The Holy Spirit’s mercy irons us in our trials
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Peter 1:3). Peter begins this letter with praise to God. This praising to God is a celebration of worship. This expression of blessing to God is found very often as doxologies, especially in psalms. So probably, the early churches in Asia Minor must have easily understood that Peter started this letter with worship.
But this sounds a little strange to me. Thinking of the background of this letter, the Christians of the churches in Asia Minor were in the midst of a risky situation. They had a severe possibility of losing their lives under their circumstance of worldwide persecution. Peter wrote this letter to Christians in such cruel situations. But simply, I have a question: how can we praise the Lord in a painful situation? How could Peter do that? How could the early church people understand this letter?
When circumstances threaten
It is sure that Peter wrote this letter to Christians. Peter definitely trusted these churches and greatly respected these church people. He must have known well about their deep predicament with tears and crying. Probably his letter must have reminded themselves as God’s chosen people “to be sprinkled with his blood” (1:2).
So Peter must have known that his readers knew the meaning of blood in the imminent reality, because there were so many people dying. And still, even now, we know so many people dying.
When we face an unchangeable reality and are defeated under the circumstance, we have a struggle. We hold our faith tightly, but still struggle. This struggle causes an uneasy feeling, anxiety or fear. We are depressed and our hearts shrivel. We shrink with fear.
This happen to all of us, especially when we spend unstable time in a severe circumstance. This time is very painful because the reality challenges us. Questions make us feel doubt and doubt makes us lose conviction. Then, we get depressed and self-pity covers us with a sense of wretchedness. We flinch and blanche with fear.
Ironing shrunken hearts
However, the Bible says “by his great mercy.” The Japanese Kanji character for mercy (originally from a pictograph of the Chinese character), shows that someone irons a shrunk heart with an antique style of the iron, not the modern electric iron we use now. Using the antique iron, someone irons our shrunk heart with a moderate temperature. It has neither a high temperature nor a low temperature, but exactly the right temperature.
This is the work of Holy Spirit. This Comforter irons our shrunk heart with exactly the right temperature again and again for our healing and for our regeneration.
God has done this to us and is doing this even now. And this God raised Jesus from the dead.
There were so many people dying behind this passage in 1 Peter. And now, we still have so many people dying in this world. But this God raised Jesus from the dead in the midst of people’s dying. Jesus died like any other person but his dying has swallowed death in his victory (1 Corinthians 15:54–55).
This is the work of the God’s great power. And God works this power for all of us to shield our faith from the danger and restore our conviction in God’s great mercy.
Sometimes, we say we have faith. But faith is not something we have had within us from the beginning, nor something born inside of ourselves. Rather, faith is something to bring into the midst of our lives from outside of ourselves.
God definitely makes us grasp the conviction that we all have been regenerated by believing that Christ Jesus was raised. In God’s ultimate power, we can stand up again in a living hope through the resurrection. And in this living hope, there is a life which gives a true life.
The light of our living hope
Peter wants to tell people about this joy so they can be saved in the light of this living hope. He knows well how wretched he used to be. Through Christ’s blood, Peter found what he had never known before. Through the resurrection, Peter found himself regenerated in the light of the living hope. He found this; the only thing to do is to live in the light of this living hope. This is our Christian hope in the salvation to be revealed in the last time.
So Peter could praise God. We seem to hear his strong, praising voice, singing with tears. Even if God challenges us, we praise God.
Of course, we may stumble over many trials and sometimes may fall. But our faith never disappears because of the God’s shield. Nothing can conquer God’s shield. Our God wipes away every tear from our eyes (Revelation 7:17).
Again, we seem to hear joyful voices from this letter. And now, we also lift our voices together. Praising and singing, we follow our Lord Jesus Christ.
Heavenly Father, O Lord,
Have mercy on this world,
With your steadfast love and your abundant mercy.
Restore to us the joy of your salvation and sustain in us a willing spirit.
Let us walk again in your living hope from here to follow as a disciple of Jesus our Lord.
Yukari Kaga of Japan spoke on Wednesday evening, 22 July 2015, at Assembly 16. Yukari pastors several small Mennonite congregations in Hokkaido. She is chief director of the Peace Mission Center and serves at the Mennonite Education and Research Center in Japan.