Tag Archives: hard times

What’s Good about Suffering?

You might expect this week’s excerpt from Peter’s first letter to start at 2:18, or even 2:13, but no, the given reading is 1 Peter 2:19-25. I guess that the reference to slaves accepting the authority of their masters might make twenty-first century people think there is nothing here for them, but quite the opposite! We are all suffering Covid-19 lockdown. Suffering in different ways, perhaps, but I doubt if anyone much is enjoying it. So the question comes, can there be anything good about suffering?

And in one sense, the answer is no. Our God does not inflict suffering, as if it was a good thing, and certainly does not want us to enjoy suffering ourselves, or making others suffer. But that doesn’t mean that the experience is totally wasted.

Jesus suffered. It was unjust, and nasty – but it set us free! That doesn’t make it “right”; Pilate, Judas and others are guilty. But it is something we need to take note of. Peter speaks to Christians who are suffering, and will suffer, for a number of reasons. Some are slaves with pagan masters, others are oppressed in other ways.

He points them, not to futile rebellion or smouldering resentment, but to being aware of God. With God’s support, both to see them through difficult times, and to reassure them of final justice and the vindication of those wrongly accused, they can endure. That endurance will also be an advertisement for their faith, helping others to find truth and help.

His view was realistic and helpful in the first century – and still holds! We need a way to get through difficult times, and this is it. It helps us, and helps others at the same time. It doesn’t make everything right, or mean that we are going to enjoy what is happening. But it does mean that, in God’s world, nothing is wasted – not even the bad bits!

By the way, there is a well presented overview of 1 Peter at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhP7AZQlzCg&list=PLH0Szn1yYNecanpQqdixWAm3zHdhY2kPR&index=27

In hard times

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 todays 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.