1 Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, insincerity, envy, and all slander; 2 like newborn infants, long for pure spiritual milk so that through it you may grow into salvation, 3 for you have tasted that the Lord is good.

4 Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, 5 and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it says in scripture: "Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame." 7 Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: "The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone," 8 and "A stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall." They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny.

9 But you are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises" of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were "no people" but now you are God's people; you "had not received mercy" but now you have received mercy.

11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and sojourners to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against the soul. 12 Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that if they speak of you as evildoers, they may observe your good works and glorify God on the day of visitation.

13 Be subject to every human institution for the Lord's sake, whether it be to the king as supreme 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the approval of those who do good. 15 For it is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Be free, yet without using freedom as a pretext for evil, but as slaves of God. 17 Give honor to all, love the community, fear God, honor the king. 18 Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and equitable but also to those who are perverse.

19 For whenever anyone bears the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace. 20 But what credit is there if you are patient when beaten for doing wrong? But if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps. 22 "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." 23 When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly.

24 He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.  Version: New American Bible

COMMENTS

General:

  • In light of our new life in Christ, as well as the call to holiness, we are to live differently (chapter 1).
  • Nowhere is the change more visible than in our response to suffering, especially unjust suffering. This is emphasized strongly in chapters 2 and 4.
  • In the face of suffering, how should Christians live?
    • First, we should be eager to embrace a holy life, just as we are eager to grow in our faith (vv.1-2).
    • As Christ faced (and embraced) rejection, we too must come together corporately as "living stones" (vv.4-7).
    • Like ancient Israel, the church is a holy nation and priesthood (Exodus 19:6). Every Christian is a priest (v.9). There is no clergy or laity anymore! Just as we have received mercy, we are to share the good news of God's mercy with others!
    • We are to stay away from sin. Outsiders are watching, and the reputation of Christ is at stake (vv.11-12).
    • We are to submit to the authorities (with an obvious exception when being commanded to disobey the word of God), because a submissive attitude silences the critics (vv.14ff). Nor are we to misuse our freedom (v.16).
      • We are also to behave humbly towards others who aren't authorities (v.17).
      • Even for those Christians who are (literal) slaves, submission is essential!
      • Obedience is required not only to fair and reasonable masters, but (especially) to the unfair and unreasonable (v.18ff), since this is to walk in the footsteps of Christ.
  • In short, we are to imitate Jesus' attitude towards suffering (v.21ff; also 4:1).
    • We are not to retaliate; we are not to threaten or even insult others.
    • Rather, we are to entrust judgment (and vindication) to God.
    • Jesus bore our sins so that we might pursue righteousness -- not rights. This truth lies at the heart of the Cross (v.24).
  • Chapter 3 will continue to give practical direction on how to live when times are hard.

Advanced:

  • The reference in v.4ff is to Isaiah 28:16 and Psalm 118:22. In ancient Judaism and early Christianity, these verses were often paired and applied to the Messiah.
  • The reference in v.10 is to Hosea 1:9.
  • Jesus is referred to as a shepherd (v.25) in various O.T. and N.T. passages (Ezekiel 34, John 10, Hebrews 13, 1 Peter 5, Revelation 7).

Thought questions:

  • Am I someone who really longs for pure spiritual milk? (Or am I malnourished?)
  • When I am unfairly treated, how do I retaliate? (Or do I retaliate at all?)
  • Do others see that I am following Christ? Is my attitude radically different from that of those in the world?
  • Do I have more energy and conviction to pursue personal rights, or God's righteousness?