Thanks for the Help!
Thanks to my Facebook and Twitter folks who threw out suggestions for 1 Peter. A couple of the suggestions were for a passage at the end of chapter 2 that had to do with enduring unjust suffering. I didn't end up using that passage, but it led me to select a very similar one that was only a few verses away in chapter 3.
Peter, you kill me! You're the blessed!
So Peter is the guy who violently defended Jesus by cutting a guard's ear off in the Garden of Gethsemane. Yet here we find him telling folks in the early church to "repay evil with blessing." It seems like when Peter saw the way Jesus died (forgiving his murderers) it had an impact on him. Such an impact that he does a complete 180 and is telling folks that it is commendable to endure unjust suffering.
What I'm hearing from Peter here is that when faced with unjust suffering or violence, there are many ways we could respond, but one thing we must never do is repay evil for evil. Whatever evil is being done, our response is to stand out by the fact that it is not a reflection back of that evil, but is instead a blessing. That's the kind of crazy only Jesus can bring.
How can I bless you? Let me count the ways...
There has been a lot of people who have written really good stuff about how we should follow Jesus' example of loving/blessing your enemies, but I'd like to touch on part of that conversation that I haven't heard much about, and it has to do with creativity.
In my opinion, responding to evil with evil is one of the least creative things we humans can do. In a very literal sense, it is dumb. If someone is abusive towards me in some way (that could be physical violence, like the guns in the design, or it could be verbal, psychological, even religious abuse), my instinct is to do the same thing to them. You hurt me, I hurt you. It's a repeating pattern. That instinct and pattern are so strong that it doesn't even occur to me that there could be any other options. But if I think of Jesus hanging on the cross, forgiving the people who put him there, I start to realize that there are other options and that I don't have to follow the same repeating pattern. How many times were people abusive towards Jesus? A lot, right? How many times did he respond by being abusive back? Never. NEVER. That means that the Gospels are full of examples of Jesus being creative and coming up with different, and loving, ways of responding to abuse, hate, violence, etc. I think the reason I often think there's only one response to evil (more evil) is because I don't allow the creativity of Jesus in on my situations.
Get Strong. Get Creative.
There are examples in history where large groups of people have actually done this to some extent and, in my opinion, the results have been some of the clearest reflections of Jesus ever seen. The early church grew because Christians, while they and their families were being fed to lions, blessed the people persecuting them and people were attracted to that kind of crazy love. During the U.S. civil rights movement, seeing folks responding to ugly hate and violence with love was so shockingly beautiful, it changed people's hearts. We're talking about a power stronger and more creative than violence and abuse.
Sounds good. What's the formula?
There's no specific formula I can follow for this since every situation is different, but I do know that in every situation I have the ability to ask myself, "What kind of creative, loving, Jesus type of response I can bring to this?"
Jesus people, let's start fighting evil with our God-given creativity.