Read 1 Peter 2:11-3:7 while remembering the context of what Peter is addressing. He is guiding what the life of the Christian looks like while marginalized in society. Peter believes that the death and resurrection of Christ is what our entire life revolves around. Knowing that we are born into a living hope, an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade, how are we to conduct lives alongside non-believing neighbors, bosses, spouses, masters, and governments?
The verse that echoes in my mind most days comes from 1 Peter 2:12, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” When God comes back in the flesh, in the form of his son, and reveals what his creation is supposed to look like, how will the world respond? Will they say, “Wow! Those Christians were right all along about how life should be lived in community with one another!” or will they say, “Wow! Those Christians sure made a mess of the job they were given to do!”
We often criticize the Jews in the New Testament for missing their calling as the people of God. They were called to be a Holy Nation, a Royal Priesthood, and a light to the nations. They were a Chosen people for this task. When the Word came in the flesh to make his dwelling among them, they did not recognize him because they did not recognize the image of who they were supposed to be in and for the world. We continue to hear God’s call to, “Be holy as I am holy.” If we only strive towards holiness for the sake of the reward we have missed our calling as the people of God. Being Holy as God is holy is to live our lives in such a way that the world begins to reorder and change towards what God intended his world to be in the first place.
There are a lot of verses in this passage that have been used to abuse people or to guilt them to stay in abusive situations. One thing we hate about these passages is that we are called to submission and service while the culture around us calls for power and position. We are called to submit to the emperor. Christians who are enslaved are called to submit to abusive masters. Christian wives are called to submit to nonbelieving husbands. Husbands are then called to not abuse their position in society as the stronger person but to treat their wives as co-heirs. These are hard teachings. Peter is not implementing a patriarchal household and he is not condoning slavery. What he is saying is that when we look through the resurrection at Jesus on the Cross, we reorient our lives to that reality because of our living hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. How does love change how you act within a system? If you have power within the system, what do you do with it? If you are without power, how do you bring transformation with those who do have power? What does love have to do with this? What does our belief that Jesus is Lord have to do with this?
What does it mean to, “live such good lives among the pagans…” here in NoDa? In your neighborhood? With your spouse? With your children? In light of racial tension in our country? In light of political divisions in our country? How might we reorient our lives in these conversations that will point people towards God?