Much like Peter himself, or at least how I would imagine him, the tone of his First Epistle is one of urgency and intensity. He is speaking to the Church in exile, writing from the belly of the beast, Rome, or as he calls it in Chapter 5, Babylon. His confidence is in the power of resurrected life and living to not only sustain us, but enable us to live vibrantly and faithfully, under any regime of Politic and Religion.
Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
1 Peter 2:13-17
Though clearly writing to those in exile, this epistle is filled with exuberance and hope. Again and again Peter calls us to the way of Jesus and the journey it embarks us on as sojourners and foreigners in this world. Through our good deeds, humility and grace we will display the glory of God even in the midst of the most hostile of circumstance and opposition. Peter is intense and urgent using over 30 imperative verbs (an average of one command in every three verses).
Yet, sitting like a crown jewel in the heart of his epistle is this:
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:8
The call to love. The call to cover each other. Because it can get pretty rough out there.
Certainly 2022 (and the couple of years preceding it) have tested and stretched many of us in ways that we really haven't had to face before. This has caused a lot of rethinking and reshaping to take place in all facets of our lives, our faith not being the least of the things challenged. We need a wide swath of grace for, and with, each other as we navigate times like this.
Peter's call to us is that we would cover each other. It is critical to note that the command is not to "cover up" the multitude of sins that get exposed and that beckon to us in times of suffering and provocation, but rather to let love be our canopy, as we carry each other through these times. Let love be that which covers and shelters us as we find our way forward in obedience to Christ. Particularly when it is not just a road less traveled that is in front of us, but one that is yet to be orienteered and discerned. To "love each other deeply" or as the old KJV would have it, "have fervent charity", has the sense of a love that is "stretched out" (Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 11, p. 115). Eerdmans.) A love that is magnanimous and flexible, the fabric of which can be stretched a very long way to reach the margins and provide shade and shelter across a vast space. A love that covers a multitude of stumbles and shortcomings. A love that creates an atmosphere where it is safe to be vulnerable. Where, sheltered from the harsh elements of hate, fear and scandal, one can step towards a self disclosure where healing, hope and wholeness can be found and the power of sin and shame is broken.
In this New Year let us be keenly aware of the need to cover each other. To love well. We need the covering that community provides perhaps more than we ever have before.
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load ... Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Galatians 6:1-5; 9-10
Under the Canopy of love,