On the weekends my husband and I often attempt to watch a movie together…attempt, being the key word. Typically we find ourselves exhausted, bewildered and dazed; having just army-crawled our way through the trenches of “bedtime” with our two small children.
When we finally sit down to choose a movie it always seems impossible. We scroll Netflix for what feels like hours, unable to decide on anything. Not only because we are indecisive and tired, but also because we have polar opposite tastes in movies. It has taken us years to discover our small window of overlapping entertainment interests, which includes Indiana Jones, the Office, and Westerns.
A few weekends ago, we found ourselves engrossed in a new Western film. One scene from that film is still etched upon my mind. Several townspeople had just been captured by a horrifically savage tribe. In an instant, they are without hope, trapped in the clutches of evil, prisoners to gruesome cannibals. The captives wait in terror, as beastly men come for them one by one, brutally torturing and killing them. Suddenly, the tribesmen enter and drag another captive from his cage. As unspeakable pain is inflicted upon this man, the town sheriff calls out from his cage: “You will be avenged! Troops have been alerted. They will be here soon! There will be justice! It’s only a matter of time! They are coming! This is not the end!”
After the devastating ceremony ends and the cannibals have left, one of the remaining captives asked the sheriff: “Was it true? What you told him?” To which the sheriff replied: “No. I just called out what I know I would have wanted to hear, had I been in his position.”
The other captive nodded sorrowfully, “I just thought maybe you knew something I didn’t…”
Reading 1 Peter — knowing that the book’s audience was facing horrific persecution at the hands of Nero, who was infamous for burning Christians alive, using their bodies as torches to light his gardens* – I was struck by Peter’s emphasis on what is truly lasting in this life and the hope we have in Christ.
Peter encourages fellow believers that God has intentionally chosen them. Redeemed and extended His mercy to them, giving them eternal life.
“For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is through the living and enduring word of God. For ‘All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:23-25).
Peter reminds his readers that God has a purpose for them as “living stones” – a part of the great house He is building around the “Precious Cornerstone”, Jesus Christ. “And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (1 Peter 2:5-7)
What incredible hope we have through Christ. We do not have some false comfort, like the Sheriff offered. In whatever suffering we may encounter along the way we have the true hope knowing that there is an “end game”. There is a bigger picture, and God is using us as He constructs that picture. What an honor.
What we may endure is but a moment in light of eternity. We have a Savior – a Savior who suffered torture in our place, who surrendered His very own life to rescue us from our own captivity.
We don’t have to sit in our cage – whether it be loss, grief, unclear circumstances or challenges – and wonder if there is real hope or not.
We have been redeemed “so that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9, emphasis added)
I know I have had seasons in my own life where I could not make sense of anything that was happening. The pain, grief, and confusion felt unbearable at times. I cried out to God begging Him to do something. Wondering what the big picture would be.
Many of us may not know the next piece of the puzzle or understand how God will redeem a specific situation. I’m sure during the early Church’s time of persecution they felt the same way.
Peter cast for them an eternal perspective and we are reminded that the hope we have is everlasting. When we are hurting and feeling hopeless…we can imagine Peter calling out to us, just as he similarly encouraged the early Christians, ‘Don’t worry! It will not all be for nothing! Our Hero is coming back! Be ready! Be a vibrant living testimony! This is not the end! You are not forgotten! Something bigger is going on!’ Those are comforting words, and those are also true words.
*The Bible Background Commentary, New Testament. By Craig S. Keener. p 707