Saturday, November 24, 2007

Slow Learners

"Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing."
1 Peter 3:9

We are slow learners. It took us millions of years to learn how to use a fork. And so we need repetition to get through our thick skulls. And so we see it again. An eye for an eye is replaced by turning the other cheek. It's not kind for kind, nice for nice, loving for loving, scratch for scratch, good for good, evil for evil. Our response is to be the same every time. And the remarkable promise is that in doing so we will be blessed. Loving others despite their behavior really is the best way to live. We often come to the Bible looking each day for fresh insight. We look for that penetrating innovative truth to pierce our hearts. But often this is a smokescreen for an hardheadedness towards what will really make a difference. It's pretty simple isn't it? Love one another.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


8Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another"

1 Peter 3:8a

If God wants us to live in harmony, I wonder why he made us so different. Sometimes it feels like asking Britney Spears, Pavarotti, Weird Al, Miles Davis, and Metallica to make an album featuring bagpipes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Excursis: Need for Certainty

Excursis is a fancy word I used in seminary. And since I'm insecure, it makes me feel better to use it. I think it basically means an "aside." And aside is a much shorter word, so there's really no reason to use the word excursis except to sound fancy. But anyway, this post is an excursis or an aside from my working through 1 Peter. I'm sitting at CityDock coffee in Arnold and I was eavesdropping on the table next to me. I don't know what they look like, because I'd have to turn around and then they'd see me looking at them. Anyway, this one guy just said something like "Americans demand certainty, but why can't we just accept that life is uncertain?" This comment highlights a growing tension in the American psyche. The guy behind me is right, we do demand certainty. We demand certainty with regards to our health--we want and demand the best healthcare possible. We want certainty with our financial future--we are fixated on retirement and want to ensure that we will have exactly what we want when we get there. We are a society that demands certainty. Yet at the same time we are increasingly skeptical that anything really is certain. Religious pluralism--there's no place for the 21st century puritan to plant his separatist religious colony. Philosophical certainty--we are uncertain whether or not we are even making sense when we talk about uncertainty. Even scientific certainty isn't what it once was. Everywhere uncertainty--is that sugar or splenda? Does she really sing that well in tune or is it pro tools?

Thursday, November 8, 2007


"3Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 5For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. 7Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."

--1 Peter 3:3-7

We see a general theme emerging as Peter continues to moves from one social relationship to another--relationship to government, employee relationships, marital relationships. We find the theme of reconciliation. "By his wounds you have been healed" v. 2:24. . . Here "you" is plural. We are not talking merely about individual healing--though that is at the heart of it. But it is also talking about collective healing which in the language of Ephesians Paul calls reconciliation. In marriage equality is not diminished to uniformity but the beauty of gender differences is maintained through mutual appreciation. A woman's inner beauty takes center stage--it needs no formal authority to rule!-- and the captivated husband responds with humble respect.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Silent Submission

"1Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2when they see the purity and reverence of your lives."

--1 Peter 3:1-2

Here we see St. Francis' mantra loud and clear: "Preach the gospel and if necessary use words." We have somehow come to think that preaching the gospel is a formula where if check off all the right phrases in a 5-minute presentation then you have preached the gospel. And if any of these phrases are lacking you may have done something good but you haven't "preached the gospel." Curiously, "preaching the gospel" has come to mean only what you say. Today, people are tired of hypocritical preachers who proclaim with their lips but deny with their lifestyle the good news. A 21st century contextualization of the gospel will be accompanied by verbal proclamation but grounded in behavior that authenticates our message.

