Christianity with Tears: 1 Peter 5:5-14
1 Peter 5:5-14
The book of 1 Peter was written to persecuted Christians somewhere around 64-65 AD. This is the largest and most critical context to the content of the letter, which mentions suffering, affliction and persecution in every chapter, almost every paragraph. Among other connected themes, Peter is trying to encourage sufferers, some who have undoubtedly lost loved ones or friends, to stand firm in hope, to remain committed to holiness, to maintain their witness and to be on the alert against the spiritual nature of the battle.
The last chapter of 1 Peter focuses first on leadership, the first four verses directed at the critical role of elders. We studied this text in the spring of 2020. We finish the chapter and the book today by starting in 5:5.
Submission, the verb used in 5:5 in reference to young men, is not an ugly word. It is not a control word. It is not an abusive or oppressive word, even though it has been used by ugly and evil people to abuse and oppress. Biblically, submission is a love word. It is a protective word. Jesus submits to the Father. We submit to God. In some passages, we are to submit to each other, and more specific roles to other roles such as wive to husbands in Ephesians 5. Here, young men are to submit to - or be subject to - older men, and by applicational extension, younger women to older women, within the family of the church. Remember the previous context is church eldership. Submission, understood and practiced biblically, creates an environment of protection, love, growth, maturity, mentorship, vulnerability and wisdom.
Then Peter quickly expands the subject to “all of you” using the image of Jesus washing the disciples feet in John 13. The picture of “clothing yourself” with humility is just what Jesus did. The quotation from Proverbs 3 rounds out Peter’s counsel with a brilliant and conclusive finish. Pride brings God’s opposition. Humility brings God’s grace.
Verses 6-7, continue the practical counsel and encouragement to the entire church family of sufferers in many situations, locations and contexts. Humility is our role. Exaltation and glory is God’s role. He cares for us. Love. Grace. Mercy. Invitation. This should lead us to cast our cares upon Him often and freely.
Verse 8 begins a powerful shift in feeling. Now we are to be sober and alert, because we are being hunted! Our adversary, the devil, who is called the “accuser of the brethren,” and “the serpent of old” and even appears in Revelation as a dragon (20:2), is now compared to a prowling lion, seeking to devour. This is intense language. But it accurately represents real life, and the spiritual realm which we often neglect or dismiss. The invisible realm of spiritual realities may be even more “real” than the world of visible and tangible material. The Bible represents this from cover to cover. Here Peter draws back the curtain and paints the suffering of Christians in the context of Satan’s deadly, prowling hunt.
Unfortunately, many Christians - especially in America and the peaceful west - have subtly believe Peter’s words to be relevant or true only in the distant past. I call it the Myth of Immunity. It’s the belief that we have progressed past this (connected to the Myth of Progress). Satan no longer hunts like he did back then. We are safe. We are protected. This is exactly the kind of prey a lion prefers.
Yet Jesus constantly and consistently spoke to His disciples and the large crowds about the tension between His followers and the world system, run by the Devil. These truths are crystal clear in texts like Matthew 5:11-12; 10:16-31; 18:7; 24:7-12; John 15:18-21; 16:1-2; 17:14-18 and many other places including much of Acts, Paul’s words, Peter’s words especially in 1 Peter and John in 1 John. There seems to be constant friction between God’s family and the fallen world. There should be.
To expand on a phrase from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, within history, Christianity always has tears. In eternity, those tears will be wiped away. But here and now, following Jesus is always a struggle.
As I have walked with Jesus, lived life on this planet, made friends, learned, matured, paid attention to the culture and read more books that I can recall, I have noticed several contemporary areas of the devil’s attack. I will here list only five areas which I believe to be primary in importance.
- The very fabric of orthodox Christian theology, faith, value, practice and witness is under attack. In some extreme parts of the world, traditional Christian faith and practice is characterized as dangerous and even terrorism.
- The very concept of truth and objective truth is all but disappearing in our culture. It is under attack. Truth is now seen as relative, each person defining and “living their own truth.” This is truth by popular vote, or personal vote, which destroys the foundation of morality and civil peace. When postmodernism cast doubt on the “grand narratives” such as the biblical narrative and the character of God that bind together society and culture, the cracks began in earnest. Now in a post-Christian culture, truth is all but irrelevant.
