Always be ready

The Revd Naomi Gardom

Today the termly Bible study concluded our study of the First Letter of Peter. This is a comparatively short letter, only five chapters, which has allowed to spend time reflecting deeply on the issues it raises and thinking about how we might apply its teaching to our lives and our world. 1 Peter was written to a number of Christian communities living under persecution in Asia Minor, and it encourages them to tread a fine line between resisting the oppression under which they are living, and existing under the radar so that they can continue to survive. It also encourages them to live through their sufferings in the knowledge that they are not alone: they are suffering in solidarity with one another, and in the knowledge that Christ also suffered with and for them.

The commentary we used to guide our studies was edited by Rev’d Professor Jenn Strawbridge in the lead up to the 2020 Lambeth Conference. It was a collaboration between scholars from six different continents, and drew our attention to the huge variety across the world in the experiences of Christian communities. This global perspective was especially helpful as we considered some of the more difficult themes in the letter: issues of the use and abuse of power, of gender relations, and slavery.

Despite these difficult themes, 1 Peter is a surprisingly gentle and pastoral letter. One of the most striking lines in the letter comes in 1 Peter 3.15-16: ‘Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.’ The implication of this instruction is that, living as Christians, our lives should excite comment and question about the hope that seems to motivate us. This might alter our approach to sharing our faith: rather than looking for opportunities to evangelise with our words, we can share the gospel through the way in which we lead our lives. This gospel is the gospel of liberation, of communion, and of love.