In considering the Revised Common Lectionary readings for May 2nd, I am immediately drawn to the reading from 1 Peter. Indeed, these verses seem almost magnetic after a long week that has devolved (or evolved) into prayer more times than I can count. Whether it is reading an article on Facebook or having newspaper clippings handed to me out of today’s local paper, I have been regularly driven to a place where I have felt a need to lower my head into my hands and pray. As a result, I find this scripture magnetic. 1 Peter 2:1-3 says: (NRSV)
“Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation–if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
I find these words have a certain magnetism because they are both incriminating and freeing to me. I find them incriminating in the sense that there is a part of me that wants to be angry and malicious. When friends, neighbors, and colleagues are hurting due to the actions of other individuals and special interest groups, I want to make that pain stop, but my professional avenues to address these issues are limited. This situation is extremely frustrating to me and to many others.
In the midst of these frustrating situations, I hear a voice in these scriptures. Is God good? Yes. Have I experienced the goodness of God? Yes. Which do I long for more–the pure, spiritual milk or vengeance? I long for something better than maliciousness. I hear the voice of God calling and the invitation is to both faith and relinquishment. I am called to have faith in the God I know is good and to let go of my desire for vengeance. It is time to let go of anger, hatred, and frustration. I know there is a part of me which feels frustrated and allows that anger to fester into malice, but with God’s help I can move this place from one of incrimination to one with freedom from my own anger.
Let me try and explain it another way. In our church this past Sunday we read the story of Stephen in Acts 6-7. One of the details that has always slipped my attention is the last thing Stephen does before dying. Stephen asks God to forgive the people who have caused his death. Like Jesus, Stephen decides that it is more important to forgive than to have vengeance. The sense of forgiveness that Stephen exudes and that Jesus modeled reminds me of the promise Paul makes about how the protective peace of God (which surpasses all understanding) when we make our requests known to God with joy (Philippians 4:4-7).
Forgiveness, peace, and trust all seem to dwell in a symbiotic relationship in a life of faith. For me this smorgasbord of faith is at the heart of what Peter is referring to in this passage. God is good and forgiveness, peace, trust, and friends all seem to flow from God’s goodness in a very consistent manner. These gifts are freeing and I feel freed when they take the place of anger in my heart and mind.
Does any of this mean I will advocate for righteousness any less? No. I will continue to advocate but I will also remember to do so without malice. I have tasted and seen that God is good. I will serve God with that truth in my mind partially because of the blessing of today’s scripture. I am thankful for the gift of this scripture.