1 Peter 2:4-25

Readings for this week February 10 – 14
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Day 1 – Us, The New Temple

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 2:4-10

In the Old Testament, the idea of a stone or rock had two particular meanings that Jews of Peter’s time would have been particularly interested in. The first was connected with the idea of God returning to Zion (Jerusalem) and taking up residence forever in a properly rebuilt Temple, and there was a long Jewish tradition of describing the Temple as being built on a ‘rock’. If the right rock, or cornerstone, could be found, then the building of the new Temple – the one God has promised to come and dwell in – can begin.

Secondly, the word stone (eben) is very similar to the word son (ben), and if there’s one thing we know about God, it’s that he likes wordplay. (Jesus made a pun on the same two words in Mark 12:1-12.) How do the two concepts go together? In 2 Samuel 7:12-14 we read of God’s promise that David’s son would build the Temple and would also be the son of God. And the son will build the temple with the proper foundation stone.

God had promised to both send his son and build a house in which he will come and live forever. All people who belong to Jesus, no matter who they are or where they are from – even if they are Gentiles, living far from Israel, in tiny scattered communities – have been welcomed and fully incorporated into the people of God. The Temple has actually been rebuilt and God has come to inhabit it – because his people are God’s new Temple, and he is now living in them, wherever they are. Including us.

Questions to Consider
How are the people of God the new Temple? What does it mean to say God dwells in us?

Prayer
Loving Father, thank you for loving us so much that you made your home here with us – in fact, even more than that, in us, by your Spirit. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Obedience and Faithfulness

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 2:11-14

Verses 13-14 have been problematic to say the least, and have caused much heartache and head scratching over the centuries. Are we really supposed to submit to every authority instituted over us, to obey and honour all leaders and people in positions of power in our society? What about tyrants and dictators? What about those whose behaviour shows a complete lack of regard for law, morality, fairness? What about those abusing their positions and authority for their own gain? Are we, as followers of King Jesus, really supposed to submit to these people? Aren’t they the very people we should be opposing and rebelling against through truth speaking to power in order to point to the sovereignty of the true King? If we put up with their rule, aren’t we just colluding with them?

Peter wants us to submit to the ruling authorities, but in a way that allows the way we live – the good life Peter describes in verses 11-12 – to shame those that criticize and ridicule us. We need to play our part in establishing God’s rule on earth by showing that there is another, better way of living, a way that is far more revolutionary than actual revolution: truth speaking to power through Jesus mirrored in our lives and actions. Anyone looking at us, from any position in society, should see a genuine way of being human. The world needs to see that our conduct is right and admirable. Yes, we will oppose injustice and oppression, but with our whole lives, every word and action, not just through protest but through God’s life in us.

Questions to Consider
How do you live our Peter’s command in verses 13-14? What does this look like? What should it look like?

Prayer
Lord God, we are yours first and foremost, but must still live in a world that refuses to know you. Help us do this with faithfulness and integrity. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Soft Difference

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 2:15-17

“It might be appropriate to call the missionary distance that 1 Peter stresses soft difference. I do not mean a weak difference, for in 1 Peter the difference is anything but weak. It is strong, but it is not hard. Fear for oneself, one’s identity creates hardness. The difference that joins itself with hardness always presents the other with a choice: either submit or be rejected, either ‘become like me or get away from me’. In the mission to the world, hard difference operates with open or hidden pressures, manipulation, and threats. A decision for a soft difference, on the other hand presupposes a fearlessness which 1 Peter repeatedly encourages his readers to assume (3:14; 3:6). People who are secure in themselves – more accurately, secure in their God – are able to live the soft difference without fear. They have no need either to subordinate or damn others, but can allow others space to be themselves. For people who live the soft difference, mission fundamentally takes the form of witness and invitation. They seek to win others without pressure or manipulation, sometimes even ‘without a word’ (3:1).

To be a Christian means to live one’s identity in the face of others in such a way that one joins inseparably the belief in the truth of one’s own convictions with a respect for the convictions of others. The softness which should characterise the very being of Christians – I am tempted to call it ‘ontic gentleness’ – must not be given up even when we are (from our own perspective) persuaded that others are wrong or evil. To give up the softness of our difference would be to sacrifice our identity as followers of Jesus Christ.”

Miroslav Volf, in 1 & 2 Peter, Jude, Vinson, Wilson and Mills, pp.132-3.

Questions to Consider
What do you think of this idea of soft difference? Why?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, may I be welcoming, loving and gracious to all, but faithful and obedient to you as I offer your love and grace to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Suffering and Silence

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 2:18-22

It should come as no surprise that in the past this passage was very popular with southern slave owners in the American South, and was one they regularly quoted in defence of slavery and their personal right to own, and exploit, other human beings as property. 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 Peter probably couldn’t imagine a world without slavery, or foresee a time when it wouldn’t exist, so integral to the economy and society of the ancient world was it. 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.

Claiming that when slaves suffer they are actually imitating the suffering endured by Christ is a bold, powerful statement to make, and points to the potential redemption of an awful situation and offers meaning to the harsh everyday existence slaves endure, offering dignity and grace to those who are enslaved and suffering. But we must be careful not to move from this to thinking that God requires this suffering, this enslavement, or approves if we silently accept it and turn away. God can redeem any situation; nothing is beyond his love. But the fact that it needs redeeming shows that it is not his perfect, pleasing will that prevails – yet.

Question to Consider
How are we to respond to the reality of modern slavery and inequality?

Prayer
Almighty Lord, guard me against the apathy and complacency that so easily ensnare us and stop us from fighting on behalf of others. Help us rage with compassion for your world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – The Centrality of the Cross

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 2:23-25

The cross is scandalous – or at least it should be. The world set right by someone’s public torture and humiliation? That should give us pause. The world reconciled to God through the condemnation and suffering of an innocent man? That thought should stop us in our tracks for at least a few seconds. Redemption and release to become God’s children as we were always meant to be through the death of his only child? That formulation seems problematic at best. How are we meant to assimilate this to our own lives? What does it mean for daily living that this is the God we follow?

Peter sees something more 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.

Question to Consider
What aspects of the crucifixion trouble you yet empower/inspire you?

Prayer
Lord God, the cross is central. The crucifixion and resurrection redefine reality. May I live a life, day by day, moment by moment, that reflects this new reality and the power that it brings. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)