Reflections on 1 Peter 2:21-25
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
Jesus was the perfect man, who fully fulfilled the purpose for which He was born. He aimed at the perfect mark and He hit it every time–without variance or error of any kind. We were all created to be like that–to perfectly bear God’s image and fulfill His purposes while staying in constant fellowship with Him.
Sin marred the mirror and distorted the image of God we reflect to the world. No matter how carefully we aim for God’s perfect standards, or even standards of our own making, we are incapable of hitting the mark without error or at least some variance. It may not be outwardly visible, but sin (any step away from God’s perfect, holy will) is lurking in our hearts, even when our actions seem to be on mark. At some point or other, each of us is doomed to miss it.
It could be as simple as a “little white lie” or a half-truth. When was the last time you “spun” your tale of how or why an event or conversation occurred as it did in order to make yourself look better? I know I have been guilty of this. At times, I have divulged only part of my thinking process–the part that would ease the conflict and exonerate me in the other person’s eyes. Sometimes, that falls under good discernment. Being too honest can be hurtful to others and we have to consider what will lead to true restoration and renewed fellowship. If not with a fellow-believer, then at least to restore our witness for Christ and peace with that person, as much as it depends upon us.
Sometimes, spinning the tale is just a matter of pride and we are trying to throw the other person off the scent of our sin. In that case, wouldn’t humility and confession with a plea for forgiveness be more powerful? It is a risk we too often fail to take.
Jesus didn’t have the sin problem, but He still needed plenty of discernment for conflict resolution. He never uttered a deceitful word in His entire life. Just let that sink in.
He was reviled. People hated Him so much that they felt disgust and snarled at the mention of His name. Yet He hated no one. He was perfect in love. He was not afraid to call people out on their sin, with the hope of turning them from the path of condemnation, but He was usually gentle in the face of accusations against Him and His character. Often, He would respond to a question with a question of His own, or with a parable to prompt careful consideration from His opponents about their next statement or move. How often, I wonder, did He prevent them from committing further sin as a result?
He suffered unjustly at the hands of people who were supposed to be for God. Imagine the pain of Judas’ betrayal of Him, of the venom of the High Priest, of the crowds shouting “Crucify Him!” and of the disciples’ abandonment and Peter’s outright denial of Him. Imagine the pain of the taunting Roman soldiers and the physical pain of His flogging. The pain of carrying His own cross with flayed skin and of the crucifixion itself must have been unimaginable. But worse yet, imagine the emotional rending of having the Father turn His face away when Jesus bore all of that sin, plus the sin of all mankind for all time, including your sin.
Yet, in all of that pain, He never lashed out at anyone. He never spoke words of condemnation. He remained compassionate and humble. He did not threaten–though He could have called down angels from heaven to fight off the soldiers and exonerate Himself in the eyes of all. He bore the pain and the reproach. He bore our sin willingly, lovingly.
He knew His Father would judge justly, so He stuck to the plan and put everything in the Father’s hands. He hit the mark He aimed for, and His resurrection proves that it was God’s holy, perfect, righteous mark.
All this is to give us both an example and a hope. When we are reviled, threatened and suffer unjustly at the hands of others, we are to respond with love, compassion and forgiveness. Jesus cried, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”
It is impossible for us to perfectly imitate the humility and obedience of Christ, but we are not without hope. Through faith in Him, we can be forgiven; we can die to sin and be made alive in Him and embodied by His righteousness. Because of sin and suffering, we are wounded and broken, useless to God. But by His wounding, we are healed and restored and made useful to God.
I used to be a straying sheep, wandering far from the fold. Now, I have returned. The Shepherd and Overseer of my soul is Jesus. He holds me close to the Father’s heart so that I may know what God desires of me. Then, He encourages me by His Word to aim and He makes the arrow fly straight when I trust in Him. When, in pride, I rely on my own strength and aim or my own standard, I will miss the mark every time. But in Christ, I can be holy, because He is holy, just like our Father in heaven is HOLY.
Let me be holy, today, LORD.
In Jesus’, Precious and Holy Name, AMEN.