For those of us living in modern Western civilization, it is hard to imagine a time when Christians were a minority group. Nevertheless, at the time Peter wrote his First Letter, Christians were verbally berated and sometimes hunted down and killed. They would not give in to all the values and customs of the culture around them and were scorned for doing so. Tacitus, a Roman historian and a near contemporary of Peter, said of Christians, “…an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted […]. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight expired.”
In such dire circumstances, one might expect the disciple who once drew his sword and cut off the High Priest’s servant’s ear in Gethsemane to call Christians to arms, to fight against their persecutors. However, there is no hint of this in Peter’s letter. Instead, Peter calls upon his persecuted fellow believers to abstain from their guttural drive for revenge and maintain their good conduct among the ones who seek to do them harm. (1 Peter 2:11-12)
Christians understand that salvation is by grace through faith alone. It is a gift. Christians also understand that the Holy Spirit who sanctifies them is a gift. However, Christians also understand that it is incumbent upon them to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to resist their guttural drives to do harm.
Christians are called to maintain their good conduct, even when evil presses upon them. Christians understand that they have been called out of darkness into God’s wonderful light. They are a new multi-ethnic race, royal priesthood, holy nation, and the precious possession of God. (1 Peter 2:9) To the greatest extent possible, Christians encounter violence with embrace. Christians bless instead of seeking revenge. There is a moral beauty about Christianity that is attractive to the world when it is practiced according to the One who called them into this new community of faith.
In a world where conflicts divide us, where revenge and violence – both physical and verbal – is the social norm, may you, Christian, shine forth your light before people that they might see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:16).