Lectionary reading for Sunday: 1 Peter 3:13-22 (NRSV)
This reading starts out a little dubiously when it asks, “Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?”
Could this have been asked a little tongue-in-cheek as we obviously knew what had happened to Jesus? If this letter was written by a disciple of Peter’s, the martyrdom of Peter would already have been known as well.
Every person faces choices from time-to-time. Sometimes if we choose not to decide, the choice goes away. Sometimes the choice to do what is right is tiring and takes effort. We know there will be push-back.
A person who lives with a functioning alcoholic may choose not to make the drinking an issue in order to (seemingly) preserve the relationship. It is almost always easier in the short-term to go with the status quo.
The reading speaks of Jesus making “a proclamation to the spirits in prison” in verse 19 immediately following his death on the cross. This is the doctrine of Jesus descending to the dead or to Hell as proclaimed in the Apostles’ Creed. Theologically, this offers salvation to all the souls who died before Christ redeemed humanity. It seems that God is not content with the redemption of those born after Jesus, but actively seeks all people.
This is a part of the meaning of the resurrection.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to live out this resurrection faith. And that means that we are to do the right thing. Not just sometimes, but all the time. This is not meant to make us weary or to find it an impossible task. As we remain in Christ, our own natures begin to shift toward the desire for compassion for all as we take on Christ’s nature.
The difficulty of this is when we run into resistance for our good efforts. Not everyone wants our compassion and some people prefer to remain in prisons of their own making. When these are strangers, it is a little easier to let go. When they are people we love, their problems can become fused into our lives.
Ultimately, these are times when we must cling to our resurrection faith. We remain hopeful in the salvation in Christ that transforms lives not only in the next life but in this life.
Some days that is all we have.
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