Updated: Nov 20, 2020
In 1 Peter 2:21-25 the Apostle tells us why and to what we have been called. He declares:“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
What does this mean for our calling as Christian believers today?
1. We are called because Christ suffered for us:
Peter tells us that He suffered for us as our substitute, to take our place. Jesus is our sin-bearer, demonstrating such amazing grace to those of us who are saved.
2. We are called into a relationship with God:
The purpose of this substitutionary sacrifice was so “that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.” Peter draws on Isaiah 53 here saying“by his wounds you have been healed.” And this healing reveals itself in this particular way,“For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” Here Peter is showing us that the relationship with God, broken at Eden, broken by sin, has been healed in the precious blood of Jesus!
3. We are called to follow Christ’s example of suffering:
Peter tells us that Jesus suffered leaving us, His followers, an example of how to endure unjust suffering –“Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
In the context of 1 Peter 2, Peter is addressing the unjust suffering of Christian slaves suffering at the hands of harsh masters. This is not only tough to bear, but in such circumstances it would be very easy to retaliate in kind. Instead however, Peter urges them to follow the example of Jesus who in the face of such cruel torments “committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
However more generally this is a call for all Christians who suffer unjustly not to be tempted to retaliate or blame or complain or even wave our fist at God but rather as 1 Peter 3:14,15 tells us, “even if you should suffer for what is right” to“not fear their threats; do not be frightened” but instead“in your hearts revere Christ as Lord” and recognise that this is His call to us and we need to endure through it! In short, there is a reason for suffering and God has a purpose in allowing us to go through it, so let’s stick with it!
This is a key message for our day! Unjust suffering is sadly, part of life in a suffering world and never is this more evident than today’s world in the era of Covid 19. Direct suffering relating to the virus and indirect suffering relating to the pain and hardship that emerges from it economically; socially; psychologically and emotionally is all too evident. In my own world of education there are massive challenges awaiting teachers and support staff once children return to school on mass. The Guardian newspaper rightly commented recently that “No adult or child will be untouched. When we come out of social distancing and isolation, children and young people and their families will need help to manage mental health, self-esteem, friendships and relationships.”(The Guardian: When the Covid-19 crisis finally ends, schools must never return to normal. April 7, 2020).
It’s not only true for schools however, but also for churches where many will have been fundamentally changed and challenged by what this isolation has revealed to us about our physical; emotional; psychological and spiritual wellbeing. This time of isolation has been a tremendous challenge for Christians but it has also been an opportunity to draw closer to God and one another and I pray that we will use it well – for healing and for an increased journey into wholeness.
And when we come out of this, I pray that as a Church we will use this to help heal others! For it is not enough that we are healed spiritually and relationally by the wounds of Jesus, it is rather that having been so wonderfully healed, we heal others in the same way by accepting our call to be“wounded healers” for others. The phrase is Carl Jung’s, later taken up by Henri Nouwen, the Catholic priest and theologian in his epic work, “The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society.” Nouwen points out that we cannot “save a child from a burning house without taking the risk of being hurt by the flames.” “Who’, he asks ‘can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains in his own heart and even losing his precious peace of mind? In short: “Who can take away suffering without entering it?” We heal from our own wounds. So in facing the challenge of coming out of our isolation to minister to others, the main question according to Nouwen is not “How can we hide our wounds so we don’t have to be embarrassed?” but “how can we put our woundedness in the service of others?” It is, he says, only when our wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, that we have become wounded healers.
Christ’s suffering remind us that ultimately Jesus is God’s wounded healer. Through his wounds we are healed. Jesus’ suffering and death brought us joy and life. His humiliation brought us glory; His rejection brought us into a relationship of love with our Heavenly Father. Our suffering reminds us that as followers of Jesus, we also can be used by word and example, to bring healing to others and thus become wounded healers. Oh Lord, let this be our aim and our purpose in this suffering world.