Saturday, March 29, 2008

1 Peter 2:13-26 (is better)

Context. Context. Context.
When we take verses we have to place them in context. Looking at 1st Peter 2:13-26 we can see that this is addressed to slaves. Peter is answering questions to a slave who is under a master. The now Christian slave says, "well if I am free in Christ I should be free in this life." Peters response. Nope, you need to serve and follow the example of Jesus (as the suffering servant).

Since we are looking at justice right now we see it in several places here... verse 13&14... "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good." What do we see... God has ordained governments to enforce justice. God calls us to be submissive to these governments. The Lord loves justice and government is appointed to enforce this justice on this earth. What does this mean? This means cops, prison, courts, and death penalty (in our modern context). These are appointed by God. Now they may have some wrongs that we can correct, but they are instituted by God.

The second place I see justice and a misuse of justice is in 20-21... "For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps." Peter says in 20 there that you get what you deserve when you are beaten because of sin. True justice is paying for your sin. Whether this is in this present life or in the life to come justice requires punishment. (Thank God that he sent Jesus to take the punishment for my sin). However, when you are beaten for doing good then you are blessed when you endure. So in context he is talking to slaves, but I think it can still apply to us. We are told time and time again throughout the Bible that we will be persecuted. If they persecuted Christ they will persecute us. We must endure this with the example of Christ.

I do not think however that this passage is really referring to living out present day justice in the sense of a life of pacifism. This passage readily acknowledges that us as Christians must be subject to a government that enforces justice and that justice needs to be carried out thru physical and present means.

I will post a passage soon. But would love to hear your thoughts.


Anonymous said...

Hello. This is good. Thanks for setting up a space to figure stuff out. Also, "hi" to all my old friends.

This "God instituted government" stuff always weirds me out. Let's face it, we are currently engaged in a war that is overthrowing a government. Or was overthrowing, now we don't know what we are doing there. Ok, cheap shot, but seriously, the Nazis were God ordained, and Bonhoeffer and company should have just "put up with" the mass killings, etc.?

An example closer to home would be our buddy to the South, Castro. For the last 600 years (again, a joke) he has ruled Cuba and now has passed power onto good old Raul. The typical conservative view is that Castro is bad. But our good God has ordained him? To be some sort of thorn in our capitalist side?

I think American Christians misuse the God ordained government passages in the Bible. We have no context! We are not oppressed! The Jews (please remember Jesus and Paul never denied their Judaism) were marginalized and oppressed. So instead of seeing hope for a peaceful new heaven and earth and justice in these passages, we actually use them to keep ourselves comfortable and adhere to conservative politics (Death Penalty) that have little to do with the Bible.

Just a couple quick thoughts, I guess. I also think deviant Ivan is onto something and there should first be a discussion about what justice is, because my guess is that there are different understandings present.

Just because Piper went to Fuller (woot woot) doesn't mean he knows everything. I kid, I kid.

Thanks. Tim

Bryan Feil said...

i agree Tim, i think that there is meaning in the idea that our Gov't is established by God but that he calls us more to 'not overthrow' it in a sense. what is true is that we try to over throw situations such as 'nazi' goverment or authority w/ violence then it is no good at all. i think that is what happened w/ bonhoeffer found out. their violence or disruption ended in just more of it. am i correct here? i will validate this later.

Jesus seemed to challenge but still remain submissive. He challenged the servanthood of disciples (walking an extra mile w/ soliders when it was unlawful to do so) and yet when he was brought to pilate w/ charges he answers indirectly and doesn't show off. there is an idea or something.

Bryan Feil said...

this is talking about this exact topic, i found it very in line w/ what jesus' ministry discusses.

"""(3) Because Paul gives no conditions for a disciple to be subordinate to the
authorities, we see he is talking about something deeper than disobedience or obedience.
Paul, in fact, did not use the word obey (which would imply the sense of bending one’s
will). He used the word subordinate, which means that you simply consider yourself
under their order. This word is not about patriotism, pledging allegiance, or any affection
for the powers. Paul isn’t trying to convince unpatriotic Christians to pledge better
allegiance. Rather, Paul’s problem is the opposite: he must convince Christians, who are
not conforming to the patterns of this world, not to overthrow the government!2 Paul is
helping disciples understand the futility of such endeavors, encouraging them to keep on
the path described in Romans 12 (and all of Jesus’ life and teaching), and not fly off into
a new and hopeless project of vying for power. As Paul makes clear in chapters 9 through
11, Gentiles need to see themselves not as participants in the political dramas of
upheavals and revolutions but as part of the set-apart people of God which were begun
through Abraham and Sarah. """"

Anonymous said...

