What do you say to someone having a hard time? Perhaps feeling isolated, threatened, and bruised. One answer is found in 1 Peter, which we are going to follow through the lectionary readings for the next few weeks. It offers a commentary on the significance of the resurrection.
So what do you say? We’ll look at today‘s reading – 1 Peter 1:17-23. Start with that first verse: “live in reverent fear during the time of your exile” – not perhaps the sort of encouragement we would expect, but follow it through.
“Exile”. Not literally – the letter (see 1:1) is not to refugees, nor to Jews living outside Palestine, but to Gentile Christians living, as Abraham had done, as one passing through the world on the way to heaven. It may be that these Christians felt the social exclusion shared by some Christian young people – because they were different. Peter encourages them to be different, for a reason.
“you know that you were ransomed”1 Peter 1:18
I hope you do, too! Ransomed is a word we understand from kidnapping and the taking of hostages. But we can be more precise. Ransomed from v18 “futile ways inherited from your ancestors”.
We can all look back at wasted time – and perhaps worse – when we did not offer a service as effective as we should have to God. That is what we were – and are being – saved from.
Ransomed by v18b not valuables, but the sacrifice of Christ. No detail here of how, but a reminder of the real cost. Also v20 “for your sake” – this becomes personal. Yes, in Passiontide we think about the suffering of Jesus, and in Easter of the joy of his Resurrection. But when we put those together, we see that the implications of the Resurrection are more significant because of their cost.
Which brings us, knowing what we are Ransomed from, and what we are Ransomed by, to what we are Ransomed to v21 to trust in God “so that your faith and hope are set on God” Peter will return several times to talk about holiness of life. About the need for Christians to take on board what has been done for them, and then to live the life. Now he speaks of obedience to the truth, and love. v22
New birth is a new status, but more important the start of a new life, which, unlike the futility described in v18, is to last and grow into something valuable, serviceable, and eternal
What do you say to someone having a hard time? Most of us try things like, hope it gets better soon. Peter takes a rather deeper line. Remember who you are, what your ransom cost, then take full advantage and live it to the full.