I thought it might be a good point to pause for a moment to see where we are in 1 Peter and why it is that we can call Peter’s letter “emerging.” Simply put, Peter is fashioning a way to live as followers of Jesus in Asia Minor; and he is doing so for a minority that is a minority not only because it is Christian but because it socially powerless. And, he is doing so in the context of suffering.
Someone has pointed out already this theme, and the comment (Ron I think) so impressed me that I thought it might be good to enter it into the conversation at this point.
In 1:8-9 Peter brings up suffering. It will be at the heart of many statements in 1 Peter, and it frames the entire letter as the context. Peter’s readers are suffering for a variety of reasons, no doubt, not the least of which is that they are followers of Jesus.
Here is how I see 1 Peter working: Peter is trying to figure out, and pass on to his readers, how to follow Jesus when the State has sufficient power to inflict suffering on folks just for believing and behaving as they do (as Christians).
Peter’s emerging response has to be seen for what it is: it the wisdom of the story of Israel and Jesus brought to bear on a new situation. Persecution; suffering; church; social powerlessness. How to live? is Peter’s question. His response is four-fold (one could find other points, but this is enough for now):
1. New birth establishes them as God’s people and grants them hope and eternity.
2. They are to devote their lives to holiness, which I defined as uncontaminated devotion to Jesus.
3. They are to devote their lives to loving others as a community of faith.
4. The above three is the way to transform society (more of this later in the book).
If you are not familiar with Peter, this might surprise you; but if you are, you will know that this is exactly what Peter brings up in his central thematic statement in 1 Peter 2:11-12: be holy, be good, love others.
It would not be hard to imagine other strategies that Peter finds unattractive. But, Peter eschews violence as a tactic; he avoids manipulating the system; he rejects appealing to rights; he never mentions meeting with the politicians; he doesn’t even bring up Roman law.
Peter’s strategy, as a response to the conditions emerges, is sectarian and communal: live as the people of God, completely devoted to what is right, and love one another.