1 Peter 3:13-22
This passage has always seemed disjointed to me. The first section makes sense, because it is grounded in practical life. But then it launches into strange talk about Jesus going to preach to the spirits in Noah’s time and ascending and descending. It gets confusing.
then v. 15 popped out at me. “But, in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord” In my 21st century, Americanized Evangelicalism-ized interpretive grid, it is easy to gloss over this phrase as a familiar formula that means a myriad of things to a myriad of people. To make Christ “Lord” in a democratic culture where there is no “lord” in the land other than my own decision and a majority vote is a difficult concept to grasp. However, if we try to peel back the layers and read this through the eyes of a 1st century Jew-turned-Jesus-follower the whole passage snaps into focus. We must read it in contrast to the “Lord” of the day – caesar. The “spirit of the age” or the “conventional wisdom” that permeated the Roman empire was the belief that Caesar was a god and that he had rule and authority over every principality and power in the world. He had ascended to the highest height, and deserved – demanded – allegiance from every person. The penalty for not bowing to Caesar as Lord was punishment, persecution, and even death.
Read the passage again. As a follower of Jesus you are called to yield to the love of God and let God’s love and grace permeate your being. You are called to do good. Who will punish you for that? Well, of course, you might get punished for not bowing to Caesar, that’s true. But, don’t worry, the lord you bow to is the only true lord. He has ascended to higher heights than Ceasar because he’s descended to lower lows. He has humbled himself and put others before himself. His way of being is truth and it has real authority over all the principalities and power structures that operate through power, intimidation, and self-deception. The power of God’s way is one that will win out, even over death itself. So don’t be afraid of the false lord. Don’t be afraid when the empire of the false lord crumbles around you and it feels like the world is coming to an end. Just like God saved Noah when the floods came, so will God savre you when the floods of chaos and destruction crash in around you. Focus on you Lord, he will save you from the mess and keep you focused on the life that is worth living.