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Emerging Peter: A Community Gospel

As Peter invites his Asia Minor readers, who are resident aliens and temporary residents, to live the Christian life surrounded by non-believers, how does he define the gospel? One place to begin to answer that question is with 1:22-25. His answer is holistic and missional.
Soul-purification, Peter says, occurs by obeying the truth — and that truth has to be connected to Peter’s general message of the redemptive work in Jesus Christ. “Truth” just might be his capsule summary of 1:3-12, the new birth through the resurrection.
Soul-purification leads to authenticity in community relationships. The community love (the Greek term is philadephia) is not to be tainted or damaged by being insincere or inauthentic.
Soul-purification now shifts a bit to “new birth” (1:23): here Peter draws on 1:3. The new birth of 1:3 was connected to the resurrection; here it is connected to the incorruptible seed through the living Word of God (Jesus) — supported here by appeal to Isaiah 4o:6-7.
And Peter says “this” is the “word” with which we “evangelized you”.
What is that “word”? That word is the declaration of Jesus Christ who purifies souls so that a community is formed that authentically loves one another.
The heart of this paragraph is found in 1:22b: “Love one another strenuously out of a purified/cleansed heart.” Soul-purification has its goal in loving one another and the means of that purification, the new birth, is the ground out of which this love grows. In this verse we find the center — grammatically and notionally — of the passage: new birth creates a community that loves one another. Peter has a community gospel.
How, then, will they live in the Roman Empire as a sectarian community? It begins by loving one another through thick and thin. And Peter is not messing around here with some romantic, idyllic sense of community: the word he uses is “strenously” (ektenos): the notion is stretching one’s neck as one strains for the finishing line, or straining one’s efforts to get the job done, or working at it because it is hard.
Loving one another sounds good on paper. To ape the words of CS Lewis: “Loving one another is a great idea, until you have someone you don’t like that you are summoned to love.” Peter knew this, and he made it the goal of what the redemptive work of the gospel accomplishes.

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Ted Gossard,

posted February 27, 2006 at 6:20 am

Good point on love. God seems to keep my feet in the fire to do that very thing. This love certainly can’t be selective but inclusive of all, regardless.

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Mark Eberly

posted February 27, 2006 at 11:52 am

I don’t think many people (in congregations) would disagree with the need to love one another. However, cultural expectations have often twisted and distorted what it means “to love one another through thick and thin.” Unrealistic expecations and inability to express love in appropriate ways are two common distortions. These people believe themselves to be authentic.
Often these same people expect to be loved in ways that one person cannot do or are unhealthy. Then these same people express that they do not feel loved. Part of the process is helping people learn to love one another (I think paralelling Scott’s thoughts on”grace the grinds”). I have been asking myself, “What do I do when these same people have no desire to be authentic or to move toward healthy expressions?” Sure I love them. But can I really ‘cave’ to the demands. Is that truly loving? I don’t believe so but it then becomes a huge tension because I want to move deeper in relationship but I do not feel that I can and this seems to me to be subtle way of ‘writing people off.’
We are trying to find a way through this while knowing there are no easy answers. I guess that I am just looking for some deeper dialogue on how to form and be this authentic community.
In Christ,

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Scot McKnight

posted February 27, 2006 at 12:01 pm

You know how difficult this is. I define love as yearning for, praying for, and working for what God wants for another person. So, such a view includes moral backbone and biblical commitments. Love transcends tolerance. I like Aristotle on this: in his Nic. Ethics.
I agree: some want what they call “love” and it is unhealthy absorption into others.
There are, as you say, no easy answers.

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posted February 27, 2006 at 12:23 pm

Scot, for some weeks now I have been leading our congregation through an extended meditation on the Sermon on the Mount. As usual, when I spend extended time in one text the richness of the text unfolds and informs other texts. In the sources I have come across for this most recent venture into the Sermon (Willard, Manning to name only two), I can’t help but that inform my reading here of Peter.
To love in the manner he calls us to here is to come to terms with the motivations in me that make impossible such love: These issues are truly and only settled in relationship to Christ, and as Peter makes clear, Christ crucified and resurrected- Willard identifies two of these as the quest for reputation and security (Matthew 6). Manning identifies one more- though he uses a different term for Willard’s reputation- security, pleasure, and power (I suspect that the issue of ‘power’ in Manning is addressed by Willard as he works with Matthew 5 and 7). For your ‘authenticity’ it seems Manning uses ‘transparency.’
It seems, then, that your insights into Emerging Peter’s address to the resident aliens of Asia Minor is a confrontation of these three issues as expressed in the surrounding Roman culture (as with our surrounding US American culture).
Manning: “The journey to transparency requires that we humbly acknowledge, before God, that we are inordinately preoccupied with security, pleasure, and power. It requires genuine compassion for others when we see them acting out their addictions and emotion-backed demands; it is our inner solidarity in darkness that reduces self-righteousness and irritability and makes compassion possible. The journey to transparency begins with an honest confrontation with the truth, which is not something we acquire, but Someone.” (The Importance of Being Foolish, 79). It seems this pertains to what you are saying here…
Us pastors have to communicate this stuff to our little flocks! Thanks for your help in exegeting these texts.

