We are into week 5 of our walk-through of the Book of 1 Peter...Written to Jewish and Gentile Christians living in 5 Provinces of Rome located in Asia Minor (Turkey today)...Many of which had fled there to escape persecution in Jerusalem and surrounding areas...The Letter was written during the reign of one of the most cruel Caesars to ever rule Ancient Rome... Emperor Nero!
Nero was ruthless even to his own family... (1) He had his own mother murdered for treason... (1) His wife Octavia beheaded for adultery & her head displayed for his mistress, Poppaea... (1) And later, he kicked Poppaea to death while she was pregnant... (1) Tacitus, a Roman Senator, and also considered one of the greatest Historians of Ancient Rome...Wrote of Jesus and the treatment of Christians under Nero:
"Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular.
Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired." (2)
Besides imprisonment, being torn apart by animals, killed by gladiators, crucified to
crosses and being burned alive for Nero's pleasure in his garden as a spectacle... Many were literally even boiled alive in oil as well! (3) Tradition says Peter himself, not long after writing this Letter...Would be martyred by Nero as well... Crucified upside down...
(1) Christian History Institute, Persecution in the Early Church: Gallery of the Persecuting Emperors, By Mark Galli, Issue #27, Published in 1990, Retrieved on November 13, 2020 from https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/persecution-in-early-church-gallery
(2) Livius.org, Articles on acncient history, Tactitus on the Christians, Last modified on October 4, 2020, Retrieved on November 13, 2020 from https://www.livius.org/sources/content/tacitus/tacitus-on-the-christians/
(3) Britannica, Boiling Capital Punishment, By Geoffrey Abbott, Retrieved on November 13, 2020 from https://www.britannica.com/topic/boiling-punishment
THIS was the persecution many were suffering, which caused them to flee! And yet soon... Even in their new homes...The persecution would become just as severe! But at the time of the Letter...The persecution was just beginning... (Social and political hatred)
The Letter from Peter was written:
Which contrasted the lowly and hated view of their peers...
Christians Should Be The Best Employees! We ended last week...With Peter telling the Christians to stay away from sin...And to be obedient to the law and government...So their good conduct and kind hearts...Might win over those who hated them!
We pick up here…As Peter continues to describe how Christians should conduct themselves…In day-to-day life among hateful and pagan people...
1 Peter 2:18-20 (NKJV)
18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. 19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.
Now first of all… We must address…Bible DOES NOT condone slavery! (No time here to expand, but...)
Exodus 21:16 (NKJV)
16 "He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death.
But these Christians were living in an Empire under which an entire third of the population lived as slaves to others! Often as bondservants… Selling their service in poverty! And with their lowly standing in society, how often do you think this position as a slave involved Christians?! Peter reaches out to the Christians in this predicament...And tells them...Rather than to lament over their position...Rather than be angry, bitter and rebellious...
Use even this situation…To show their love and concern for others! Even the least deserving of others!! And to endure their unjust treatment with continued obedience and care for those acting abusively! This message, though it seems to go against our very being...Is strongly repeated throughout the New Testament to those in similar circumstances!
Colossians 3:22-24 (NKJV)
22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
Ephesians 6:5-7 (NKJV)
5 Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; 6 not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men,
WHY ON EARTH WOULD GOD SAY AND EXPECT SUCH A THING?! Here is where we have to unlearn all that we feel life is all about! (Success, fairness, ease of life) And truly, TRULY see what is important to Christ! Loving and showing people Who He IS in reality! It's not all about what's fair to me... Best for me... Easiest for me...It is about living to love and care for others... ABOVE SELF...
IN ANY AND EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE! THIS SELFLESS ACT WOULD SHOW THEIR LOVE AS GENUINE AND THEIR HEARTS AS GOOD!!! AND WOULD PROVE THEIR FOCUS AND PASSION WAS ON GOD'S WILL... NOT JUST THEIR OWN GAIN!
If God expects us to show this kind of loyalty and care for those over us in unfair, forced labor... How much more for those under whom we are lawfully employed?! Honestly ask yourself...Do I work hard only when being watched? Only when my boss "deserves" it?Only when I can gain from my performance? Or do I work hard at all times? In sincerity? Even when not deserved? When I will not benefit? Doing my best even when not watched?Knowing their soul is worth my testimony?!! Knowing I am seen by God...
Knowing I do a good job for HIM?
Christians should be the most trusted, appreciated, hard working, caring employees on the payroll! This is one of the most powerful, day-to-day witnesses to employers and fellow employees we can give today! Something repeated this many times in passion...Is to be taken seriously by God's people!
Do YOU see your vocation... The thing you spend the most hours of your entire productive life participating in...As a chance to witness for Christ? To literally WORK for Christ?! You are working for the King First... No matter your job!
