Today’s reading is drawn from 1 Peter 4:17-18 and 1 Peter 5:6-10.
First Peter offers hope that by living reverent and quiet lives, members of the new Christian community can avoid suffering. Clearly, though, Peter’s greatest hope is that by imitating Christ, who also suffered and did not pursue retaliation, Christians can be redeemed by God. He will set all things right (4:17–18). He will lift you up (5:6). He will make you strong (5:10).
An insight gained from 1 Peter and the life of Nelson Mandela: it is possible that the (unjust) suffering of an individual can mean the freedom of an entire people. More importantly, if individual sacrifices his or her freedom for the sake of the freedom of the entire community, it is now up to the community to provide a space where all will enjoy being safe, free and blessed. That was so of Nelson Mandela; it is even more deeply and eternally true of Jesus.
What Mandela suffered on behalf of justice has created a new country, where justice should be the norm. And yet it is not. Many years after Nelson Mandela became the first democratic president of South Africa, unemployment ranks among the highest in the world, as do intimate partner violence and sexual violence. The rape and murder of women and children are a common occurrence; “corrective rape” of lesbians and homophobic attacks are on the increase; the HIV infection rate is among the world’s highest, and foreigners from neighboring African countries suffer xenophobic attacks. In short, Mandela’s suffering served for the liberation of a nation, but that liberation is far from complete.
And Jesus’ suffering served for the liberation of the whole world, but that liberation—of body, mind, and spirit—is very far from perfected, even in the lives of those whom he has chosen. The church, of all places, should be where liberation is seen.
The first readers of 1 Peter were called to act justly by conforming to submissive behavior and suffering for a little while (3:6; 5:10). This was deemed righteous because such suffering was for the well-being and survival of the family of believers as they waited on the return of Christ. We too are called to act justly in our contexts of suffering—mindful that, as a family of believers, we may face different challenges than did the churches Peter first addressed.
— Miranda Pillay, South Africa (Excerpted from the book introduction to 1 Peter)