would also suffer because they were, or should be, different from their non-Christian enslaved counterparts. This would make them targets even more. Knowing they were saved and had a God-given, unearned dignity, would only add to their suffering. Hence, the author singles them out along with Christian wives married to non-Christians (3:1-6), another group particularly vulnerable to excessive abuse and encourages them to become examples, paragons of virtue in imitation of Christ, who himself voluntarily took “the form of a slave Philippians 2: 7.”
Like American slaves in the south who sang Christian hymns of freedom, of victory through humiliation, and of the dignity of the human person, so these ancient Christian slaves sang songs from their Liturgy to encourage one another. This section is based on just such a hymn, a hymn itself based on Isaiah 53: 4-12, the Suffering Servant, who suffers innocently for the sake and salvation of others. Verse twenty-two quotes
Isaiah 53:9; v. 23 alludes to
Isaiah 53: 7; v. 25 echoes Isaiah 53:6; v. 24 draws its imagery from Isaiah 53:5, 12; and verse twenty-five uses Isaiah 53:6. It was not uncommon, then or now, to recite words from a great hymn or song as exhortations to behave accordingly. Just as we can, in the words of the old song, “see those darkies singin’,” so can we imagine these slaves singing these words even while being unjustly beaten by their masters, thereby giving their oppressors good example of how powerful Christian faith is and can be.
Verse nineteen, “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.” The Spirit-filled person is enabled to meet demands unreasonable, yes, quite impossible on any other basis. “Love your enemies,” “turn the other cheek”-these are encompassed only through the complete mastery of him who prayed for his crucifiers, “Father, forgive them.” This is thankworthy. Reward begins where the reasonable ends. He who serves God without transcendent divine love builds wood, hay, and stubble. What glory is it . . .? Compare Jesus’ questions in Luke 6:32-36. Acceptable with God. The word acceptable is the Greek charis, which has a beautiful double force of “grace” and “favor.” It can give the sense, “When ye do well, and suffer . . . patiently, this is grace with God” or “this is favor with God.”
In verse twenty, if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good: The immediate reference would be to slaves beaten or otherwise punished or humiliated for no good reason. What is said here, of course, would apply to all Christians in similar situations. There is no specific “theology,” for slaves. Both slave and free are bound or loosed by the same principles. The suffering in question here is not just any suffering, but unjust suffering, suffering because of doing right. One can only “take it patiently,” if one is “conscious of God as in verse nineteen,” aware of the divine presence, the eternal perspective.
this is a grace before God: When someone suffers because of something he or she has deliberately done, we think it justice, but when someone suffers because of doing good or, at least, doing no wrong, we think it a “disgrace,” not a grace. Yet, God interprets reality differently. He experiences his faithful servants who suffer for the sake of right the same way we experience him- as a “grace,” something good and profitable. Though trusting in God at such times goes against one’s natural inclinations, such patient endurance, graceful endurance, grace under pressure, shows the genuineness of one’s faith, gives good example even to the bad people who are being unjust, and is generally, that is, in the broad sense, redemptive.
In verse twenty-one, for this you have been called. The Christian status is not a self-appointed one. Since it is God’s invitation, once accepted, it means Christians do his bidding, do things his way.
Because Christ also suffered for you. Christ was the very embodiment of good, of God, and, because of that, evil was always out to get him. This was true in every situation of his life and not only at the end of it. If Christ is in the Christian that same battle goes on. Evil is just as repulsed by the Christian as by Christ, even if it has more of a chance to defeat the Christian, where it had no chance of defeating Christ. What Christ suffered, he did so innocently and thereby redeemed us with the price he paid. Only he could do that. How Christ suffered is another matter. We can imitate that. We look to Christ for clues as to how to respond to injustice.