The reality of Jesus' victory over the powers: the way the church (a local church) changes everything
I am working on and preparing for Sunday's sermon (2/25/18)–one of the hardest passages in the NT, 1 Peter 3:18-22. Nonetheless, there is, in this tough, baffling text, the secret, the mystery for how the early church changed things and how it, with no power or leverage or prestige scared the living day-lights out of Caesars and the Roman empire–and still, today, can change things now . . . here's a preview . . . and some basic, preliminary thoughts . . .
First, let's stick with what is clear from this most enigmatic of NT texts:
And, then, second, this text is good news to the church, to believers in that . . .
It is amazing that this small, embattled church made up of unequals and strangers, should have scared or alarmed anyone, especially those in power. Yet, it did. We, today, are quite harmless–this is perhaps why so many Christian social justice advocates and, as well, Christian conservatives rely on the government (i.e., earthy power) to do justice and enforce (always through some form of violence and/or punishment related actions) justice. I believe our lose of the power God gives his church, his local gathered-church has been lost because we hate the idea of suffering (like Jesus) and so want the acceptance and comfort our earthly powers grants us–as individual believers and as local gathered-churches.
Here is my thought on the significance of this text in 1 Peter. And by "in," I mean in the flow and thought of Peter's Letter to the "elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia" (1:1b):
Some wasted thoughts on big(ger) platform(s) for change (a guise for power) while neglecting under-resourced and powerless neighborhoods
Too many Christian justice advocates want to change the world, so they leave the chance to change their neighborhoods in search for a bigger and better and more recognizable national (or global) platform–when God is calling them to serve their local church, seek to change their neighbors' lives with the gospel, and bring to bear the gospel (the good news of God's kingdom) right their in the own neighborhoods.
Let's be frank, my fellow justice advocates, we (not all, thankfully) prefer the glory of national recognition over anonymity in a powerless position somewhere simply serving a local church. Can't change the world from there. Can't have a platform to be heard there. Too many famous, celebrity justice advocates belong to big, mega, and bigger churches; live in well-to-do affluent neighborhoods, and gladly wear (and drive and travel and obtain) all the bling necessary to look successful–which adds to their platform and leverage. Headlining at a conference rather than serving in a small local church in an under-resourced neighborhood is far better a platform for change.
However, the only leverage God choses is the cross and the platform that God has chosen to demonstrate and bring about his cosmic reconciliation is the gathered-church; but we want anything but . . . we need power and glory. Come on, let's be honest.
Glory and recognition is always a temptation because it's all about power and we love power. It's not the applause, though we like that; it's not the camera and mic making us more visible and louder; it's not the awards and lists of accomplishments when introduced to speak to hundreds and thousands–nope, it's simply our love for power. If we can't or won't give it away (give power away) in our own neighborhoods, then seeking a platform that makes us bigger, louder, more well paid, a cool talking head, isn't the gospel, it's idolatry.
Go serve a church in your neighborhood; better yet, find an under-resourced, powerless neighborhood and plant a church or become member of a church planted in that neighborhood . . . God's been there all this time and the gospel will change lives and change neighborhoods . . . if we are willing to give our power away.
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.