Resist [the devil], steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ [Jesus] will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little.
1 Peter 5:9-10
Welcome to early Christianity in Asia Minor. This is your primer on assimilation in whatever “Babylon” you find yourself— a guide on how to survive as a marginalized people, strangers in your own homeland. And, if you stick with this program, this advice can help you soften or even escape the blows of daily persecution. You are not alone.
In this user’s-guide-cum-survival-kit, Peter (or the author writing in Peter’s voice) addresses the faithful as “chosen sojourners” (1:1). Throughout the book, he addresses the question of how one should reconcile newfound faith in Jesus with one’s past and with the surrounding world which has remained the same— with which one is now out of sync.
One section (2:18-3:7) deals with Christian life in a hostile world— how one is to deal with conflict or friction at home, at work, and beyond— so that Christianity will not seem so alien and hence less subject to attack. The author advises his audience to behave well in public, to submit to the political and social order where possible. The tension between the two worlds is inevitable, so one might as well try to find common ground and live with it as well as possible— and it is possible to do this without surrendering what is distinctive about Christianity. The moral responsibility to critique and change remains. Admittedly, contemporary readers may find portions of this letter (“the household codes,” treating the conduct of slaves toward their masters and spouses toward each other, as well as a section claiming a positive value in suffering) hard to swallow. However, it may help to keep in mind that this is advice intended for a Christian living in a non-Christian setting.
Nonetheless, the key is to focus on Christ in all things:
• Baptism in Christ is a new birth, and it frees you to start anew, in a way,
• Salvation is rooted in Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection,
• That suffering and death and how Jesus bore it is an instructive example for how we should live, persisting in faith,
• The resurrection is a source of hope— that we, like Christ, can transcend the suffering, pain, and death of this world.