These are just rambly unstructured notes whilst tonight’s sermon is fresh in my mind:
The main text was Luke 22:47-65 – interestingly focusing not on the obvious “bad guys” but on one of the “good guys”, Peter, because, guess what, we all have it in us to make the wrong move even if we have a strong love for Jesus. Sometimes we can choose the wrong way to express this love – Peter wanted to fight for Jesus, to protect him with the sword, but that’s not what Jesus wanted from him.
The preacher connected this with I Peter 2:19-20, and I thought: I never thought about this, never made the connection – this guy writing about patiently enduring when we suffer unjustly, this is the same guy who pulled out his sword when they came to arrest Jesus (we know it was Peter from John 18). Hasn’t he come a long way? I guess he learned something from watching his master in action, and he points us to this example later on: “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow”. (v.21)
Wow, a very tough example to follow: “while being reviled, he did not revile in return; while suffering, he uttered no threats, but kept entrusting himself to him who judges righteously” (v.23)
and that bit about entrusting himself to the one who judges righteously – that, as the preacher pointed out, is key. When we go for the sword (often metaphorically – we might lash out at someone with hurtful words, for example) we are not trusting God to vindicate us.
but… but… but… what about when… all sorts of examples come to my mind, of situations in which I feel “surely” it would be right… if not to defend myself then to defend others…but where do I get that from? I’m not sure. I have to take all my thoughts captive to Christ, and I can’t rest on any “surely” if I’m not sure that it’s right by God’s standards.
My human reaction when I read I Peter 2:13-14, for example, where it says we are to submit to human authorities – kings, governors etc – is to ask: so when is it ok to rebel against an unjust ruler? Because every fibre of my being says surely it must be ok sometimes… because… well… why? where do I get that from? If I can’t find backing for that in Scripture, then I have no leg to stand on. (and I recently saw a conversation about this online where someone suggested that it must be right if it’s an obviously unjust authority, to which someone else responded: yeah, because Rome was such a just authority… It’s not as though Peter was writing this letter in a wonderful utopian situation, he wasn’t talking as someone living in a democracy with freedom of speech and all that stuff… If Rome wasn’t bad enough to be an exception to “submit… to every human institution” then who qualifies?)
but I digress – this wasn’t what the sermon was about. It was about how as followers of Jesus we shouldn’t indulge in aggression, we shouldn’t retaliate when people offend us, and we shouldn’t react aggressively even when someone offends Jesus – we should put away our swords, and be prepared to patiently endure suffering for his sake. He is our example, the one who didn’t retaliate when he was mocked and beaten and tortured and killed.
and yes, he did it for a purpose, certainly – his death was necessary for our salvation. But Scripture tells me that there’s more to it, that there’s an example here for us to follow. (I Peter 2:21)
This business of following Jesus – it’s not easy.