1 Peter continued

Due to the holiday season, the January Daily Readings were prepared far in advance of the Summer Series, and so therefore are not connected with the content of the Summer Series.
The readings for the next four weeks will take us through the two New Testament books of 1 & 2 Peter. The readings will still follow the same format as before.
Enjoy.

Readings for this week December 31 – January 4
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Slaves and Masters

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 2:18-25

Many early Christians were slaves. A faith that affirmed the dignity of all human beings, and that the image of God was to be found in every single person, was bound to be popular with those at the bottom of society. We’d love for Peter (and Paul and Jesus) to have unambiguously stated that slavery is wrong. But they didn’t. Not because slavery (of whatever stripe) isn’t wrong – it is – and not because they didn’t believe in the God-given worth of each human being, slaves included – they did. But to encourage open rebellion amongst the Christian slaves in their community would have been tantamount to saying to them, “Go home and give your master an excuse to abuse you/treat you worse/kill you.” Instead, Peter encourages obedience and respect. Again, this might seem like collusion with evil: our current climate (now) knows all about people being unable to speak freely of their experiences of abusive, humiliating events perpetrated by people in power over them.

But Peter has seen something bigger than this in the torture and crucifixion of Jesus. Going back to Isaiah again, the image of the suffering servant, carrying out God’s saving purpose for the world, while being tortured and abused, but all the while never giving back as he has been given. Jesus took the punishment that we deserved, representing all of us – the entire world – as he did so. He isn’t saying stay passive and mute in the face of violence. Nobody wants to suffer. Suffering is not enjoyable, and is often deeply painful, humiliating and dehumanising. What Peter is suggesting is that it is through sharing in the sufferings of the Messiah – the only truly completely innocent man, punished unjustly – that we ourselves can become free, and through which the world itself can be restored to wholeness. Only someone who truly believes that all things – ALL – revolve around the crucifixion and the resurrection could say this, and attempt to live it too.

Questions to Consider
What do you think of what Peter says here? How does it apply today?

Prayer
Lord God, when we fight injustice may we do it faithfully, openly and in a way that shows the value of all life and the value of living life your way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – The Way of Married Living

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 3:1-7

This passage – a rather famous one, if often abused or truncated (people focus on verses 1-6 easily enough but frequently seem to forget about verse 7 for some reason) – seems to cause just as much trouble today as in times past, but for almost completely different reasons. First, we need to understand the context. If a man became a Christian, he would, as head of the family and the one in charge, often bring his entire household into the faith with him. Under Roman law he had absolute authority over every member of his household, including his wife, who, if she became a Christian, usually entered the church alone. Hence Peter’s call for wives to submit to their husbands, and conduct themselves with reverence and purity, not because of any second-class status, but for their own protection. In their situation, any attempt to assert their own independent rights would be quite a risky, even dangerous, move.

What Peter is saying here about husbands and wives is truly revolutionary. This passage is another example of a countercultural way of living, a way in which husbands and wives show mutual love, commitment and respect to each other. This is especially the case when we consider how women were viewed, and treated, in ancient Roman society. They were very much seen as a lower, less worthy, second class sort of human being, with innate characteristics that stemmed more from passion and emotion than from reason – hence the widespread belief in the need for women to be constantly subordinated to powerful, self-restrained, reasoning men. So Peter’s call for husbands and wives to live as equals is yet another example of how different Christian living is meant to be.

Question to Consider
How do these verses apply in today’s world?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, may our marriages be arenas for your grace and love to shine through for all to see. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Standing Out in the Right Way

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 3:8-16

Christians are supposed to stand out as distinctive. We all know this. As followers of Jesus, the true King of the world, we are supposed to be modelling a new way – the true way – of living, showing the world the true meaning of being human. But too often these days, Christians can end up standing out for the wrong reasons, especially when we are mocked and scorned (which we know we will be; Jesus himself said so) and we retaliate with behaviour and speech on the same level as those attacking us. But when we ‘respond in kind’, when we ‘give as good as we get’, we are failing to model the very behaviour we are calling others out for. We have to walk a fine line between being so much like everyone else that we are indistinguishable from the society around us, with our Christ-allegiance making no discernible difference, and being so aloof, removed and almost ‘holier-than-thou’ that we are invisible because we have isolated ourselves from the world around us.

