When I was at school there was no such thing as an anti-bullying policy, and I think I was on the receiving end of a large amount of abuse, mainly due to my surname, Pidgeon, and my painfully thin physique. As I look back I think I eventually adopted my own personal anti-bullying policy and it went something like this: If someone is constantly poking-fun or being mean, nasty or spiteful towards me, calculate and assess the bully’s height, weight and general strength. If they are female, give verbal abuse back; if they are male, short, or skinny and not prone to fighting, plant a single punch on their chin; and on at least three occasions I punched.
In 1989 I was working for Lloyds Bank in Basingstoke. I was really fed up with the Senior Manager and as a result I began looking for a new job, trawling through the situations vacant columns. One of my colleagues clearly spotted me doing this and next thing I knew my line manager asked to speak to me in private.
“Warner, is everything OK? Are you happy working here?” I replied, “I’m fine, thank you” and avoided the truth! When insulted, I punched. In the face of difficulties at work I sought to get out; and when asked how I was, I did not speak truth. I lied. I sinned.
The apostle Peter writes about Christ’s suffering on the cross; and although this part of his letter addresses slaves and servants it applies to us all.
In verse 24 Peter says that Jesus the Messiah ‘bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds [we] have been healed’; and to any Jew hearing or reading this, immediately the mind fills with images of the suffering servant depicted in Isaiah chapters 52 & 53.
Isaiah 52:4-5, ‘Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
Many say Jesus was a good man. The Bible says the death of Jesus was not just the death of a kind godly man. Jesus the King was Jesus the suffering servant, bearing our sins in his body on the tree.
Throughout his ministry Jesus used parables, word-pictures and miracles to explain and demonstrate the nature of God and God’s kingdom; but on the cross Jesus was literally enacting, revealing and embodying the prophecy of a suffering servant in his own body. So every lash of the whip, every deep gash from the crown of thorns, every jagged splinter from the beams of the cross, each body-crunching nail, and every pool of blood is both a literal event, and also a picture of all of our sins being laid upon him.
Jesus was pierced for my punches. Jesus was whipped for the times when you lash out in sinful anger. Sharp thorns were forced into his head for every prickly word we speak that hurts others. Cruel nails pinned Jesus to the cross for those times when we’ve pinned the blame on someone else.
In the words of the modern hymn - ‘How deep the Father’s love’, the scriptures tell us this: ‘it was my sin that held him there’.
Be in no doubt, it was our sins that held him there, ‘so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; [for] by his wounds [we] have been healed’!
Friends, on the cross, God made a way for you to be set free from the tyranny of sin and to do life differently. As unbelievers we were ‘like sheep going astray’, but as believers in Christ we have now ‘returned to the Shepherd and overseer of [our] souls’ (1 Peter 2:25); because he bore our sins.
And now, as believers, healed by his wounds and able to live for what is right, verse 21, ‘to this you were called’: We are called to follow Christ’s attitude in all things. He bore our sins and left us an example so that we should follow in his steps (2:21). Christ is both our Saviour and our example - not one or the other; so that others might be drawn to God through us; and so later in this letter Peter writes this:
‘Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called’.
He committed no sin. No deceit was in his mouth. When insulted he did not retaliate. When he suffered he made no threats (2:21-23); and this is the example and the attitude (4:1) to which we are called.
Dear friends; are you challenged by the example of Christ, because I am! The Greek word for ‘example’ is the word that was used for copybook letters to be traced, copied and followed by a pupil; by us.
We are called to copy out his example, again and again, not just once, but again and again, day by day. We’re called to not sin, to no deceit, to not retaliate, and to make no threats. Doing so will transform our lives together, and will produce an attractive church.
It will mean not throwing our toys out of the pram when someone upsets us. It will mean silence in the face of unjust criticism; a mouth that speaks the truth, not seeking to justify or vindicate ourselves; living, speaking, emailing, texting and writing differently.
It may mean focusing on campaigning for the rights of others, instead of campaigning for my rights or for our rights – as we copy out the example of Jesus, which is what we are told to do, and it’s not optional!
Let’s campaign with politeness and grace for the vulnerable, oppressed, or persecuted, probably not waving placards but with gentle words of persuasion; but when I, we, or you, are the victims of persecution, Peter tells us plainly to follow Christ’s footsteps: No deceit was in his mouth. When insulted he did not retaliate. When he suffered he made no threats.
Yes, let’s communicate with Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone to voice support for those who’ve been told to stop wearing a cross at work; but if you’re told to stop wearing your cross, remember Christ.
Peter wrote, “Submit yourselves to your masters with all respect; … [and] if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God” (2:18-20). Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example.
No sin, no deceit, no retaliation, no threats.