- The biblical institution of marriage, the family, the role of parents, fathers and mothers, the life of the unborn and the biblical view of sex are all under attack. The biblical truths behind these concepts are seen as antiquated, dictatorial, simplistic or even oppressive.
- With the rise of identity politics and forced group identity, labels and slogans rule the day and are used to end debates, block conversation and prevent understanding. This makes honest, intergenerational, diverse communities of differing ideologies all but extinct. Real community and relational peace are under attack.
- Finally, I believe certain central freedoms (especially relevant to America and western democracies, but not limited to) are also under attack. As the state grows in power, the individual relinquishes power. Among them are freedom of speech and freedom of religion (which is much more than just the right to gather and worship). America’s founding fathers, themselves quite diverse in religious expression, consistently understood, celebrated and protected the undeniable link between faith and freedom. If one goes, so will the other.
There are many other battlefronts. And I’m sure the above statements could be improved upon. But the bottom line is that we need to constantly remember the sentiment behind these words from C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity: “Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.” Strong words, yes. But true words as well.
Peter commands that we resist, standing firm in our faith. Exactly how we do this in a hostile culture is perhaps the most confusing and paralyzing part. But just as Christ Jesus is irreplaceable, so too the Body of Christ is irreplaceable. The role and responsibility God has placed on the church cannot be outsourced. We have to stand firm and resist the devil’s prowling schemes to steal, kill and destroy. But we have to do this biblically as well.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was sent to a Siberian gulag under Russian Communist rule. Once released he printed the tome Gulag Archipelago, one of the most important pieces of literature in the last hundred years. It exposed the horrific debauchery of Russian Communism and led indirectly to the fall of the empire years later. Part of Aleksandr’s premise is to simply tell the truth. Do not give any room or repetition to any lie. This is at least one application for standing firm and resisting.
Another key component to our firm resistance is cultural discernment and cultural engagement. See. Judge (discern). Act. These three steps are another author’s consistent encouragement.
My offering is the development of an embodied, biblical worldview that is reinforced and lived out in real community. A worldview - a robust set of values and truths that allow one to determine right from wrong, truth from falsehood - is something everyone has. Most don’t realize it and few work to improve, correct and bolster their worldview. Yet it is one thing that will powerfully defend hearts and minds in the midst of cultural coercion.
It is also absolutely critical that we focus on the worldview development, as well as the spiritual and relational maturity, of the next generations. The Millennial generation and Generation Z are the church of today. They will soon be the bulk of its leaders.
Peter ends the main body of his letter with a powerful statement of what God Himself will do for and in sufferers - the God of all grace. These four main future tense verbs have been linked to the idea of setting a broken bone (Dr. Dave Anderson). I think it is a fitting and helpful image.
Small Group Discussion Questions:
1. As we begin a new calendar year, reflect back on 2020 and share with your group the one thing you struggled with most - and the one thing you are most thankful for.
2. Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 and try to do so honestly: 1 being totally dependent on others, and 10 being completely independent of all others. Think of the scale in terms of spiritual growth, maturity and relational health. Share your score and reasoning with your group.
3. How does 1 Peter 5:5 speak to our need of others? How does it warn us against the seduction of independence?
4. Why/how does pride bring God’s opposition? Can this happen to believers?
5. How have you “cast your anxiety” on God in the past year? How have you struggled to do so?
6. What does the image of a prowling lion do for your understanding of the devil’s scheme to kill, steal and destroy?
7. Look up three of the following passages and discuss with your group the sentiments and theme of Jesus’ words.
8. Discuss the phrase “Within history, Christianity always has tears.”
9. What areas of our culture do you think are under attack from the devil right now?
10. What is the biblical Christian response? How are we to stand firm and resist? How do we do so with grace, truth and peace?
11. Discuss with your group the beauty of verse 10. What do the four words mean to you?
12. How does this text help you in the current context of your personal struggle with the past year?
Posted in Sermon Notes