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Category Archives: First Peter

I catch myself in the middle of the day realizing that I am disappointed or feeling some anger towards someone else because they haven’t responded to me “the right way.” And when the Spirit calls my attention to that, I am forced to reflect on just what kind of reciprocation I was expecting. (For, after all, if I did not expect any reciprocation and if I had not expectation of “payback,” then I would not be bothered at all by not being responded to “the right way.”)

Previous posts explored this idea of non-reciprocal living. And I am still thinking it through, trying to embrace this Biblical call (anchored in Jesus’ words in Luke 6:27-36). Although I do catch glimpses of this kind of life, I am still seeking to fully lean into living non-reciprocally.

Peter helps me with my thinking, reflecting on what he wrote in his first epistle. In describing how servants are to live, he offers some insight into the foundation for all non-reciprocal living:

This finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in his steps,  who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth, and while being reviled, he did not revile in return; while suffering, he uttered no threats, but kept entrusting himself to [God] who judges righteously.  (1 Peter 2:19-23)

There are a number of things that leap out of this passage, calling for my attention. And all seem to point to this non-reciprocal kind of life.

  • Suffering in life might just be unjust, unwarranted. If we expect to be treated well because we are seeking to live well, we will be disappointed when we are not reciprocated.
  • Suffering unjustly when doing what is right “finds favor with God.” This doesn’t mean that our suffering is meritorious; that we earn or merit favor with God. But is does mean that God is glad for our living well in the midst of suffering. (It makes him look good, because we are saying by our living well that we value life with him over being treated by others the way we expect they should treat us.)
  • When I revile (that is, speak disparagingly of another) or when I threaten (affirming my desire to get even, to get back at someone), it is an indication that I am more interested in being reciprocated than I am with living Christ-like. Those response are like gauges on my soul that can show me what I really am living for.
  • Our calling in Christ is not a call to be treated well by others, but a call to suffer along with Jesus. (Why didn’t someone tell me that when I first responded to the Gospel? I thought the invitation in the Gospel was an invitation to get life on my terms with God’s help. Seriously–and sadly–some do seem to think that the invitation Jesus extends to us to participate in his life is an invitation to ease and comfort and increased admiration by others. But this is clearly not the case.)
  • The way forward in living non-reciprocally with others is to entrust ourselves to the one who judges righteously. Like Jesus, we can rest in the certainty that the Father above is watching, discerning, determining, weighing, and he will ensure that the outcome of our lives, our loving, and our suffering will be “judged” appropriately. We do not have to fight to have others see it, reciprocate us, or even affirm us.
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The thought is not original with me. Others have written or spoken on the subject. Perhaps one of the more notable is Jonathan Edwards. In his great book Religious Affections he reflected on the place of right and proper “affections” (emotions or feelings) that are to characterize this life we have with Jesus. And it seems to me that contemporary friends and followers of Jesus may not place as great a weight on such “holy affections” as is appropriate.

I was reading and reflecting on Peter’s first epistle and was caught up in thought by a passage that I had read before, but which came to me with some fresh impact. Writing to fellow-followers of Jesus, Peter comments:

And though you have not seen [Jesus], you love him, and though you do not see him now, be believe in him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)

Peter is writing to those who are facing hardship, struggling under persecution and difficulty. And he is clarifying just what it is to live a Gospel-shaped life (see 1:3-12). It is in thinking about what it means to live a Gospel-shaped life and to let the salvation offered in the Gospel permeate our living that Peter speaks this way. And what he is writing about seems to embrace some amazing affections.

Put simply, Peter is insisting that the Christian life, salvation, is a matter of loving Jesus, having faith in Jesus, and rejoicing in Jesus. And that is pretty startling . . . particularly given the way so many followers and friends of Jesus describe their life.

It’s so easy to reduce life with Jesus to “doing stuff”–like having devotions, sharing the “good news,” going to church. Not that any of those things are bad in and of themselves. It’s just that such things aren’t the essence; they are the expression of the essence and Peter has captured the essence. He focuses on holy affections, things that flow from the heart, passions that shape our lives–believing and loving and rejoicing.

Peter is not saying “act like you believe” or “do loving kinds of things” or “pretend you are happy in Jesus.” To give into what Peter describes here is going to require a genuine turn of affections in my soul so that my believing is not mere “credence” and my loving is more than being nice and my rejoicing is genuine delight and gladness and not merely affirmation that in some theoretical way Jesus is pretty good.

There is a great deal more to reflect on in these few verses, but this morning my mind and heart are captured by this simple idea: For Peter, salvation is the outcome of having right and holy affections for Jesus. And that would mean that what God is most interested in is creating in us such right and holy affections . . . much more than he is interested in just getting us to “do right.”

At the heart of the matter for a follower of Jesus is a heart filled with amazing affections overflowing in a loving, dependent, joy.

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