Me Before DC

The 260 Journey
The 260 Journey
Me Before DC

Day 224

Today’s Reading: 1 Peter 2

The people to whom Peter wrote the letters of 1 and 2 Peter were believers experiencing severe persecution under the reign and government of the Roman emperor Nero. Nero was a psycho and afflicted these believers with horrendous acts of evil. He threw women and children into the Coliseum for sport to be torn apart by lions. He impaled believers on stakes and burned them as human torches to light up his decadent evening parties. In fact, not long after Peter wrote his second letter, tradition states that Nero had him crucified upside down.

Martyrdom was not just a first-century problem but is still happening today. According to the World Evangelical Alliance, more than 200 million Christians in at least 60 countries are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith. Some estimates show that approximately 175,000 Christians have been martyred annually within only a few years, and if those trends continue, by 2025, an average of 210,000 Christians will be martyred annually.

In his first letter, Peter wasn’t just writing to the Christians but to Christians under heavy persecution from Nero. They were under a very oppressive government that was taking their lives because of their faith in Christ. And yet, when Peter talks about getting rid of things, he isn’t referring to Nero and his government but getting rid of stuff within each of us individually. This is so revealing of our society today. We want to rid our society of liberals or conservatives. Whatever side of the political aisle you sit on matters not, according to 1 Peter. For us today, Peter is sending a message to all of the church: me before DC.

While people are trying to get rid of politicians, we have forgotten to deal with ourselves. If Peter were alive today and living in America, he’d say, “You want to know corruption? Try living under Nero.” Here is what Peter said in the midst of his horrible and dangerous first-century political landscape:

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:1-3, NIV)

The first word of chapter 2 is, therefore. Whenever we see “therefore,” we need to ask, “What is it there for?” It should always make us go backward in Scripture. If you look at 1 Peter, chapters 2, 4, and 5 all begin with “therefore.” We can’t read the first verse of these chapters without the context of what came before it. For 2:1 to make sense, we have to read 1:17-25. The person “ridding themselves” here is a Christian, not a non-Christian trying to become a Christian.

Listen closely: You don’t get rid of stuff to become a Christian. You get rid of stuff after you are a Christian. Once you become a Christian, you can’t stay the same, as there must be growth.

In God in the Dock, C. S. Lewis was asked, “Are there any unmistakable outward signs in a person surrendered to God?” Lewis’s response was epic. He said, “Take the case of a sour old maid, who is a Christian, but cantankerous. On the other hand, take some pleasant and popular fellow, but who has never been to church. Who knows how much more cantankerous the old maid might be if she were not a Christian, and how much more likable the nice fellow might be if he were a Christian?”

Christianity is growth, not perfection. I don’t become a Christian and become perfect. I become a Christian and start growing.

I remember having a conversation with a Muslim husband whose wife just became a Christian, and she was attending our church. He came to see me and was telling me that she was not a real Christian because she still had specific hang-ups in her life. I told this husband that becoming a Christian is the starting line, not the finish line.

We don’t get good and come to Jesus. We come to Jesus, and He makes us good.

Peter is telling you and me to get rid of malice, deceit, envy, and slander—not in DC but in you and me. We are on unbiblical ground when we want our politicians rid of slander, deceit, and hypocrisy but never deal with it in our own selves. The political climate today is not calling for impeachment but for introspection. Before we judge our leaders, let us judge ourselves on these matters. That’s how Peter was. Peter was harsher on himself than he was on Nero’s government. Although later in chapter 2, Peter does say something about our response to rotten politicians:

Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government. (1 Peter 2:13-17, MSG)

Unbelievable. Did you just hear what Peter said about the corruption of Rome? Respect the government. Respect the authorities. Any corruption you see today can’t even compare to the corruption Peter and the early church were living under. And these are Peter’s challenging words to us: respect them. He is sterner and stricter on his own spirit than he is on a rogue emperor. It’s almost as if Peter is saying, “If there is a swamp to be drained, it starts with me, and it’s in me.”

Me before DC.