Justice in the Book of 1 Peter, Day 5

Today’s reading is drawn from 1 Peter 4:17-18 and 1 Peter 5:6-10.

First Peter offers hope that by living reverent and quiet lives, members of the new Christian community can avoid suffering. Clearly, though, Peter’s greatest hope is that by imitating Christ, who also suffered and did not pursue retaliation, Christians can be redeemed by God. He will set all things right (4:17–18). He will lift you up (5:6). He will make you strong (5:10).

An insight gained from 1 Peter and the life of Nelson Mandela: it is possible that the (unjust) suffering of an individual can mean the freedom of an entire people. More importantly, if individual sacrifices his or her freedom for the sake of the freedom of the entire community, it is now up to the community to provide a space where all will enjoy being safe, free and blessed. That was so of Nelson Mandela; it is even more deeply and eternally true of Jesus.

What Mandela suffered on behalf of justice has created a new country, where justice should be the norm. And yet it is not. Many years after Nelson Mandela became the first democratic president of South Africa, unemployment ranks among the highest in the world, as do intimate partner violence and sexual violence. The rape and murder of women and children are a common occurrence; “corrective rape” of lesbians and homophobic attacks are on the increase; the HIV infection rate is among the world’s highest, and foreigners from neighboring African countries suffer xenophobic attacks. In short, Mandela’s suffering served for the liberation of a nation, but that liberation is far from complete.

And Jesus’ suffering served for the liberation of the whole world, but that liberation—of body, mind, and spirit—is very far from perfected, even in the lives of those whom he has chosen. The church, of all places, should be where liberation is seen.

The first readers of 1 Peter were called to act justly by conforming to submissive behavior and suffering for a little while (3:6; 5:10). This was deemed righteous because such suffering was for the well-being and survival of the family of believers as they waited on the return of Christ. We too are called to act justly in our contexts of suffering—mindful that, as a family of believers, we may face different challenges than did the churches Peter first addressed.

— Miranda Pillay, South Africa (Excerpted from the book introduction to 1 Peter)

 

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Our Treatment of Others Affects How We Live, Day 3

Today’s reading is drawn from Genesis 50:15-21.

How we treat others will affect our own lives as well. Joseph had every reason to be bitter and angry with his brothers, but instead of anger, he chose forgiveness. To the extent that we surrender our tendencies to condemn others, and are able instead to forgive, we will experience the fullness of forgiveness from God.

God freely forgives us and gives us eternal life (see John 3:16). But he also expects us to extend that same mercy to others (see James 2:12-13), with strict warnings to us if we don’t. A life of judgment, condemnation and unforgiveness is a prison. We find ourselves focusing not on the good we have—our spiritual lives or joyful relationships—but on the failings of another. It brings resentment and emptiness. When we let go of judgment and live in the grace that has also freed us, we move past the demand that everyone pay us back; as a result, our own quality of life increases.

 
 

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Forging a New Path, Day 1

Today’s reading is drawn from Judges 10:6-8.During the tumultuous times of the judges, the people of Israel continually worship false gods. Their selfish way of living causes God to become very angry, so he delivers them into the hands of their enemies. Instead of remembering their covenant with the one true God, the Israelites go down their own path and lose their way.

The ability to make decisions and choose our own fate is a gift from God. But along with those decisions comes the reality that, like the Israelites, we often turn our backs on what we know to be true—sometimes even worshiping unworthy objects or following false gods. These choices can affect our lives in profound ways—even define our futures.

When Craig left the comforts of his close-knit Christian family for college at age 18, it was the first time in his life he was truly free to make his own decisions. No one told him to make his bed. No one waited up for him at night. No one told him when and where he could and couldn’t go. Finally, he had no one to answer to—at least that’s what he thought.

His desire to live for the moment and do whatever felt good caused him to end up a much different person from the one he had set out to become. As Craig was growing up, God had been his life’s main focus, but at school he became obsessed with the dangerous temptations the world has to offer—drinking, money and power, to name a few. Pretty soon, God was lost in the memories of his past.

But the fast life eventually came to a crashing halt on a night that began like any other for Craig but ended in a hospital emergency room, with a drunk-driving charge, a revoked license and hundreds of dollars in fines.

Sure, Craig was now an adult. He finally got to choose for himself the road he wanted to travel. He also got to find out the hard way what it was like to be out on his own without the protection he had taken for granted his whole life.

  • What was God’s purpose in how he dealt with the Israelites?
  • Is it possible to live life in the “real world” without being overtaken by its temptations? What can we learn from these two stories about God’s desires for us?
 
 

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Black Sunday

“If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” Luke 17:4

Every family has moments they’d rather forget—moments that later call for understanding and forgiveness. When our children lived at home, we found that Sunday was often the most frustrating day of the week, especially during the “get ’em ready for church” routine. But Black Sunday was uniquely chaotic!

Jim and I began the day by getting up late, which meant that everyone had to rush to prepare for church. Then there was the matter of spilled milk at breakfast and the black shoe polish on the floor. Finally, Ryan, who was dressed first, managed to slip out the back door and get himself dirty from head to toe. As these irritations mounted, the criticism and accusations flew back and forth. At least one spanking was delivered and another three or four were promised.

After the Sunday evening service we called the family together. We described the day we’d had and asked each person to forgive us for our part in it. We also gave each member of the family a chance to express his or her feelings. Ryan was given his first shot, and he fired it at me. “You’ve been a real grouch today, Mom!” he said with feeling. “You’ve blamed me for everything all day long.” Danae then poured out her hostilities and frustrations. Finally, Jim and I had an opportunity to explain the tensions that had caused our overreaction. It was a valuable time of ventilation and honesty that drew us together once more. We then had prayer as a family and asked the Lord to help us live and work together in love and harmony.

No matter how hard we try, we will experience times when we fail to live up to our Christian principles. When those times arrive, discussion and forgiveness are the best methods for soothing wounded relationships. I urge you at those moments to actively seek forgiveness from each other and from God and freely offer forgiveness in return.

While you’re at it, forgive yourself. If God can post a “No Fishing” sign by the sea where your sins are thrown, then so can you and I.

– Shirley M Dobson

  • From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.
 

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