I Peter 4: 7-11
7The end of all things is at hand. Therefore, be serious and sober for prayers. 8Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. 9Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. 11Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Peter now reminds the faithful that Christ may return at any moment and they should be ready. He says that the “last days” are upon them and they should not forget this.
There are three things in particular that the faithful should observe:
1. They need to be “serious and sober for prayers” (vs. 7). To be “serious” (Grk. Sophroneo) means to be sensible and clear-minded. To be “sober” is a theme Peter returns to throughout the letter. (1:3; 5:8).
2. Peter does not specify either the kinds of prayer or the content of prayers, but there is a sense of the importance of intercession in the second practice he emphasizes “above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.”(vs. 8)
What does he mean by saying “love covers a multitude of sins”? The background to this statement is Proverbs 10:12 “love covers all offenses.” The meaning of the word “covers” may well be linked to “ignoring” or “overlooking.” If we can overlook the sins of others with a loving attitude, we can be a blessing to them, and to ourselves. This overlooking may very well prompt God to “overlook” our sins in response.
3. Peter enjoins the faithful to “be hospitable to one another without complaining.” (Vs. 9) Hospitality is highly prized throughout Scriptures. In the first century hospitality included welcoming traveling apostles and other Christians. Hospitality also carries with it the sense of welcoming other Christians into your home for worship, especially Eucharistic worship. There was also the sense of sharing meals together.
Peter then gives general exhortation on using spiritual gifts for building up the Church: “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”(vs. 10) This is an admonition that ties in with the importance of corporate identity, participation in the Community of the Faithful. Gifts given to individuals are to be used for the common good. St. Paul emphasizes this as well (See Rom. 12:3-8; and 1 Cor. 12:4-11). Note also that each one has been given a spiritual gift; part of our task is to discern the gift and then use it for the furtherance of the Kingdom!
Peter concludes this section making reference to preaching and serving, advising that both must be God-motivated activities. This is to be done “so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever.”(Vs. 11)
Reprise: Sharing in the Sufferings of Christ (4:12-19)
12Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. 14If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15But let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer.16But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name.17For it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, how will it end for those who fail to obey the gospel of God? 18“And if the righteous one is barely saved, where will the godless and the sinner appear?” 19As a result, those who suffer in accord with God’s will hand their souls over to a faithful creator as they do good.
In this section Peter restates and develops what he has already said about suffering for the sake of Christ. First, Peter teaches that our suffering is actually a participation in the suffering and is an occasion for rejoicing for the mature in the Faith.
Second, he declares that right in the midst of their suffering, the Spirit of the Messiah rests upon those who are suffering and this is the source of great consolation.
Finally he explains that God uses suffering to purify the Christian community, God’s household. God uses the abuse that the pagans unjustly heap on Christians to prepare his people for the return of the Lord.
Peter’s message is one that we may not want to hear. We may wonder why God is allowing all this suffering, acknowledging that we do live in a broken world beset by sin. Peter reminds us that this suffering is “discipline,” not in the sense of punishment, but in the sense of being transformed. Our task is to surrender, to “hand over” our lives, to convert fully to the Lord of Lords and Kings of Kings.
I am reminded of the tension of two different kinds of maturity. One is maturity in the world where we express our maturity by “thinking our own thoughts,” “feeling our own feelings,” making good decisions, being a responsible person by being engaged and yet maintaining appropriate boundaries and so on.
In contrast, maturity in Christ is surrender, acknowledging that every breath that we take, every beat of our heart, every cell that divides in our bodies is possible only by the Grace of God. The suffering in our lives reminds us of God’s sovereignty. It’s like the old saying “I know there is a God, and it’s not me.” When we pray in the “Our Father” “Thy Kingdom comes” that means that my kingdom has to go away.
Conclusion (1 Peter 5:1-14)
1So I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed. 2Tend the flock of God in your midst, [overseeing] not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. 3Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. 4And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5Likewise, you younger members, be subject to the presbyters. And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for: “God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.” 6So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. 7Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you. 8Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour. 9Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. 10The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ [Jesus] will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little. 11To him be dominion forever. Amen. 12I write you this briefly through Silvanus, whom I consider a faithful brother, exhorting you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Remain firm in it.13The chosen one at Babylon sends you greeting, as does Mark, my son.14Greet one another with a loving kiss. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
For the second time in the letter, Peter expresses himself in the first person (cf. 2:11). He identifies with the “elders” (presbyters), the witnesses “to the suffering of Christ,” and as one who “has a share in glory to be revealed.” (vs. 1) He admonishes the elders in particular to be faithful in tending the flock.
He then cautions the young members to obey the “elders,” and then he calls everyone to “humility.” In so doing he calls them to “cast all…worries upon (Christ) because he cares for you.” And then he gives a stern warning: “Be sober, be vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.” (vs 8-9)
Finally Peter closes the letter with an admonition to share “a loving kiss” with one another in the community. This of course is the basis of the “kiss of peace” at Eucharist, a most appropriate reminder that we are to know that at the base of our ongoing faithfulness, we are promised that wonderful “peace of God which passes all understanding”.