Change: Peter, Part II

Change: Peter Part II
A Message on 1 Peter 2:18-25
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
Aug. 1, 2021
By Doug Wintermute

1 Peter 2:18-25 (NRSV)

18 Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh. 19 For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. 20 If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.

22 “He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

23 When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

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As we continue our sermon series on “Change” and examine “Part II” of Peter’s life we come across this difficult and uncomfortable text.

I find it uncomfortable because it starts out talking about slavery. Just reading the word makes me sick to my stomach. The thought of one human being owning another human being is repulsive and I believe completely contrary to the gospel.

But just because a topic in the Bible is uncomfortable doesn’t mean we should just ignore it.

Slavery was the reality of the world in the first century, ugly though it was. People were aware of it and it was common. And I think it’s because of that that Peter uses it here as a metaphor.

He is encouraging followers of Christ to do the right thing even when the world seems very unfair.

As humans we know that our actions have consequences. For example, if we want to find out how hot a Carolina Reaper pepper is, and that curiosity motivates us to the point of biting into one, then the consequence of that action is that our mouths are going to be on fire and we are going to be in pain. (If you don’t believe me, get on YouTube and watch some pepper eating contests and you’ll see what I mean.)

But sometimes things happen to us that are beyond our control. If a “friend” (and I’m using that term loosely here) secretly chops up a Carolina Reaper pepper and puts it in a casserole and then serves that to you just to see your reaction (again, not a very good friend), then you will also suffer even though it wasn’t your fault. You experience suffering at no fault of your own.

Peter talks about how doing wrong things can have negative consequences for us. But he also talks about how sometimes bad stuff happens to us even when we don’t deserve it.

Bad stuff happens to good people. It doesn’t seem fair, and that frustrates us. But Peter tells us to quit focusing on the world with a quid pro quo attitude that if we are good the world owes us something. Instead, focus on heavenly things even when things are going bad for you.

Here’s the way Eugene Peterson paraphrased part of the scripture we read today: “But if you’re treated badly for good behavior and continue in spite of it to be a good servant, that is what counts with God. This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step.” The Message

Jesus calls us to live for heavenly things, not for earthly things. Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection frees us from being slaves to sin and death. Having that freedom, we should live, as Peter writes, “for righteousness.” And we should never forget something else Peter writes, “…by his wounds you have been healed.”

Life is not fair. Bad things happen to good people. Peter certainly knew that. As a follower of Jesus, leaving his life as a fisherman, he saw more than his share of change and of troubles. Peter was brave enough to step out of the boat and walk on water to Jesus but didn’t have enough faith to stay afloat. He was impetuous, drawing a sword and cutting off a man’s ear when a group came to arrest Jesus. And Peter was the one who denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. Peter also flip-flopped on his view of whether Gentiles could be followers of Christ, and gets publicly rebuked by Paul in doing so. And Peter’s life ended when he was crucified upside down at his request, considering himself not worthy of being crucified like Jesus.

Peter certainly knew troubles. But he also teaches us that by focusing on Jesus and remembering that God’s grace is the greatest gift ever given to humankind, knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, we can get through whatever tough times we experience. God’s love is indeed that powerful.

So my challenge to you this week is to remember Peter’s words when tough times come your way. Remember that our faith in Jesus Christ has set us free from sin and death, giving us that liberty to live righteous lives for God’s kingdom. “…by his wounds you have been healed.”

And if you have a friend that gives you a casserole with Carolina Reaper peppers in it and doesn’t tell you about those peppers, you might want to choose better friends.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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