Building Upside Down

Tony Sammut   -  

Day 1: Built into the New Temple

Read 1 Peter 2:1-8 

Peter is aware that his readers are going through great hardships – poverty, persecution, uncertainty about their future.  But he doesn’t want them to let those things make them people who are bitter, envious, or just as corrupt as some of the people around them who were getting ahead.  So Peter reminds them:

You don’t play by ‘those’ rules any more.  You’ve been born into a different Way of Life now.  Jesus’ way.”  It’s a Way that was and is rejected by many.  It doesn’t make sense for many people – to them, it’s upside-down.  But it’s actually the Way to true life.

It’s like a building.  And not just any building.  It’s like a Temple.  A place where we meet and experience the fullness of God.  And there was an incredible Stone to use as the foundation for the whole building.  But the old builders missed it.  They rejected it.  And many still do.

But not with you!  No, this Cornerstone is Jesus.  And together, you’re meant to build your life on Him.  So don’t get distracted with the things that others around you say are important.  Or the ways that others around you are building their buildings – manipulating, lying and cheating.  Those ways don’t work in this building.

You’re being built, together, on Jesus.  And when, together, you live the Jesus-Way, you become a house where God dwells.  One where others can come in and experience God for themselves.  His new ways and his true life.

Take a few moments to reflect particularly on 2:1 in light of 2:4-8.  Are there any ways you can think of where you have been using any of these things as “building blocks” in the way you do life?  Are there any ways you have been envious of someone else who has?

malice (ill will toward someone else, or willingness to do wrong in order to get ahead)

 deceit (lying or secrets)

 hypocrisy (pretending to be someone or something you’re not)

 envy (resentfully wanting what someone else has)

slander (speaking poorly of another in order to make others think less of them, or more of you)

Confess these things to Jesus, and ask Him to empower you with His very presence to build your life on Him, and for your life – just like the Temple – to be filled with His presence and love.

Day 2: Kingdom of Priests

Read 1 Peter 2:9-12

Yesterday, we read Peter’s words describing us as a Temple – people whose lives are “built” on Jesus to “house” His presence and love.  And now, Peter builds on that image even more.  We’re not just the Temple of Jesus, but we’re also called to be priests – those who live in the Temple and do the work of the Temple.

Priests had a pretty important job in the days of the Temple.  They were there to lead the people in worship; to share God’s Word; to bring people into God’s presence; to help them experience His forgiveness and to offer their gratitude.  Priests were there to help people experience the goodness of God.

And now, Peter says, this is our job.  It’s our calling.

Not that we’re actually all called to become priests and pastors, or to work in churches or cathedrals.  No!  We are the Temple.  In Jesus, God’s presence is with us wherever we go, wherever we work.  So our work – whatever it is – is meant to include this incredible calling of “priesthood”.  Of being people who bring God’s presence, and love, and forgiveness close to others.

Where do you work?  What do you do?  Who are the people you work most closely with?

Have you ever thought of yourself as your workplace “priest/pastor”?

Take some time now and ask God what it might look like for you to bring others closer to Jesus, or to bring Jesus closer to them today.

Ask God to bring someone who you work with to mind right now.  What do they need that only Jesus can do for them.  Pray for them right now.  Consider even writing them an email or a note of encouragement that might remind them of God’s perfect love for them.

Day 3: A Different Kind of Power Play

Read 1 Peter 2:13-25

Now that Peter has established who we’re called to be – a Temple (the place where God lives) and a Holy Priestood (people who bring Jesus close to others) – he begins to address what probably would have been some of the immediate questions that would come to mind for his audience…

That sounds all fine and good, Peter.  But how do we do that when the authorities are against us and everyone else lives according to a completely different value system, spirituality, and social hierarchy?

And in many ways, we shouldn’t be all that surprised by Peter’s words – live like Jesus did.

You’re FREE, says Peter.  Jesus is Lord, not Caesar.  You’re not bound to live according to Caesar’s rules, or anyone else’s expectations.  So don’t live like slaves to Caesar.

Live like slaves to God.  Ultimately, He’s the One in charge anyway.  So trust Him.

