Imagine, a former male temple prostitute now the appointed host of a gathered-church in a small, shanty shelter of a home. There is plenty of room in the Father’s house.
Imagine a young women who used to offer herself at that very table to the men who use to recline for their symposia dinners now offering prayers and thanksgiving saying, “Who the Son sets free, oh is free indeed, I’m a child of God, in my Father’s house, there’s a place for me.”
Imagine a household slave reclining at a table he would never have been allowed to eat from lifting up a loaf of bread, breaking it and saying, “Jesus instructed is, ‘This is my body, broken for you,’ He has made us one body in Christ.”
Imagine, a merchant male head of a household, who has thrown out two deformed born infants and an unwanted girl infant now sitting next to his daughter and son and his slave’s children all at the table, an elder teaching a rag tag of forgotten in his home, saying, “Jesus instructed us, ‘This is the cup of the new covenant, My blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’” In my Father’s house there is a place for me, a child of God, yes I am.
In 1 Peter 5, the apostle of Jesus turns his attention to church leaders–no doubt to the male head of households who now occupy the leadership roles and shepherding of the house churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1:1). The apostle had been speaking of the church under persecution, suffering, and the object of outsider insults (2:11-4:19). The stress has been on the church’s (i.e., the individual believers) conduct outside of the gathered-church (2:12). Peter addressed slaves who had found themselves a part of a gathered-church, fully welcome to recline at the table, who had to return to unbelieving masters, subject to all the horrors of enslavement in an empire-space where they would not even be considered equal to a beast of burden. He spoke to believing wives, equal at the table of the gathered-church, who had to return to unbelieving husbands and subject to all the social-cultural space of women in the Greco-Roman world (3:1–6). Of course, Peter put the hammer down on husbands to be different than the social and cultural definition and expectations for husbands, now honoring their wives (3:7).
The early church faced persecution, slander, and insults for naming Jesus Lord and for the strangers and unequals who had gathered at their tables–but the presence of the church changed everything and eventually outlived both Caesar and the empire. Given the flow of the text and the emphasis on their behaviors among the unbelievers outside the gather-church, Peter turns his attention to the quality and type of leadership for the churches, the gathered-churches in northern Asia Minor. It is not a stretch to connect the call and qualities of church leaders to the effect God’s gospel would have on the social and cultural environment wherein the church was planted. Peter, I believe, makes a connection, a link between, the quality of the church’s leadership and the future of the neighborhoods and communities and, even, the empires wherein it is planted.
The early church faced persecution, slander, and insults for naming Jesus Lord and for the strangers and unequals who had gathered at their tables–but the presence of the church changed everything and eventually outlived both Caesar and the empire.
I am the author of Wasted Evangelism: Social Action and the Church's Task of Evangelism, a deep, exegetical read into the Gospel of Mark. All royalties from this book go to support our church planting ministry in the Hill community of New Haven, CT. The book and its e-formats can be found on Amazon, Barns'n Noble, (and most other online book distributors) or through the publisher, Wipf & Stock directly.
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