Thursday, December 1, 2011

I Peter 4: Battle Scars

This chapter probably makes more sense to saints who have suffered persecution than it does to me. Peter is kind of like the grizzled Marine Gunnery Sergeant Tom Highway (played by Clint Eastwood) of the fabulous movie "Heartbreak Ridge", giving his untested Marines on-the-battlefield training about how to fight the enemy and stay alive.

"Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin."

This makes no sense - getting slapped around by some nasty pagans means I will sin no more? I doubt it. Here is what I DO see - the active, imperative verb - "arm yourselves." Sgt. Peter is telling the new fish, "you're in the war, ladies. Your enemy is strong. He wants to kill you! Listen to me and you'll stay alive to fight the good fight. First lesson - either in training or in combat, you're going to hurt sooner or later. You're in the war now!"

Amy Carmichael, the early 20th century missionary to India who saved hundreds of orphan girls from child prostitution, wrote this once-famous poem, "Hast Thou No Scar?":

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned.
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And piercèd are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?

I think Peter means that someone given grace to suffer for Christ as a victim of sinful behavior is blessed with increased revulsion for all sin. What once seemed empowering and gratifying now seems treasonous and self-hating. Having seen the elephant of rebellious persecution up close, the soldier's hatred for its fomenter and loyalty to the Lord of Hosts are intensified.   

What former partier turned saint can't relate to Peter's description of rejection by former "friends": "they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you."

But God replaces frenemies with a loving band of brothers skilled and committed to keeping each other alive. "Above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins. Be each one has received a gift, minister to one another....if anyone speaks, let his speak the oracles of God....that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever."

I can hear the Sarge saying, "Hear that, jarheads? Remember your training, watch your buddy's back, and pretty soon we'll be marching down the golden streets on V-S Day singin' the Hallelujah Chorus!"

"What's V-S stand for, Sarge?" a new fish sings out. 

"Victory Over Sin!" he calls out. "Now follow me - forward together!" 


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