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posted February 27, 2006 at 12:33 pm

What is the latest news on Bob Robinson?
please email me…

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posted February 27, 2006 at 1:01 pm

I Peter 1 is one of my favorite chapters in scripture. It was the first chapter I memorized (I think the 2nd was Psalm 22)… anyway.
This morning I was doing a litte research on the olympic motto and creed. The motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (swifter, higher, stronger/braver). The creed is interestign as well… but I won’t get into that.
Thanks for bringing out ektinos. I’ll quote you in my blog sometime later today.
Lately, I’ve been mulling over faith, hope and love overagainst money, sex and power. Trying to bridge some gaps: Thinking of money = independance and sex = fertility cult wrestling with the individual longing for intimacy and power = influence.
independance, intimacy, influence.
Add olympic motto into the mix:
faith strains forward (swifter) a supernatural strength from God. Insert Jeremiah 12:5 where God asks J how he is ever going to compete with horses… and then the Psalm 20 and Isaiah 31 idea of some trusting in their chariots and horses….
hope looks up (higher) for intimacy with God. He came down and out to invite us up and in. An Icelandic proverb talks about two guys out looking for heaven. When they found it one friend helped the other climb up into heaven, and the one helped up ran into all that splendor and forgot to help his friend…I think faith is believing his presence here with us and hope is that longing to be with him in that other time and space, which I think is only ever reached through contemplation… (James Houston).
love looks out (stronger/braver) to influence others for Christ through the purity of heaven-born “hesed” within the heart, soul and body of the redeemed and restored person. And that love is for the community, the body, the self of Christ… Pure love within the body is the magnetism for all the lonely iron filings out there drawn into the presence of the Spirit… the only warm flame in the cold night calling all to come in where it is warm, where every face has been transformed by that glow.
anway… waxing a bit.

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Ron McK

posted February 27, 2006 at 1:21 pm

Once consequence of living a life of love in a hostile culture will be Christian Suffering. Dealing with this suffering seems to be an important theme in 1 Peter. He urge the Christians to follow Jesus example. I am halfway through a series of posts on Peter’s views on suffering at Getrad2. Are you going to cover this topic? I have enjoyed your insights.
Ron McKenzie

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posted February 27, 2006 at 7:44 pm

A Different Perspective » Emerging Peter: A Community Gospel

[…] Emerging Peter: A Community Gospel: The heart of this paragraph is found in 1:22b: ‘Love one another strenuously out of a purified/cleansed heart.’ Soul-purification has its goal in loving one another and the means of that purification, the new birth, is the ground out of which this love grows. In this verse we find the center — grammatically and notionally — of the passage: new birth creates a community that loves one another. Peter has a community gospel. […]

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Scot McKnight

posted February 27, 2006 at 8:58 pm

Thanks for all these comments. Ron, I’ll get to suffering, which I think is related more to their social status (whether Christian or just a minority/powerlessness) than to their love; but love is what Peter counsels them to do.

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Duane Young

posted February 27, 2006 at 11:32 pm

“I define love as yearning for, praying for, and working for what God wants for another person.” (#3 above) We struggle in English with the meaning of “love.” For years I refused to use it and substituted “care.” That came closer to “charity” at least. Covers agape better at least. I like the definition you give. Willard has a great one too, “Love is willing the good of another.” The two seem really close to being the same. Thanks.

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posted February 28, 2006 at 12:42 am

“For years I refused to use it and substituted ‘care.'”
Not sure I want to give up on the word ‘love,’ Duane.
“‘I define love as yearning for, praying for, and working for what God wants for another person.’ (#3 above).”
I like this, as long as we truly understand what it is God wants for the other person and it’s not our ‘spiritualizing’ what we want for them… does that make sense?

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