May 20th, 2021
So all of you should live together in peace. Try to understand each other. Love each other like brothers and sisters. Be kind and humble. Don’t do wrong to anyone to pay them back for doing wrong to you. Or don’t insult anyone to pay them back for insulting you. But ask God to bless them. Do this because you yourselves were chosen to receive a blessing. – 1 Peter 3:8-9 ERV
In our verses of the day, the Apostle Peter is comforting the Christians in Asia Minor (now modern Turkey). They were suffering because of their faith in Jesus Christ. His pastoral heart wanted to encourage them to remain committed and faithful, not only to their faith in Christ, but also to the community of God’s people to which they now belonged! Their former circles were heaping increasing amounts of pressure on them to renounce Christ and return to what their society considered a more “respectable” way of living. Peter was concerned that the hostility and shaming tactics might tempt the believers to think it would be more prudent to compromise or leave the faith and go back to the communities to which they had belonged.
In Greco-Roman society, a person’s kinship group – who they belonged to – was the most important aspect of his or her life. It was their identity! The kinship group was the focal institution around which their entire lives were ordered—socially, economically, and religiously. And it was a person’s responsibility to think and behave in ways that honored the good name of their kinship group, especially the head of their kinship group, such as their father, king, or other patron.
Peter wanted the believers to know that they were not left without a kinship group because of their obedience to Christ. He declared that they are, in fact, “God’s chosen people” (1 Peter 1:1) who share in the rich heritage of God’s covenantal people. He used language that described Israel in the Old Testament (1 Peter 2:9). While their neighbors shamed them for their faith in Christ, Peter honored them as the community of God’s holy people.
Specifically, they are “the King’s priests” (1 Peter 2:9) and they have a special task as they “serve God” in the “house” (or temple) of God’s people “as holy priests, offering him spiritual sacrifices that he will accept because of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). We, along with them, also share in that holy kinship group as the King’s priests. Peter instructs them and us to “be holy, because [God] is holy” (1 Peter 1:15). Holiness within our new kinship group honors Christ as its head!
But what does God’s holiness look like in the community of His people?
In Leviticus, the Old Testament code framing the temple worship of ancient Israel, this command is repeated throughout to be holy just as the Lord our God is holy. Leviticus 19:2 contains what Jesus calls the second greatest commandment (in Matthew 22:35-40): “Forget about the wrong things people do to you. Don’t try to get even. Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” This, along with the greatest commandment to love God (Deuteronomy 6:5), is the essence of our worship, of the “spiritual sacrifices” we make as His holy priests! To be holy as God is holy means that we love one another just as God in Christ loved us.
In our verses of the day, Peter describes what that looks like in practice. Love like this within the community of God’s people honors our King because it reflects His holy character as a gracious and compassionate God who saves us because of His love for us (Deuteronomy 7:6-8; John 15:9-17). The love of God, worked out in our community, is our witness to the world about the greatness of our God and his salvation: “He chose you to tell about the wonderful things he has done. He brought you out of the darkness of sin into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
By Lee Carter, Bible League International staff, Illinois, U.S.
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