Peter’s underlying concern was about what we today call tolerance, diversity, and religious pluralism that discriminates against Christianity in a way that is intolerant, not diverse, and religious persecution. Subsequently, 1-2 Peter, although a few thousand years old, are incredibly timely to our current culture in which Christians are welcome to love Jesus so long as they agree that other religions and spiritualities are equally valid, do nothing to discourage others from patronizing their spiritualities and religions by speaking against them or evangelizing people, and are willing to actively participate as requested with practitioners of other religions and spiritualities so as to be loving, tolerant, and non-judgmental in the eyes of the world. The struggle is real, but not really new.
Christianity spread to the region where Peter’s letter was originally sent as those converted to Jesus at the Pentecost holiday sermon preached by Peter (Acts 2:9) after returning to their hometowns. Following regeneration by God the Holy Spirit, their minds, desires, and actions changed, which made them unpopular with mainstream culture. If you meet Jesus later in life, as I did in college, you quickly find that most everything the average person does for fun on a weekend is breaking the 10 Commandments. So, you’ve got a choice to make if you want to stick with Team Jesus with the jeers or join Team Judas with the cheers.
The Christians writing to Peter would have looked to him as something of a spiritual father. Born again under his preaching, they look to Peter like a young kid does a good dad, seeking advice on how to live life.
The unpopularity of Christians was in large part due to the fact that their moral conduct had changed. A hypocrite Christian is a hero, but a holy Christian is a zero. The Christians were no longer willing to eat too much, drink too much, party sinfully, or engage in sex outside of marriage (1 Peter 4:1–4). Those who had previously known them and enjoyed sinning with them prior to their conversion considered their life change negatively. The drinking buddies who lost their wingmen and the boyfriends who got dumped by their live-in girlfriends who walked away to walk with Jesus were not pleased with the influence Christianity was having on their friends. Jesus is a real buzzkill to weekend plans for dating, relating, drinking, and fornicating. This explains Peter’s references to such things as “trials”, “tested by fire”, “sojourners and exiles”, “sorrow”, “suffering”, “beaten”, “harm”, “slander”, “revile”, “fiery trial”, “insulted”, “anxieties”, etc. If this sounds like the treatment of Christians in our day in everything from the media to social media it’s just because, though the names and faces change, the demonic spirit at work behind the world remains as our “adversary the devil prowls around” (1 Peter 5:8).
To download the free e-book ODD LIFE: Good God which is a study in 1 Peter for individuals, groups, and families from Pastor Mark click HERE. To listen to Pastor Mark’s 9 sermons on 1 Peter preached in the summer of 2020, click HERE. These and other resources are made possible by our ministry partners who support Real Faith as a Bible teaching ministry of Mark Driscoll Ministries to whom we say THANK YOU!