by Christopher Harbin

Responding in Opposition
Christopher B. Harbin
1 Peter 4:12-19

We live in a society that seems to have lost any sense of meaningful civil discourse, how to disagree agreeably, and how to value people above ideas. Perhaps this has always been the case and I am simply unaware of the depth of the societal conflicts from the past. From talk shows to political attack adds to divorce communications to discussions among friends, it would appear that we have either lost something from the art of dialogue, or we have recently determined that civility and respect for the dignity of others is simply of no real importance. All that matters is victory for our point of view.

This issue is not limited to our own nation. It seems to have become status quo the world over. The issue has extended itself beyond the words and methods of our communications into various forms of violence far beyond the use of words. Recent years have seen genocide in Rwanda, Sudan, and Syria, as well as acts of terror as a means of discourse in places as diverse as Nigeria, Israel, Colombia, Peru, France, Ukraine, Myanmar, and the US. How do we respond to those with whom we disagree? Is there a more appropriate way to disagree without turning each other into enemies and combatants waging a struggle for a kind of supremacy that denigrates the dignity and personhood of others?

When I first looked at today's passage, I was not thinking about civility, discourse, and the way we treat one another. I was looking at the issue of suffering from persecution that is so apparent on the surface level of the text. Peter has very openly discussed suffering as a very natural extension of the Christian faith, as the expected result from the norms of faithfulness to the gospel of Christ Jesus. This suffering is perhaps what first grasps our attention, for we have swallowed a perspective on faith that it should lead to a life of ease and affluence and power. This theme of suffering for the gospel grabs our atte ...

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