Apostle Peter on Suffering

Peter describes the recipients of his letters as “exiles scattered throughout the provinces” (1 Pet 1:1) and as “foreigners and exiles” (1 Pet 2:11). Thus, their situation was akin to a sense of homelessness, displacement and unbelonging, and so they were considered and treated as outcasts and riffraff. Since they lacked social status and security, they were ridiculed and persecuted by others. Their suffering was more due to social disenfranchisement than political persecution. It was the ongoing and daily pressure from the people in their everyday lives that was causing their suffering and wearing them down. They were vulnerable to this type of social oppression due to their radical lifestyle changes (i.e. withdrawing from pagan immorality (1 Pet 4:3-4) and “sinful lust” (1 Pet 2:11) while doing that which is “right” and “good” (1 Pet 2:12; 2:14-15) (Webb 1135).

In the midst of the people’s suffering, Peter proclaims that there is hope because the people have a new home (1 Pet 2:5) in the new community of God (1 Pet 2:9-10). They are part of new house and are compared to individual stones that make up the new house. The cornerstone (the primary foundation aligning stone) of this house is Jesus who like the people was rejected by others but chosen by God (1 Pet 2:4-10). Peter further explains that Christians will continue to be rejected just as Jesus was rejected, but although both are rejected, Jesus and his people extend shelter and stability to others who are dispossessed and need a home (1 Pet 2:4-10). In other words, even in the midst of their suffering, there are missionary and ministry opportunities for them to provide blessing and support to others. They must remember that Jesus is the ultimate example of a suffering servant and so must follow his servant-like response to suffering (1 Pet 2:18-25) (Webb 1135-1136).

Peter instructs them to entrust themselves to God and to not retaliate because a Christ-like “loving non retaliatory response to those inflicting the abuse (as well as the pursuit of what is good and commendable) should quiet, perplex, shame and possibly even bring about salvation of unbelievers” (Webb 1136). This is the type of response that Jesus taught in his sermon on the mount where he stated,

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven (Matt 5:38-35).

Works Cited

Webb, W.J. “Suffering.” Dictionary of the Later New Testament & Its Developments, edited by Ralph Martin and Peter Davids. Inter-Varsity Press, 1997

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