Livin' la Vida Loca
1 Peter 2:11-4:11
Recently I opened an e-mail and received the following story:
An atheist complained to a Christian friend, "You Christians have your special holidays, such as Christmas and Easter. Jews celebrate their national holidays, such as Passover and Yom Kippur. But we atheists have no recognized national holidays. It's unfair discrimination."
His friend replied, "Why don't you celebrate April first?"
It seems more and more we are hearing in the news and through stories from friends the conflict between people who believe in some sort of god and people who don’t. Normally the conversation is over “our basic rights.” Non-Christians argue that the government should uphold their right to reject Christianity and should not be forced to celebrate Christian holidays, pray, or have to see religious writings. Christians on the other hand, want the government to protect their right to worship God and experience their religious traditions.
As oddly as it may seem, this debate is not a recent debate. It has gone on for centuries. Christians have talked a lot about how best to live a Christian life in cultures that were antichristian. Various persons have had a wide number of thoughts on this. Richard Niebuhr wrote a book called Christ and Culture in which he lays out the positions that have been held by the church.
1. Christ against Culture- This is one of the earliest positions in which the Christ was directly opposed to the current culture and persons would have to make a choice, to either follow Christ or the Culture. “If Jesus is Lord, the Caesar is not.”
2. The Christ of Culture- Directly on the opposite end of the spectrum, and coming out of the liberal movement f the nineteenth century, is the view that many of the values we see in culture are the values of Christ. Our culture helps us to see the truth in Christ and Christ helps us to see the value in our culture.
3. Christ above Culture- As a way of bridging the gap, Thomas Aquinas held that the laws of culture were given by the will of God and needed to be followed to lead us to the greater laws and ways of Christ. Our commitment to Christ exceeds our commitment to culture, but culture is still a high priority because Christ fulfills culture.
4. Christ and Culture in Paradox- This view acknowledges that culture and Christ have authority, but that Christ is superior. Martin Luther, who held this view believed Christians technically lived under Christ and a higher law, but had to live by the laws of culture until the world was completely converted.
5. Christ the Transformer of Culture- This last position holds that Christ and Culture are often at odds, but Christians must live in the culture in such a way that enables the transformation of the culture. The difference in this position and the final one is that Luther believed this transformation would only happen in the end.
As we move into the second section of 1 Peter, we will be focusing on the question, “How do Christians live in a Non-Christian world?” Last week we examined this question by focusing on how we live our personal lives before God and fellow believers. Now we will see how Peter tells us to live out our faith in the world around us. Peter begins this section by says,
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
These first two verses she light upon what we will be reading about in the following verses. As we read last week, Peter reemphasizes what he has been saying, that his hearers who are living as foreigners and exiles, should abstain from sinful desires. In other words, when they desire to do something sinful, they should make the choice to not give in. In chapter 1 Peter tells them to live holy lives in order to please God, who is holy. In these verses, he gives another reason for living a holy life: So that the non-believers will see their good works and glorify God. Peter does not want these Christians to simply withdrawal from the harsh environment that they find themselves in, he wants them to affect them with their good deeds.
In the following sections, Peter outlines what this will look like.
(1) Submit to every human authority. Peter says this will “silence the foolish talk.” We are not quite sure what he has in mind here, but it is possible that Christians are getting “bad press” because they are unwilling to worship all the local deities, serve in the military, and conform to the social customs of those around them.
(2) Slaves are to submit to their masters. Peter tells them this is important to do even when they are mistreated. HE compares slaves suffering to that of Jesus.
(3) Wives are to submit to their husbands. Peter points out Sarah’s obedience to Abraham as an example of this type of submission.
You may be wondering why Peter would tell Christians to submit to such evil institutions like slavery or the mistreatment of women, or submission to corrupt leaders. He makes two things very clear. (1) They are really to submit to God. There submitting to rulers, masters, and husbands is the way in which they submit to each other. (2) Notice the explanation Peter gives to the wives. He tells them to submit to their husbands: “If any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” Peter is not defending slavery or corruption; rather, he is hoping his listeners will use these systems in a way that will convert those around them.
In the Bible, several letters during this time frame use what is known as household codes to describe the Christian life. The most notable is found in Ephesians and is written by Paul. The biggest difference in the code written by Paul and this one by Peter is that Paul spends more time talking to husbands about how to love their wives and how masters should treat their slaves. Paul is actually taking the tradition household codes and turning them over on the head. Peter, with the exception of one verse, only talks to those in the minority.
Joel Green in his commentary on 1 Peter believes Peter has a trick up his sleeve as well. Peter is using this household code to speak not just to slaves and wives, but to speak to everyone who is in the subordinate category, which would have included just about everyone reading the letter. Peter uses these examples to tells everyone how they should respond when people assert power over them. This becomes clearer from 1 Peter 3:8-9
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
Peter again tells everyone to respond to evil the way he has told slaves and women to respond to those who have authority. He says do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. WHY! Peter does not see non-believers as enemies to be conquered, but as people in need of redemption. Christians are not living for themselves anymore; they are living under the reign of King Jesus. Christians are no longer their own, they are the property of God.
These words in 1 Peter amaze me because they go against our natural inclinations. Some years back Ricky Martin made a name for himself singing "Livin' la Vida Loca," which means, “Living the Crazy Life.” The song is about a girl who does crazy things, for example, the first line begins by saying that she is into voodoo dolls. She has an addiction for every day of the week. As I was reading the song lyrics, her life seemed to remind me of the NORMAL life that I see portrayed on TV. It seems to me that the life Peter is telling Christians is more the example of the crazy life. It is very counter-cultural to love someone when they hate you. It is crazy to think that we can introduce the gospel of Jesus to people without having political clout. The task of following Christ in a non-Christian world is the true “Crazy Life.”
Moving to the end of this section, Peter continues this theme with very good advice:
If you speak, you should do so as the one who speaks the very words of God. If you serve, you should do so with the strength God provides so in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
It seems that Peter brings this unit to a closure by going back to the basics. If his audience is at a lose for how to live the crazy, counter-cultural, not-so-popular Christian life, then he tells them to do everything they do in order to bring glory to God. If we are struggling with the way we live our lives, we can ask this basic question, “Are our words and actions bringing glory to God or are they an attempt to bring glory to me?”
Next weekend our band, some of our college students, and some of our young adults are going to a conference in Atlanta called Passion. Passion began as a ministry to reach college students and it has now gone world wide. One of the things I like about Passion is that they are upfront about their purpose: They are not about playing good music or bringing creative messages, although most would say they do, their primary purpose is to bring glory to God. We can learn from the Passion movement and live our lives in such a way that everything we say and do brings glory to God. I believe when we get back to this, we will be able to live the crazy life God calls us to.