Colossians 3:23 (NKJV)
23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,
Christ Is Our Example! Next... Peter expands on this situation…To include those Christians who were suffering in any way at the hands of those around them in a depraved society...HERE... PETER FINALLY... POWERFULLY...Explains WHY… We as Christians are always expected to be the ones who...FORGIVE WHEN NOT DESERVED...LOVE WHEN NOT WARRANTED...RETURN KINDNESS FOR ABUSE...STAY TRUE WHEN RIDICULED, LIED ABOUT, OR INSULTED...Pay attention people...Because like these first century Christians...
We will be called to live this more and more with each passing hour! (Socially and personally!!) And THIS... IS THE CLEAREST, TRUEST PICTURE OF OUR LORD JESUS!
1 Peter 2:21-23 (NKJV)
21 For TO THIS you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: (Say you want to follow Jesus?) 22 "Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth"; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;
Peter tells us this behavior under mistreatment is not only suggested or
expected...But that it is actually our CALLING! We need to take special note when we hear this! SO NOW... Don't just hear this, AGAIN...But REALLY GET IT...
This is our calling BECAUSE WHY?...BECAUSE... Our Jesus... The Perfect, Innocent God...FIRST did this for US!!! WHEN WE SHOW MEEKNESS...IT IS NOT weakness... Or apathy... Or inability...Just the opposite!! MEEKNESS is great strength... Great desire... And great ability... Controlled… In an even greater love and passion for others over self!!!
Think about the Life Jesus lived here on earth...He did nothing but live Holy, and love deeply...He loved the most unlovable and lowly people of the times...
(So how can we be so shocked and despairing when hated?)
Listen... And since they could find nothing to attack Him for in His life...
Yet, they did NOT want His Presence or His Words…To make their ways look bad...They lied about Him... Purposefully plotted against Him...Ruined His reputation among the people... (Called Him a deceiver, demon, bastard, etc.)
Made all of His good look bad... Turned Him into the enemy of God and men, before the people... So that He was misunderstood and hated without a cause!!!
Isaiah 53:3 (ESV)
3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Isaiah 53:7-8 (ESV)
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?
And yet... In all of the unfair, unjust treatment…HE LOVED THEM MORE THAN HIS OWN LIFE... EVEN THEN! We would have long since justified our anger and retaliation....In the name of God and fairness! But in the Heart of that Sweet Man, Jesus...It was not about His Reputation or unfair treatment...
(And we are CALLED to follow that example!)
FOR JESUS…It was about loving and cherishing those very people...
Enough to be hated...For even a CHANCE they would see Truth when all was said and done...And He could see their hearts changed... Have their love and fellowship! THAT was His focus...That was His Strength to suffer on!
Would you imagine for a moment: Imagine standing before a lying, selfish, hateful High Priest...Whom the people revered as Holy... (But YOU knew better)
As he mocked and lied about you... Condemned you! And you had the Power to make them sizzle in their place? Imagine while shackled... Being tormented, punched in the face, and having thorns pressed and beaten into your head with clubs... As you are joked about and challenged...By grimy, arrogant soldiers?
And NOT PROVING WHO YOU WERE...Imagine the screaming desire in your head to use your Power to stop men...WHO joyfully were tearing burning chunks of flesh away from your back, legs and sides? And all you had to say was, "Enough!" And the pain would end and the justice would be brought quickly! As Legions of Angels stood ready to stop the madness and bring fury against them!
But the Command never came across His Lips...Imagine standing, barely... Beaten half to death... In chains... Wearing a mocking robe and crown of thorns... Before many people you knew well... Before the entire society with which you shared your life... And in belittling sarcasm, someone saying, "Behold your King!" (Not knowing or accepting the Truth) I personally would have Transfigured at that moment and mopped the floor!
Imagine being naked, half dead, with spit and mucous on your unrecognizably beaten face...Every part of your body screaming with excruciating pain...As even then... It wasn't enough to just let you die...Those around had to ridicule, taunt and belittle you about how helpless you were... How wrong you were... How weak and evil you were…Even in the minutes of your death! And in these worst, most despairing last moments of His persecution on the cross... He STILL thought of others over self...Saving the soul of the thief next to Him...Making sure His mother was cared for in His Death! And GET THIS…Worried over the very people who were torturing Him...
Luke 23:32-34 (NKJV)
32 There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. 33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. 34 Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." And they divided His garments and cast lots.
This picture is so far from the constantly offended, self-serving, victimized, cancel-culture mindset we have adopted... Even as Christians today! Our Jesus could have...Destroyed them all and stopped the evil intentions at any moment...But He would have lost their souls...He could have used His influence to raise up the greatest rebellion and resistance movement in history among His early followers...But it would only have succeeded in turning ignorant hearts and minds darker... Farther from any real hope, peace and love in HIM!
