For the last couple months, my quiet time with the Lord has launched from Seize the Day with Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Charles Ringma. Ringma dialogs with scripture and varied writings of Bonhoeffer to create meditations “in the hope that a new generation of Christians will be inspired to live the Christian life with a profound spirituality, a radical obedience, and a relevance that takes seriously the challenge of their era.”
Interestingly, the “radical obedience” described by these two scholars more often looks like the ordinary work of discipleship than the often-romanticized efforts of counterespionage, defiance of the Nazi regime, and ultimate execution found in Bonhoeffer’s story. Though the ordinary things seem unremarkable—marital fidelity, diligent love of neighbor, discipleship of children, engagement of the world, cultivation of community—in our time, they are extraordinary, even radical.
I have been gratefully surprised at the applicable nature of the meditations over the last month to the rub of faithful living in 2022 America. In the devotions written for this week, every meditation breathed stabilizing truth to the anxious questions in my mind—as mid-term elections approached and now as they slowly fizzle to a close. An honest look at our culture and its values leaves us sobered. Our unrequited expectations for profound, institutional change and a clear demonstration by our nation to choose leaders who promote virtuous living leave us wondering:
What is a faithful response?
In thoughts for November 1st through 10th, Ringma concisely explicates Bonhoeffer’s thoughts on the Christian’s responsibility including: speaking truth within a culture that subverts it, defining “the good life” as one which includes care for the poor, and recognizing that “freedom is not a person possession but a communal reality.
Today’s reading pointed me to 1 Peter to seek further wisdom.
A Word both Timely and Timeless
Peter’s epistles undergird my Christian maturity and efforts at discipleship to such a high degree that I am sharing an extended selection of “touchpoints” from scripture today, with questions to draw out the learning. My selections reveal only a portion of the richness of instruction and encouragement found in Peter’s first letter. It is both timely and timeless, speaking to whatever challenges or trials we face while living out our faith in this era. Though the authors of scripture originally wrote to a specific audience, not to us, the word is still for us. Our struggles are common to believers across the millennia. As Ecclesiastes reminds us, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
I have taken the liberty to freely edit and use bold type in such a way as to draw attention to words and phrases so that we might see absorb Peter’s content with fresh eyes. In order to engage scripture with integrity, and to answer the questions below thoroughly, I encourage the vital practice of sitting down with the book of 1 Peter, reading it in its entirety in one sitting. Then, meditate on the following questions and answer them over the course of the next days and weeks:
- What words or phrases stand out to you?
- Where do you observe the provision we have in Christ, by His Spirit in the passage? (also called the indicatives of the gospel, divine provision enables our obedience)
- Where do you observe apostolic, authoritative commands (also called the imperatives—these are a “call to action”—gospel-enabled, human response) and where do they press in to areas in your life in which the Lord desires growth and maturity in you?
- Where do Peter’s instructions press specifically into tension points with secular culture?
- What type of actions, according to Peter, have the greatest impact on those around us (in our relationships, in the broader culture)?
- In light of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, how can you turn what you have read into a discipleship opportunity? (Remember that for older kids and students, asking questions to draw out their thinking and belief is the best tool for promoting learning—you might wish to use the questions I list as conversation seeds.)
- How will you live out (model) the indicatives and imperatives of this passage for the sake of those you disciple? ***This is potentially the most challenging question, requiring the most grace to apply. Journal areas you would like to see growth and pray over them, remembering: It is the Lord who equips. It is the Spirit who cultivates the fruit.
Excerpts from 1 Peter (ESV):
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ…
Therefore, 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 of Jesus Christ…conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot…
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be…a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light….
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.
…if when you do good and suffer for it…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…
…even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by [your] conduct… when they see your respectful and pure conduct…the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious…if you do good…do not fear anything that is frightening.
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called…
“Whoever desires to love life and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it…
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame….For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking…
For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you…
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you…if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
…Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
I hope this study serves you with both encouragement and conviction, as it has me. I would love to hear how you engaged it and applied it in your home and community. Email me at: email@example.com—I’m listening!