Exploring the Scripture
An old saying is, “The purpose of preaching is to comfort the distressed and distress the comfortable.” The First Letter of Peter provides inspiring advice for those in need of being comforted. Today’s passage begins a message of hope to people who are oppressed. Bible scholars propose the intended audiences are Gentile slaves and concubines in Asia Minor who had little power or possibility to free themselves from being dominated by those who “owned” them. These opening verses of the First Letter of Peter identify the type of enduring faith in Christ that provides hope, an eternal inheritance, joy, and salvation even when circumstances might otherwise lead to despair.
The counsel given to these distressed people is to persist in peaceful hope because the risen Christ creates a divine inheritance for the faithful that any earthly power cannot reduce. This counsel is given in contrast to the violent uprisings during the first century CE other distressed people chose to start. The inheritance described in the passage emerges through an enduring faith that does not rely on empirical evidence or physical experience with Jesus but a knowledge, belief, relationship, and trust in the resurrected Christ. This valuable inheritance promised by God is eternal and triumphs over the physical suffering of the faithful. This reality is the essence of having divine joy.
Underlying the entire First Letter of Peter is the paradoxical question about the nature of God. “How can an omnipotent, all-loving God allow great evils that create great suffering?” The question continues to be an essential question of theology; however, as the writer the letter proposes, the faith community’s suffering connects them to the cross. Christ’s suffering creates a background for our suffering, and the Christ-modeled response to oppression and domination is through nonviolence. Although some people reading the First Letter of Peter (such as pro-slavery and anti-women’s-rights advocates) decided passive acceptance of oppression was the will of God; God’s judgment referenced by the prophets and by Jesus denounces oppressors and dominators. The God’s judgment is righteousness resulting in humility, love, hospitality, health, and wholeness for all creation. The salvation of souls is less to do with a future event and more to do with how people receive and live in God’s righteousness in the present.
Living in response to the resurrection calls people to promote peace, well-being, and comfort for all suffering and struggling with life circumstances. Living in response to the resurrection also calls people to challenge those who create and perpetuate the means of oppression and suffering. When we genuinely pay attention to its message, resurrection, new life in Christ provides comfort to the distressed and disruption for the comfortable.
Project Zion Podcast
Co-hosts Karin Peter and Blake Smith consider how this week's scripture connects to our lives today.
- The resurrected Christ shows God’s great love and provides hope to people in despair.
- Through Christ, God provides a divine inheritance for the faithful who suffer.
- Earthly powers cannot reduce the promise of God’s inheritance for people.
Questions to Consider
- Who, today, are the oppressed people most in need of a message of hope and divine inheritance?
- How do we experience the promise of God — as people who are distressed? As people who are comfortable?
- How do we enliven genuine faith that places our trust more in Christ and less in life-ease and pleasures?