Apr 21, 2023 The First Place to Look is Always Christ – Words of Grace – April 21, 2023
Maybe you have heard, or even used the words, “When all else fails, pray.” That statement reflects some bad theology related to God’s grace, the nature of the Christian life, and the place of prayer in our lives.
But the worst part of that all too familiar way of living is that Christ is the last place we look to know how to respond to hardship, when he should be the first.
Looking to Christ first is the point Peter makes in what would otherwise be thought of as a teaching on submission and work. In 1 Peter 2:18-25, Peter is exhorting Christians who are household servants to be submissive to their masters, even when the masters have bad character. The Christians are to do good work. If they suffer mistreatment, it should be because the masters are acting unjustly, not because the Christians are.
That raises the issue of suffering mistreatment. What does a Christian do when this happens not only in the workplace, but in any area of life? The answer is usually to look anywhere and everywhere first to remedy the situation. Then, if nothing works, we might think to turn to Christ.
Of course, there are places to look for help when we suffer unjustly. We do have laws and policies that are designed to protect us from such treatment. Even servants in the ancient world had some legal protections. Appeals to laws are not only allowed, but they are also required to ensure justice.
But the fact is that Peter called the Christians to look first to Christ. He said they were to follow the example of Christ in the way he suffered. When Christ was reviled, he did not revile in return. When he suffered, he did not threaten. Christ entrusted himself to God who judges justly (1 Peter 2:21-23). This is baffling to us. It is one of the most counterintuitive statements in the Bible. Only by looking to Christ first would we ever respond to suffering similarly.
And that’s the point. We are called to look to Christ first so we will be like him in everything else we do to help remedy unjust situations. In some way that remains mysterious to us, God glorifies himself and brings others to himself through the suffering of his people who suffer the way Christ did. There is something about a righteous sufferer’s suffering that expresses God’s grace. Peter called it “a gracious thing”. That gracious thing somehow opens a window into God’s grace and opens the minds of people to his grace. That glorifies God.
There is more to be explored in this and many other passages in the Bible about suffering unjustly. But the place to start is by looking to Christ. Our way is to pray and follow the example of Christ first, then do all else in his way and for his glory.
We will consider these things when we gather for worship on Sunday. Join me this weekend in prayer for God’s glory among us.