Even In the Face of Religious Power

“I laugh in the face of danger,” young Simba retorted when reminded he had slipped beyond safety. Quickly his resolve melted as the hidden danger revealed itself. We all tend to “talk big” until faced with the occasion to live out what we say.

Last week the Epistle reading (1 Peter 2:19-25) described the manner in which Jesus faced injustice. He did not revile, practice deceit, threaten but continued to trust. Cut off from this passage was the “set up” verse exhorting servants to remain faithful in the face of injustice.

What happens when we come face to face with with injustice – and from familiar places? How is it we should respond when threatened? Stephen pointed to the fulfilled promise of God in Jesus, the Christ (Acts 6). Those listening argued the point but, according to the text, Stephen demonstrated great wisdom and the way in which he was speaking evidenced the Spirit of God. So, they turned to deceit. Trumping up charges, the adversaries achieved their aim and Stephen was brought before the religious powers.

Questioned about his convictions he responded with a defense that sounded much like a sermon. He concluded with a provocative, “you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” The very law they professed to protect pointed to their own guilt. Riled, his accusers had heard enough and they rushed him. Stoned him. Killed him.

In the face of danger Stephen spoke faithfully of God’s promise in Jesus. He relayed the story they knew all too well. And, then rather than retaliate in kind, Stephen stood and in Peter’s words, “But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.” Suffering is not desirable. But, Stephens suffering would have the similar effect of disabusing power of its fear-mongering we witness in Jesus (1 Peter 2:19-25).

We need not practice the habits of others. Instead in the face of power, even religious power, following Jesus steps is still the way. Our faithfulness to the Way of Jesus represents the descriptors that we find in this week’s text (1 Peter 2:9-10). That we may tell of the excellencies of God’s goodness called us from our dark ways and into the light of his marvelous love.

Humility restrains our arrogance, or it should. Realizing that we have received mercy in the face of operating in ways that dishonor others we are not given free reign to extend mercy and grace to all. Quite a different way to “laugh in the face of danger.”

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Jesus invites people into his life and his way. He takes what is and points to the new way of the Kingdom of God.  Come see what this journey is all about!

One way to think about the mission of Jesus - He calls into question the way things are and points to the way things may be in the Kingdom of God. 

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