TODAY’S READING: 1 Peter
Peter wrote to Gentile Christians in present day central and western Turkey, including the provinces that today border Armenia, Syria, and Lebanon (Pontus and Cappadocia). He likely wrote around 64 A.D., right about the time Nero began to escalate his persecution of Christians. Peter opened the book by calling himself a sent one, for the apostolic fathers seriously applied their missionary orders to take the gospel to all the world. Egyptian theologians contend this letter might have been written from Cairo as at that time Babylon (1 Peter 5:13) was the name of the old fort the Persians built on the Nile after they invaded Egypt in the fifth century B.C. Regardless the location, it is a missionary letter to the converted peoples of Turkey telling them persecution is normal and we can endure it in a way that glorifies Jesus.
No indigenous church among unreached peoples is established if extraction is the normal policy for helping believers under duress. It is the most natural reaction in the world to remove our loved ones from pain, but it may not be the wisest or the most loving in the long term. If we really love the church, if we really want to see indigenous churches established among every people, then we will have to be part and party to decisions that encourage those being persecuted to stay where the pain is and endure. Further, we will have to model what we exhort. Peter, nowhere in his letter to beloved Christians, exhorted them to leave or flee. Rather, he counseled them to keep their eyes on heaven, endure with the brotherhood, and live above reproach.
Heavenly Eyes. We are pilgrims; we don’t belong here. We are sojourners; we are just passing through. We have an inheritance incorruptible waiting for us, reserved in heaven. Salvation is assured now, but not fully received until that crowning day. Peter reminded those in pain that they were kept by the power of God through salvation ready to be revealed at the last time. He reminded them to rest their hope fully on the grace that would be brought when Jesus returns. We stay in our hurtful earthly homes, for our eyes are on heaven, and we know if we leave our contexts of trial, then our earthly family will have even less opportunity to hear the gospel and live with us forever with our heavenly family.
Collective Endurance. A favorite trick of the enemy is to make us think we are alone, that no one has suffered as we have, that no one understands. Peter reminded his readers to rejoice when we partake of Christ’s sufferings, for He suffered more, He suffered first, He understands. Peter reminds us to feel blessed when we suffer as a Christian, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon us. Peter reminds us that we resist the devil firmly because the same sufferings are experienced by the brotherhood. In this sense, let us not be the weak-in-faith link. Let us hold the line with the brotherhood.
Living Above Reproach. The chosen generation, royal priesthood, holy nation, and special people are, in the context of Peter’s writing, by the mercy of God, unreached people in present day Turkey who are called to proclaim the praises of Him who called them out of their false religion into God’s marvelous light. We, from all nations, are to live with incorruptible beauty, being of one mind, compassionate, tenderhearted, courteous, and absorbing evil. Missionary living is winsome, not abrasive. We can be prophetic without being punks, holy without being haughty. We are going to suffer, so let’s do so gloriously.