Whats up Tim... It has been a long time...

I love John Piper... Listened to a great message today about how we know what the true gospel is and what distortions are. I love him. Just had to say that.

Anyways. I forgot how political this justice piece is. I am still wavering on capital punishment so I don't really have a stand I was just using that as an example. I think we need to step back from the political field and look at the biblical perspective.

During my epistles class on Sunday I was reminded that the point of the whole Bible is the gospel of Christ and him crucified. This conversation is going to be great and engaging, but what we live and preach has to be Christ and him crucified. So with that said (on my part) I want to continue.

I completely agree with Shane. I will post more soon.

Anonymous said...

Andrew, before I go further, I want to say congrats on the new job. It sounds great. The house looks good too! I like the idea of committing to discussion with you (and others) because of your clear connection to the Good News. In other words, I am glad you and Bryan are both clearly connected to faithful service and I think highly of engaging with the two of you. We would probably agree that acting rightly (faithfully) is more important than having everything figured out.

Funny, I was not trying to be explicitly political, at least any more than the passage itself. I was only attempting to understand the passage noted. I was actually just clarifying your reading (a popular one, no doubt) of that passage of the Bible and the confusion it brings with a little thought.

That is one reason this is an incredibly messy subject. I believe that we cannot talk about justice without talking about the physical realities (this includes politics) that leave people either lacking justice or actually "making" justice (as in legislation, zoning, money use, taxation, etc.). The Old Testament idea of Shalom very much included politics.

Much like you say our actions matter like our words, justice matters in a public and not private way. Personal justification by way of the cross is only a part of Jesus' message. (An area where I would question your duly noted "point of the whole Bible", it creates a strange premium on some parts of the canon over others, and is motivated by Western Apocalyptical thinking. This is indeed a topic for another time, methinks.)

Another reason that talking about a "biblical" understanding of justice is difficult is the varying views. Honestly, Shane can (and often does) talk Scripture with the best of them and largely uses biblical terms to talk about his view of justice. Piper, also, bases his understanding of justice in the Bible. By saying that we are going to talk about or give a biblical view of anything (including justice) is to really say we are going to give our interpretation of the biblical text, our reading and understanding. Please see this as not mushy postmodern jargon, but as a reality worth remembering. One would be hard pressed to pin down an exact biblical ethic on justice, without using one's own experience and/or other sources (another theologian or pastor, for example). If I have learned one thing thus far from Fuller, it is that over the years many God-fearing Christians have landed on separate sides of the same issue, brought to their differing conclusions by their reading of the Bible.

With that being said, I think it is quite important that we continue to see what Scripture has to say about justice and the ethics of the Kingdom (clearly justice is a large part of the Kingdom, this we can agree upon). We just must walk tenderly and remember our small place in the long history of hermeneutics.

I think topical discussions are dangerous, or at least misleading. My guess is that the Bible was never meant to be so fractured as we have made it (with the insertion of chapters, headings, etc.). I think instead of searching for words, understanding whole stories and how those stories fit into God's ongoing story (including our faithful action) should be considered with great weight.

With that, I submit that maybe we talk about the Exile and the connection between God's people being rescued and receiving life (life abundant as Jesus put it) in a very physical way by God as another point of discussion.

I, too, like what Shane said about that particular passage.

Again, thanks for the discussion. I wonder if there is another way to do this, format wise. Like you can post and I will comment, or something, so that our discussion is not entirely on the comment page.

Deviant Ivan said...

Andrew, you don't have to have a position for capital punishment, or for warfare. It almost seems that with all this conflict between pacificists and just-war proponents (even within Christendom), we are expected to choose exclusively one position or the other; as if these were the only options regarding the subject of war and capital punishment. I think the church should be neither for it nor against it, unless we witness an abuse of it by our governement, which would require us to blow the tumpet for the prophetic voice of liberation, even if persecution is reacted against us.