Christianity has never really been cool. The unpopularity of Christians in Peter’s day was due to the fact that their devotion to Jesus above everyone and everything else caused them to be viewed as subversives overturning long-held familial and cultural norms. Simply, once people became Christians, their lifestyle changed and they stopped worshiping the gods of their empire, city, trade guild, or family. This can feel like rejection to former friends and family, and repudiation of deeply held cultural expectations. Jesus freaks are always the oddballs and outcasts no matter where they live.
This explains why Peter refers to Christians in the world in terms such as “exiles”, “ransomed from the futile ways”, who are “rejected” by the world yet “God’s people” and “sojourners”, declared to be “evildoers” by the culture, the people who endure “sorrows while suffering unjustly” along with “evil” and “reviling” while experiencing “harm” as “they malign you”, which feels like a “fiery trial” that includes being “insulted” and causes “anxieties”.
In that day, paying religious homage to the gods and goddesses of the nation was akin to waving a flag or saying the pledge of allegiance in our cultural context. So, when the Christians refused to participate in any religious homage, worship, or devotion to the state gods, they were seen as unpatriotic. Why? Once they pledged allegiance to King Jesus, all other former loyalties were severed.
Cities had their own gods and goddesses who were honored in various city-wide events as a unifying way of bringing diverse people together. When Christians refused to be involved in any city-wide events that included honoring gods and goddesses other than Jesus Christ, they were seen as judgmentally too-serious bad neighbors. Today, this would be the equivalent of not getting drunk on New Year’s Eve, not trading beads for britches on Mardi Gras, and not getting drunk and cursing out grandmothers from the other team while tailgating on game day when, up to this point, these things comprised every photo on your social media page.
Various professions were also held together by trade guilds, akin to our unions, that included meetings with religious rites and ceremonies dedicated to various gods and goddesses. When Christians refused to participate in the religious aspects of their trade guild, they were considered unprofessional. They were even demoted or terminated from their jobs, suffering financial loss for their unyielding devotion to Jesus Christ. It may seem shocking to us that unless you worship a demon the union can fire you. Just try working at Planned Parenthood after you stop worshipping the Old Testament God of child sacrifice named Molech, start worshipping Jesus as God, and see how long you keep your job. Jobs change, and labor unions change, but demons working through them stay the same.
Furthermore, families were held together in large part by religious traditions that included holiday parties and meals dedicated to various gods and goddesses who were honored by the family at both home and temple events. When Christians refused to participate in these kinds of holiday events, they were considered disrespectful to their families. Today, examples would include new Christians from Japanese homes who refuse to worship their ancestors, converts from Native American spirituality who refuse to join their family in worshipping demonic spirits in animals and nature, and anyone who comes from a family that worships alcohol, the family business, a political party, or a sports team with religious zeal and simply loses interest in those things because Jesus is enough for them.
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!