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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 3:8–22
Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing. For

     “Those who desire life
         and desire to see good days,
     let them keep their tongues from evil
          and their lips from speaking deceit;
     let them turn away from evil and do good;
          let them seek peace and pursue it.
     For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
          and his ears are open to their prayer.
     But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him. (NRSV)

For many of us as modern readers—and particularly those of us who have grown up in the United States—it is difficult to read these words from 1 Peter without thinking of the civil rights movement and the nonviolent resistance preached by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This text in 1 Peter presents a radical vision of the love to which Jesus called us—a love that implores us to suffer rather than strike back out of anger or fear. There are many images from the civil rights era that we can’t shake from our heads: men, women, and children attacked and harassed during boycotts or during marches. How in the world did these men and women find the ability to hold back their anger and to instead respond to their attackers with love?

That response of love in the face of hatred is, of course, a testament to the incredible character and will that these dissenters had, but it is important to remember as well that the people who displayed this courage and depth of love were not superhuman. They were regular people—people just like you or me. This passage from 1 Peter isn’t addressed to an elite group of Christians but is instead addressed to all of us. The question shouldn’t be about whether we are able to show that kind of love; the true question is where are we called to show it today?

Dear Lord, in all that I do this day may I remember the incredible depth of love that you have called me to. Give me a humble heart and a gracious spirit, that I might serve you in the same manner that your Son served us all. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Minister for Children and Families

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