Today completes the reading of our first non-Paul letter of the season. The persona of the writer is reasserted, ‘an elder’ whom I doubted at the outset was Peter the fishing buddy of Jesus. We are invited to imagine ourselves elders in turn, as a generational shift from disciples to apostles, from Galileans to Judeans and now to Gentiles in Asia Minor, decades after Jesus’ crucifixion, and now after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
Yesterday, we got a lot of advice about socially situating ourselves in the Roman rule of the day, contextual ethics in the meantime in relation to being Christians also named slaves, wives, and other names. How will we behave among ourselves, in particular in terms of leadership, or ‘eldership’? What do the alternatives of humility or pride look like to you in community?
The warning about a prowling lion is not literal, eh? It’s another example of a word for something ‘bigger than me, but smaller than God’: like angels, principalities, institutions, or ideologies. Even paranoids have enemies, and not always individual opponents, but adversaries in family systems and social dynamics in our worldview, hypostasized into beings in these old days.
Another way to sum up moral reasoning is by vouching for a representative as an embodiment, and an interpreter, of the cumulative discourse. This writer offers a good reference for Silvanus. The closing also loops back to the opening reference to a community of faith, a ‘sister church’ in NRSV, a ‘lady’ in Hart, which is located in ‘Babylon’ in the sense that Bob Marley sang it in my generation. Our community of faith is not alone as a counter-cultural group of what Peter Berger called ‘like-minded deviants’ resisting the dominant empire.
The closing reference to ‘my son Mark’ is likely not a reference to the writer’s genetic offspring, eh? We all have a spiritual autobiography, including the characters from whom we learned the faith, and to whom we passed it on. That is not limited to our biological and sociological subcultures. Nor is the ‘kiss of love’ a reference to sexual or procreative behaviour among us. Is it?
1 Peter 5
1 Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you
2to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it— not for sordid gain but eagerly.
3Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock.
4And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away.
5In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’
6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time.
7Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
8Discipline yourselves; keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.
9Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.
10And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.
11To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
12 Through Silvanus, whom I consider a faithful brother, I have written this short letter to encourage you, and to testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.
13Your sister church in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings; and so does my son Mark. 14Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.