I have been spending a lot of time in 1 Peter recently. Each morning, I get up and ask myself if it is time to move on to another book and each day, I realize I want to continue to be mastered by this epistle, and I have not been yet. God still has work to do in me through Peter's words. He always will, but for right now, I want to live in Peter's neighborhood.
As I was reading this morning, I was struck by Peter's call to other-centeredness. One of the most important things that Larry Crabb helped me to see about myself is justified self-centeredness, which he talks about in his book Men and Women, and how the Bible calls us to other-centered relating.
Look at 1 Peter 2 with me. Right away, in verse 1, he tells us to set aside hypocrisy, slander, deceit, and envy. Every one of those things suggests self-centeredness. I am a hypocrite because I am afraid of what you will think of me if you see the real me. I envy you because I want things you have. It's all about me. But Peter goes on to say that, as true believers, we will be rejected by men, though chosen and precious to God.
But I was particularly struck by the last section:
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:18-25 ESV)
It is a gracious thing to endure unjust suffering. What? When we are reviled, we do not revile in return. When we suffer at the hand of another, we do not threaten, but rather entrust ourselves to God because God is always just. Really? Look at verse 24--Jesus bore our sins that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. In other words, Jesus has born all suffering so that we can live with other-centered love (righteousness) and not sin against others with our self-centered motives (relational sin).
This is a hard thing. None of us want to endure suffering at the hand of another, yet when we do and remain loving in the process, it is a gracious thing in the sight of God.