Don’t respond to corrupt authorities with the same kind of hatred and selfishness and violence they offer you.  Instead, submit to them.  Serve them.  Do good for their sake.  This is actually the most powerful way to show that they don’t “own” you – to love them willingly.

It’s also the most powerful way to show the love of Jesus – who himself showed His immeasurable power not by crushing His enemies, but by giving Himself completely for them.

Take a few moments and reflect on the authority figures in your life.  A parent.  A teacher.  A boss.  The government.

Are there any ways you feel that they have mistreated you or acted unjustly?  How do you want to respond (or how have you responded) as a result?

Read through this passage again in light of the person you have in mind.  Then pray a prayer of blessing over that person (or group).  Ask Jesus to help you to love and serve them in a practical way today.

3:1-7 Day 4: Partners, Not Property

Read 1 Peter 3:1-7

Power dynamics are everywhere.  Not just in government.  Not just in the workplace.  But of course, in the family too.

And in Peter’s time and culture, there were certain “accepted” power dynamics that existed between men and women, husbands and wives.  It was a strongly patriarchal culture.  Women (and wives) were viewed more as a husband’s property rather than partner.

And as part of that, wives were expected to follow whatever spirituality their husbands followed.  It was just expected.

So, if a woman came to follow Jesus, this could be an incredibly risky situation for her.  In walking away from her husband’s religion, she could risk ridicule, abuse, or even complete rejection and abandonment.  No doubt, it would have been tempting for new female converts to Christianity to just split from their husbands to avoid all the potential pain and heartache that would likely be in store for them.

But again, Peter says, the building blocks of Jesus’ Way are different.

“Don’t split,” says Peter.  Instead, submit to them, love them, serve them – so that by your incredible love they will see the incredible love of Jesus.  And perhaps they will actually come to follow your faith.

And just in case you think Peter was putting all the weight on women’s shoulders, think again.  He made a point to address the Jesus-following men as well.  And again, with the upside-down building blocks of Jesus.  “Husbands,” says Peter, “your wives deserve the same kind of respect and honour that you think you deserve.  You may have all the power in this relationship.  But use your power to elevate your wife to the status that Jesus Himself has given her – not property, but partner — a co-heir, along with you, to His gracious gift of life.

If you’re married, take time to reflect on your relationship with your spouse over the last weeks or months.  Are there any ways you’ve been treating your spouse more like property than a partner?  Are there ways that you have wanted to split instead of serve?  How might you be able to display the love of Jesus for your spouse by the way you love them today?  Ask Jesus to speak to you about this.  Then write your spouse a note, sharing with them your prayer for them and hopes for your partnership.

If you’re single, take time to reflect on your relationships with friends or family, and ask yourself these same questions.  Are there any ways you’ve bene treating a close relationship more like property than a partnership?  Are there ways that you have wanted to split instead of serve?  How might you be able to display the love of Jesus for this person by the way you love them today?  Ask Jesus to speak to you about this.  Then write this person a note, sharing with them your prayer for them and hopes for your partnership.

Day 5: The Jesus Way is Worth It!

Read 1 Peter 3:8-22

Peter’s thoughts around the upside-down building blocks of Jesus’ Way culminate here in 3:8-22.

Allow your reflections on all of this week’s readings to filter a little deeper into your heart and mind as you work through today’s passage.  Let’s do that through a simple reflection exercise called Lectio Divina.

Take a few deep breaths, thanking God for the gifts of today and for the time you have now to share with Him.

Read 1 Peter 3:8-22 slowly.  As you read, pay attention to any word, phrase, or image that sticks out to you.  Take a couple minutes in silence simply focusing on that particular word, phrase, or image.

Read 1 Peter 3:8-22 a second time.  After reading, take a few minutes and reflect: What about this word, phrase or image (that resonated from your first reading) is significant for your life and circumstances?  What do you think God may be saying to you?

Read 1 Peter 3:8-22 a third time.  After reading, take a few minutes to reflect and pray: How do you think God is calling you to respond to this reading?  Is there anything you want to do as a result?

Offer your reflections in prayer to God.  Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word, and ask Him for courage and faith to respond with action.