"Wives, submit to your husbands"--this is not talking about submission to God-ordained leadership. This is submission as an evangelistic strategy which flows out of an other-worldly understanding of God's sovereignty. Just as we can fully submit to our worldly authorities (See blog a couple days ago) knowing that as Christians we are ultimately above it, so also can wives submit to their husbands knowing that ultimately they are under the rule of a much greater power.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Healer or Teacher

22"He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth." 23When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
--1 Peter 2:22-25

I was a disruptive little boy. My Sunday school teacher had to call a conference with my mom and me to discuss my behavior at church. At church camp one year I mischievously altered a sign in the woods which led to a group of campers wandering aimlessly in the woods. I'll never forget my counselor's response. He was understandably angry but when we returned to camp he bought me a candy bar and taught me about forgiveness and turning the other cheek. He was truly a role model for me. He modeled for me the example of Jesus.

But this passage goes farther than that. Perhaps the greatest misunderstanding of Christianity is to see Jesus as merely an example. As he suffered in the face of opposition, so to shall we humble ourselves with non-violent submission. The goal of the Christian life, it is assumed, is to seek and strive to follow the example of Jesus. But this passage moves beyond that. What Would Jesus Do? When I'm faced with temptation--to give in to that which ultimately will harm either me or others or both--When I am faced with the decision of doing what I want at the expense of others or placing their desires above my own--I can ask myself what would God do if he were in my shoes? But this passage goes farther than that. To be sure, verse 21 tells us that Christ left us an example, but verse 24 takes us far beyond the mere examplarism that sucks the supernatural out of religion. "By his wounds you have been healed." Somehow in some other-worldly way, when I am insulted, or hurt, or mistreated, or walked on, or made fun of, or put down, or forgotten--somehow the pain and the injustice which I suffered is taken from me and placed on the shoulders of Jesus. He is the scapegoat. We endure injustice not because we've seen that it can be done, as if Jesus' role as the first fruit means merely that we, like him, can rise above our mortality ourselves and somehow attain a similar deity, but because Jesus was so entirely different from us--as different as is the finite from the infinite, the mortal from the immortal, the human from the divine. How are we so united with him that our pain becomes his? This answer, as ultimately are all answers, is found in the one central mystery of the humanity and divinity of Christ. In him chaos meets order, time meets eternity, changing meets unchanging, and discord meets peace.

So central, then, is the Lord's Supper. For it is here that we symbolically, literally, metaphysically, spiritually (can we please finally move away from modern reductionism and simply say "mysteriously"?) unite with Him by whom our wounds are healed.

Friday, November 2, 2007


18Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. 20But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
--1 Peter 2:18-21

"They'll know we are Christians by our love." The greatest apologetic of any age but particularly in our day is the apologetic of love. What will draw outsiders in is a love that cannot be explained in natural and human terms only. Perhaps the most radical kind of Christian love there is is the kind that turns the other cheek. Usually when we find ourselves in situations where we are being treated unfairly we will do anything to get out. An ugly marriage, an ugly job situation. But Peter seems to be implying that there is something that can be gained only through such unjust situations. We are given the opportunity to honor God by participating in His sufferings. And we find a joy that proves itself faithful even in the darkest of places. "Why in the world would you endure such things?"-- can be answered only with the acknowledgment that there is another world.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Honor the King

"13Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. 16Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king."
--1 Peter 2:13-17

Tim Keller notes the opposite worldviews of the average news reporter and the Christian. The news reporter thinks that religion is ultimately about politics. When news reporters interview Christians, they think that ultimately what matters is who the Christian is going to vote for. But we know that ultimately politics is about religion. What undergird all political thought are worldviews and not the other way around. This is why the world ultimately won't be changed through political action. Real change will result in political change--indeed politics will in many ways be the means through which change takes place. But it is just that, a means.

So Peter tells us to submit to political authority because as Christians we are in fact above it. The power of the Gospel is so great that it doesn't have to fight for its own survival. It works at an entirely different level at which politics can neither operate nor interfere with. Our doing good will silence foolish men--even those in power. Joseph served diligently for Potiphar and in Pharoah's court. He did not need to fight for himself, it became clear to all that he was operating on a different level. The source of his strength was not simply more powerful, it was from a completely different world.