The Conduct of the Free
Christopher B. Harbin
1 Peter 2:11-22
Freedom. That is one of the issues celebrated this weekend in the United States. We memorialize those who have served and died in the armed forces of this nation, reportedly to protect and promote our freedoms. The question, however, is what are those freedoms and what does it mean to truly be free? It is not enough to live as citizens of the world superpower and claim to be free of oppression. It is simply too easy to find oppression creeping into our lives in spite of any concerns of political forces that would restrict our lives in meaningful ways. What truly characterizes a life lived in freedom? Is freedom all about the advancement of self without restrictions? Does it perhaps mean a little more than that?
Peter's words in the immigrant epistle were directed at a people who had lost their homeland or were living in exile from it. There may be some discussion about whether this epistle was written prior to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, but it soon circulated among an immigrant community living in exile with no recourse to return to a homeland in Israel. Throughout the lives of the recipients of this letter, Jerusalem no longer existed and Jews were banished from at least the majority of the major cities of the Roman Empire. They were not simply immigrants in foreign lands, their presence in important cities was often deemed illegal.
The believers in the Dispersion who were not Jews were often considered Jews anyway by the rest of the gentile populace. As far as most of the Romans and others were concerned, a Christian was simply a member of a sect within Judaism. As a result, they fell under the same stigma as the Jews. After Nero's blaming the fire that destroyed Rome upon the Christians, they could be thrown in prison or killed under an accusation of being a Christian. This was not a case of systematic persecution in which Christians were sought out, but something akin to undocumented ...
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