Today’s reading from the first epistle of Peter (no, Ehrmanites and anti-Ehrmanites, I’m not going to discuss authorship here) takes the wonderfully complex conception of audience that begins in the first verses of the book (those who are exiled in Asia but whose election is through the blood of Christ rather than the passover blood of the Exodus from Egypt) and plays out some of its implications for the life of faithfulness. The people of Christ, the way this passage imagines us, are the ransomed ones, delivered neither from a mortal king nor even from devils but from the “vain traditions” (KJV) that once ruled our lives.
The text calls these redeemed faithful to love one another, not an uncommon command in the New Testament, but the context here is a strong reminder that, whatever Church is, we stand in decided continuity with whatever Israel was. Like Israel, the Church always stands as a community in exile, no matter whether we reside in friendly or neutral or hostile political regimes. And whether things as we know them come to a crashing halt in our lifetimes or a thousand years from now, we, like the Jews in exile, stand at the turning of the age.
So this reading stands as a reminder that, in the course of living out that calling called Church, the stories we tell about ourselves and the vocabularies we use to name the good life are always connected to the particular stories and vocabularies of Israel and Torah, and we are at our best when we find ways creatively to fuse the best philosophy and literary form and science at our disposal with those very particular traditions. When we fail to bring those things to bear on the stories, or when the stories become mere decorative additions to the reigning philosophy of the day, or when we forget that the history that stands between us and the first century is both a blessing and a challenge, then we do something other than our best. Such is the basic thesis of church history.
This week’s is a short reflection, partly because I’m exhausted from wrapping up a semester (and losing half a week of work while my daughter recovered from strep throat) and partly because… no, I’ve got no other excuse. Look back here next week for another Bible post with some more content to it.