Given the times that we live in, I thought we might all benefit from the words of an apostle writing to Christians living in the midst of chaos and uncertainty.
Peter (yes, THAT Peter) was writing during a perilous time for the church. It was 65 A.D., Emperor Nero was on the throne and the first serious persecution of the church by the Romans was just beginning. This persecution would ultimately claim the lives of ten of thousands of Christians, including Peter and Paul. While this would be the first great purge of Christians in the empire, it would hardly be the last - persecutions would flare up and die down periodically another 250 years.
And Peter was right in the middle of it all. Tradition - and his coded reference to being in “Babylon” in this letter - tells us that he is writing this letter in Rome. Aside from the persecution of the church, this was a tumultuous time in the city’s history. A great fire had just ravaged the city, killing hundreds and leaving tens of thousands homeless. In the aftermath, a conspiracy to assassinate the emperor was uncovered, leading the already paranoid Nero to slaughter dozens of noted politicians and, according to some accounts, his own wife. To make matters worse, rumors from the East spoke of a rebellion forming in the far-off province of Judea.
To the Christians living during this time, it probably felt like the whole world was coming to an end. Riots in the streets, a mad emperor tearing the empire apart, war brewing in Jerusalem - and all the while, they feared to even sing a hymn in case a passing soldier overheard and imprisoned them all (or worse).
In the midst of this, Peter reaches out to Christians in the province of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) with a word of comfort and purpose in the face of suffering. He reminds his readers - both then and now - that we may in fact have to “we take up our cross” to follow Christ, but that our Lord is with us even in the darkest moments, and that hope waits around the corner.
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