Thoughts about Suffering

1 Peter begins with Peter establishing his readers’ identity in Christ. His audience of “elect exiles”[1] has two loyalties: the greater one to God’s kingdom (“elect”) and the lesser one to their earthly country (“exiles”). These people are “exiles”—they are Jewish and Gentile Christians scattered throughout Turkey who belong in Israel. Peter defines their earthly identity as a lack: as they have lost their homes, their identity in a homeland is something perishable. But they have an “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading”[2] identity in God. Our identity, Peter insists, is not what we do, or where we are from, or what we have. We are who we are—God’s “elect”[3]—by God’s “mercy”[4] and “power”[5] alone.

 God’s mercy and power defines us as His. And only God’s mercy and power will allow us to endure suffering. “In this you rejoice,” Peter writes, “though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.”[6] You will delight in your identity in Christ, Peter asserts, when suffering comes. Only your identity in Christ—which is “guarded”[7] by God’s power and mercy—will sustain you.

 “Therefore,” Peter continues, “preparing your minds for action and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation.”[8] Peter then charges the “elect exiles” to holiness, but even that second command is grounded in the first.

What’s the independent clause in Peter’s sentence? “Set your hope fully on the grace.” Subordinate  clauses? “Preparing your minds for action and being sober-minded” and “That will be brought to you at the revelation.” So the main clause is not the command to prepare your mind for action, but rather the command to “set your hope fully on the grace.” “Preparing your minds for action” modifies the main clause, describing how or why you “set our hope fully on the grace.” Why is that important?

It’s important because preparing for action is so much more exciting than setting your hope on something. One is physical; one is metaphysical. One sounds daring; the other, demure. Nevertheless, Peter’s primary command is to set your mind on grace—to set your hope on who you are in Christ.

The point Peter makes is this: Simply preparing for action will not sustain you in suffering. No matter how many years you spend in seminary, how many languages you learn, or how many kung-fu moves you master, you will not endure suffering unless you hope in who you are in Christ’s grace alone.  Learning who you are in Christ is the only way to prepare for suffering.

[1] 1 Peter 1:1 (ESV)

[2] 1 Peter 1:4

[3] 1 Peter 1:1

[4] 1 Peter 1:3

[5] 1 Peter 1:5

[6] 1 Peter 1:6

[7] 1 Peter 1:5

[8] 1 Peter 1:13


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Filed under Philthy: Philosophy & Theology, Torrey Honors Institute

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