Instead... The Ultimate Power in the entire Universe...Set aside His Power... Set aside His Rights... Set aside His Reputation...And He chose Meekness... Humbleness...Chose to endure hatred, abuse, sacrifice and injustice...Chose to forfeit His Power and Privilege in REAL STRENGTH!!!
Listen… TO PROVE the incredible value and love He had for those hating Him...He came to open their eyes and change their hearts...Not destroy them for their misguided hate! Even at the cost of everything He had in Him! It sounds so awesome and amazing...When it is Jesus doing it for US!
Peter says Jesus' actions were to be an EXAMPLE to these Christians suffering unjustly... At the hands of a hateful, lying, plotting society! Or, at the hands of an ex, a fallen family member, coworker…As an ultimate proof to HIM of our understanding and agreement with what REAL LOVE means!
As an ultimate act of love to HIM...As we are willing and ready to JOIN HIM in all He suffered for US...As we SHOW the DEPTH of our love and trust in return!And in overwhelming gratitude!! Because... LISTEN...WE ARE PART OF THAT CROWD WHO TURNED FROM HIM...ABUSED AND REJECTED HIM...FELT MORE RIGHTEOUS AND GOOD THAN HIM...AND WE DO IT AGAIN…EVERY TIME WE CHOOSE THE WORLD OVER HIM!
1 Peter 2:24-25 (NKJV)
24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness--by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For YOU were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
If HE could humble Himself and walk through persecution and mistreatment to save our souls... If HIS STRIPES ARE WHAT HEALED US...Can we not... In gratitude and returned love...Endure like punishment for those who are hostile towards us now? (Including ex’s, coworkers, family, friends?!)
THE ONLY CHANCE WE HAVE…TO PROVE WE REALLY DO LOVE AND CHERISH…THOSE WHO HATE US...IS TO ANSWER THEIR ANGER, INSULTS AND LIES WITH MEEKNESS...CONTROLLED STRENGTH IN LOVE...TO PROVE THEM WRONG!
It is insecurity and selfishness that breeds anger and retaliation...Because we feel we have something to prove!! BUT CERTAINTY IN REAL TRUTH BRINGS PEACE...Knowing that Real Truth will soon be Revealed...Knowing everything we suffer is not because of us... But HIM
Against popular view...VERY FEW ARE STRONG ENOUGH... FEW ARE CONFIDENT ENOUGH... FEW ARE LOVING ENOUGH THROUGH THE SPIRIT WHO LIVES IN US... TO BE MEEK... As Our Savior was...LISTEN CLOSELY...WE HAVE ONLY ONE THING TO PROVE TO THIS WORLD..THAT JESUS LIVES... AND THAT JESUS LOVES! IT'S OUR TURN... MAYBE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN OUR LIVES...TO FOLLOW HIS EXAMPLE...
2 Timothy 1:7-8 (NKJV)
7 For God has NOT given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God,
The world is about to TRY US my friends…
New York Post, Nov 13, 2020
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, in a speech on Nov 22…
“The conservative justice also claimed “tolerance for opposing views is now in short supply,” saying that many recent law school graduates are chastised, harassed or face retaliation for views not aligned with “law school orthodoxy.”
“In certain quarters, religious liberty has fast become a disfavored right,” Alito said. “For many today, religious liberty is not a cherished freedom. It’s often just an excuse for bigotry and it can’t be tolerated even when there’s no evidence that anybody has been harmed.”
Alito even suggested that Christians face criticism regarding their religious beliefs similar to the restrictions the US placed on Germany and Japan following World War II.
“Is our country going to follow that course?” Alito said. “ … The question we face is whether our society will be inclusive enough to tolerate people with unpopular religious beliefs.”
Alito also cited two cases earlier this year in which the court sided with states while citing the coronavirus pandemic for restrictions on the size of religious gatherings. The court ruled 5-4 in both cases, allowing the limitations to continue.
The resulting restrictions “blatantly discriminated against house of worship,” Alito said Thursday, adding that he believed religious liberty is in danger of becoming a “second-class” right.
New York Post, Justice Alito warns of threats to religious liberty in remarks to Federalist Society, By Joshua Rhett a Miller, November 13, 2020, Retrieved on November 15, 2020 from https://nypost.com/2020/11/13/justice-alito-warns-of-threats-to-religious-liberty-in-speech/
“It is ... wrong for anyone, including members of Congress, to try to influence our decisions by anything other than legal argumentation. That sort of thing has often happened in countries governed by power, not law.”
Stand ready in MEEKNESS! Many have those in their personal lives who
have already tested you in this area… And you’ve failed! FORGIVE! IN JUST A VERY SHORT TIME…WE WILL STAND BEFORE OUR PRECIOUS KING…
AND ALL OF THIS WILL BE A REFLECTED PASSED MEMORY!
DON’T YOU WANT OUR KING TO BE PROUD AND PLEASED WITH HOW WE HAVE LOVED AND TRUSTED HIM?!
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