Tag Archives: Peter

83: Injustice

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When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” 1 Peter 2:23 NIV

Turning the other cheek, as Jesus counselled us to do, is a difficult teaching for many of us. As a former doormat, I used to let people not just walk all over me, but grind their muddy boots into my soul as well. It took me a long time to realise that this was not what the Lord was recommending. We should not seek out suffering, nor is it wrong to protect ourselves from hurt. Boundaries and self-defence mechanisms are necessary tools for getting through life. But when we are insulted or treated badly, it is our reactions that should mark us out as different.

The reason for this, as I have come to understand it, is that whatever is happening to us in the earthly, we maintain as God’s children, our integrity, which is eternal. Julian of Norwich saw in her understandings from the Lord that our true selves are incorruptible and stay close to God’s breast all the while we are alive. Nothing can touch or harm them in any way that will impact the eternal, the true and manifest wholeness and perfection of them. So although suffering hurts us of course, it cannot hurt that unreachable self whom God keeps close. This is why Paul (or whoever the writer of Hebrews was) said “What can man do to me?” echoing Psalm 56 amongst others. It seems we might answer, “Well, quite a lot, actually,” but when we remember that this same man had been beaten, stoned, jailed, shipwrecked and persecuted for following Christ, we must take these words seriously.

For my own part, I think that any kind of insult or abuse loses its power over us when we bear it with gentleness. So yes, we call injustices what they are, and as far as possible we protect ourselves and others from ill treatment, and from inflicting it. Systematic abuse must be escaped and challenged whenever possible, this righteous anger and action is also part of following Jesus: we stand up for widows, orphans, and speak for the voiceless. But where it is appropriate and we are able to, turning the other cheek can be an effective tool for the gospel. It was certainly when I bore the bullying silently and without redress that my school peers got bored of tormenting me. “For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God,” says Peter in his first letter (chapter 2, v 19) and he is talking about the severe injustices borne under slavery.

This bearing with the sorrows of today with quiet dignity because we live in the knowledge of eternity (whilst owning our own wholeness and integrity kept safe within the bosom of our God) is the heart of gospel living to this man who walked closely with Jesus. It might rankle with us today, but there is a deep and precious wisdom and a powerful witness in patient, gentle endurance, especially when paired with forgiveness, and Peter, for one, believed it changed those hurting us.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

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9: Disbelieved

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But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” Luke 24:11 NIV

Two thousand years on and women are still used to being classed as lesser witnesses. For much of history we have been branded hysterical, untrustworthy and illogical. There is something deeply painful about not being believed. Imagine how these female disciples must have felt, shamed and pained as the men dismissed them and their amazing story!  I know something of this kind of pain particularly within my chronic illness, and have had cruel and disdainful treatment from medics, health professionals and even friends.

I see the same attitude time and time again around those with so-called “invisible” illnesses that are hard to quantify or diagnose, and with those with mental illnesses or depression.   One of the kindest and best things you can ever do for someone suffering with such a problem is to believe them. Believe them when they say they can’t do something, or that it is difficult, or that they are in pain, even when it seems hard for you in a healthy mind and body to credit.

When our experience is very different from the one being related, we can be very quick to dismiss the witnesses. And if we are prejudiced and already disinclined to believe the person because of their gender, their race, their religion, if they are in some way, not like us, or not quite the ticket, our belief is likely to be still weaker.

Only Peter of the twelve, went to check out the women’s story. Don’t you think he was glad he did?  Since then, many people have dismissed the gospel message as nonsense, but God is fond of using things that seem on the surface to not make sense, things that seem upside down or back to front to teach us. He delights in turning things on their head and using the small and weak to topple the rich and the powerful. He would rather have his earthly ministry funded by a collective of women than top businessmen, and rather have fishermen and tax collectors as his pupils, than the elite of the Temple schools. He would rather announce his resurrection to a group who were unlikely to be heard, than to government officials. After rising victorious from defeating hell and death, he would rather have a barbeque on the beach with his friends than stand in the arena preaching about his triumph.

Listen. Consider. Believe.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com