Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Wednesday of Easter 4


1 Peter 2:11–20 (ESV) Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 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.

I don't intend any homosexual references here. When I was growing up, "pansy" was simply synonymous with "wimp." In fact, the insult "pansy" derives from the French "pensée" (as in Blaise Pascal's Pensées," which simply means "to have thought." In this sense a "pansy" is one who spends too much time in thought in not enough in action. My blog post involves both the sense of "wimpiness" and of "thinking too much."

As sinners, we all think we are smarter than God. We think our experience should not be simply dictated by Him but should match up with our expectations. And we think we shouldn't have to suffer at all. But we are just pansies when we think this way or complain about our sufferings.

St. Peter had no hesitation in telling slaves (not just servants, these were Roman slaves) to suffer the abuse of unjust masters. If we are embarrassed by this fact, the problem is with us, and not with God's Word. This is no justification for the continuation of slavery, but an acknowledgement that God has permitted it in various times and places (just as, for example, He also tolerated polygamy in the Old Testament). And when He permitted it under the Romans, He also enjoined endurance upon slaves suffering under unjust masters.

And here is why: "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 2:21-25).

Yes, we are all pansies. In comparison to the suffering of Jesus for our salvation, all that we suffer is paltry. In comparison to the suffering early Christian slaves suffered under their masters, our modern inconveniences are pathetic. The mild reproaches we experience from unbelievers? Chicken feed. The perceived "deprivation of rights" we experience from the government during a pandemic? Nothingness.

Trials prove character. What are we learning in the midst of our present troubles? Yes, we are all pansies. But flowers can teach us a great deal about God and ourselves: "And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matthew 6:27-33).

Prayer: Almighty God, heavenly Father, You have called us to be Your children and heirs of Your gracious promises in Christ Jesus. Grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may forsake all covetous desires and the inordinate love of riches. Deliver us from the pursuit of passing things that we may seek the kingdom of Your Son and trust in His righteousness and so find blessedness and peace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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