We successfully walk that fine line when we learn, together as the body Christ, the new way of life that Peter describes in these verses: blessing others in all circumstances, watching what we say, doing good not evil, and seeking after peace wherever we find it. These new practical habits, of mind and of heart, learned and practised in community, will create a people characterised by kindness, mercy, humility, love for all, and united in their worshiping obedience of their king. Thus moulded and fortified, we will be able to face a hostile world ignorant of God, and show it the true way to live without fear.

Question to Consider
What should be distinctive about Christian behaviour?

Prayer
Almighty Father, help us walk the fine line. Help us be distinctive and yet connected, set apart and yet engaged, yours and yet for all. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Suffering and Assured Victory

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 3:17-22

It may not look like it, and many Christians’ experience may certainly not feel like it, but our baptism into the community of God’s people puts us firmly under the reality of the Messiah’s victory over the forces of darkness. But it doesn’t always appear so. We must remain firm and strong, and not be discouraged or tempted to turn away because there are times when that victory seems hollow, distant, or altogether absent. As much as we might not want to, we will suffer for doing right. We will suffer for holding to God’s standard of truth and rightness; we will suffer as we fight for justice for the poor and displaced and marginalised; we will suffer as we obediently enact God’s plan and purpose for his recalcitrant world.

We must trust that Jesus’ victory will one day be played out, in full, throughout the entire world, for all to see, even if that day sometimes seems just a distant dream. For most of us, living in comfort and security in countries that are relatively indifferent to our faith, if they even acknowledge it at all, we need, at the very least, to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are persecuted and terrorised because of their faith. Those who live in places where the reality of Jesus’ victory is particularly difficult to see need the urgent, diligent, faithful prayers of those of us who do not face such hardship and persecution – yet.

Questions to Consider
What role does suffering play in the life of the follower of Jesus? Why? What is the importance of suffering in our imitation of Christ?

Prayer
Heavenly Lord, may I not shy away from the consequences of following you and living a life for others. If suffering is in the offing, may you give me the strength and courage to bear it. Be with those in our world whose obedience to you comes at great personal, physical cost. Bless them and their suffering. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Old versus New

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 4:1-6

We are Christ’s people; we have been saved by his death and his resurrection, and called together to be his people. Therefore, as his people we imitate Christ, and so Peter now turns his attention to telling his readers how they are to live as followers of Christ. Our lives should contrast markedly with those in society around us, who have not offered their entire lives – and way of life – as part of their allegiance to God. And, Peter goes on to say, it will often be this very contrast between our lives and the lives of others that will bring on suffering. We cannot live humble, holy lives in service to our God, surrounded by a world blindly going its own heedless, destructive way, without experiencing the conflict that these two ways of life will generate as they ‘rub up’ against each other.

Sometimes we suffer because we have chosen to follow God’s way of living; we have chosen not to follow the way of sin. We have chosen to forsake the sinfulness of the lifestyle Peter mentions in verse 3. That was the old way of living; Christ is transforming us into a people that have a new way of living, a way in direct, public contrast with the world around us. The depth of our suffering and discomfort can show us the extent to which we have successfully broken with the ‘sin of the flesh’ around us. Peter warns us not to be surprised if those around us who still engage in these behaviours suddenly start to question why we have stopped behaving as they do – and not to be surprised if they ridicule us (or even worse) because of it).

Questions to Consider
How do these two ways of living ‘rub up’ against each other in your life? What happens when they do? How does it feel?

Prayer
Lord God, may I not slip back into the old way of living, but be faithful in the new life you have given me, even when things get tough. Amen

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)