by: Jim McGuiggan
You know a group (or a family or an individual) that is having a rough ride in life and you know it’ll get worse before it gets better and you purpose to write them a letter. How would you begin it?
There’d be nothing at all wrong in saying something like, “Ah, dear people, we have heard of your pain and loss and we want you to know that our hearts are with your hearts…” Surely there’s always a place for the expression of fellow-feeling and sympathy!
But troubled people need more than sympathy—of course! Where it’s possible we need to get involved in a “hands on” way to alleviate if not completely eradicate their difficulties (what is this other than Matthew 25:34-40?).
After the meal has been eaten or the warmth of the personal visit is only a memory something must remain with them! The meal and the warmth and the clothes should all be given but there comes a time when the person must carry the burden alone and something must be put into these people that stays when the helpers depart.
Peter writes to Jewish people in trouble, people despised and rejected by society, people who are undergoing suffering and will face even more in the days ahead. And how does he open a letter to that kind of people? In 1:1-3 he tells them who they are!
He tells them they are God’s chosen! He tells them that they are the people made different by the Holy Spirit! He tells them that they are the people covenanted to God by the blood of Jesus Christ (see Exodus 24:1-8). He later tells them that though they are rejected by their peers and despised by them that they are chosen by God and that he sees them as precious (1 Peter 2:4). Then he tells them that however scorned and mistreated they are that they are God’s holy nation and royal priesthood with a destiny and a commission that beggars description (2:9-10).
Peter doesn’t deny their trouble—far from it! Read the entire short letter in one sitting and see what I mean.
But he opens his letter reminding them who they are! Imagine them sitting in their little assemblies and hearing these words read out to them (1:1-3, and the rest). If they can really believe these almost incredible claims will their lives not be transformed and will they not enjoy the struggle to cash in on them—will life not astonish them? “This is who we are? This is really who we are?”
And how should we speak to our troubled brothers and sisters throughout the world? What should we say to tiny assemblies in far-off places that are suffering for their faith? And to those nearer at hand, is this not a direction we should go? In wise and caring ways should we not—before we speak of their troubles but never forgetting that theyare troubled—should we not tell them who they are?