Peter now concludes his first letter, challenging elders, after teaching them in Chapters 1-4:
- To be born again to a living hope;
- To be holy;
- To be a living stone and a holy people;
- To submit to authority;
- To be in perfect unity between husbands and wives;
- To suffer well for righteousness’ sake;
- To be stewards of God’s grace; and
- To not be surprised when testing comes.
Peter concludes in part:
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Pet 5:1-3).
I was elected as an elder in 2019, just before the pandemic of 2020 began. One crisis is enough; two can be disastrous. We were also facing the need to select a new pastor. Before long, I found that there was an expectation among the other elders that I should fall into line with their desires. This was “under compulsion” as Peter describes it above. I was clearly in the minority and standing in the way of their plans. They had already decided who the new pastor would be and were willing to forego a process stated clearly in the church bylaws. Instead of respecting “the loyal opposition” they even met secretly to make sure they had the votes to silence me. According to the Scripture commanding that we shepherd the flock, I realized that the best thing I could do for the church was to resign rather than fight.
So I write here as one chastised:
“And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Pet 5:4-5; James 4:6).
Was I the “proud” that God opposes?” It was just after resigning that my wife Sue took the fall I have written about recently, with injuries that have lasted more than a year.
I have been crushed as I wrote this, suddenly forced to consider a possible connection between my failed eldership and my wife’s injury. Did the devil take us down due to my pride?
What is Peter’s injunction for this situation?
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:6-11).
I say no. It was the opposite. I have resisted the devil inside God’s house. I have humbled myself by resigning. Now our suffering is seen by God as the result of persecution for a “little while,” and we await in unshaken faith for the God of all grace to strengthen Sue and me. He is doing that for us right now.
Stay firm in your faith in the God of all grace, in perfect unity with each other!
“By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ” (1 Pet 5:12-14).
On to 2 Peter!