This post and four related up-coming posts are adapted from a talk I gave at the Crieff Fellowship in Scotland and European Leadership Forum in Poland.
The church is increasingly finding itself on the margins of our society. The issue of gay marriage has highlighted this for us again. We are out of step with our culture. Increasingly people are hostile to Christians. Our view of truth, of sexuality and marriage, of hell and judgment are not just rejected, but are considered deviant.
Don’t be surprised by this. Don’t think something strange is happening. This is normal Christian living. That’s what Peter says in 1 Peter 4:12-13:
‘Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.’
Peter is writing to Christians on the margins of society who face the same kind of indifference and hostility.
In 2:11 Peter says we are like foreigners in our own culture. Peter’s readers are not being imprisoned or thrown to the lions (that would come later). Instead they face the hostility and slander of their neighbours. Look at 2:12. They accuse you for doing wrong. Look at 3:16. They speak maliciously against us and slander us. Look, for example, at 1 Peter 4:4: people ‘are surprised that you do not join them in their wild, reckless living, and they heap abuse on you.’
This describes our experience in the West today.
So I want to highlight some principles from 1 Peter and then suggest some practical applications. The main thrust of 1 Peter is that we can thrive on the margins because of the hope we have in Christ. But in four future posts I’ll identify principles for developing a gospel and missional DNA in our churches.