1 Peter 1:3-12 is one sentence in Greek, beginning with the line “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In the middle of the sentence Peter writes, “You have been grieved by various trials.” We know that this suffering could have included anything from being snubbed at a party to being crucified upside down, like Peter.
What do you say to people who suffer? I’ve been taught that you say very little. Perhaps you say, “I’m sorry” and then issue some sort of apology like, “This wasn’t God’s will” or “If I were God, I’d do things differently” or, at least, “We just can’t understand these things.”
That’s not what Peter did: “Blessed be” is “eulogetos” in Greek, from the prefix for “good” and “logos,” which means “Word, Reason, or Idea.” Peter Good-Worded God. He eulogized God.
“Peter, Nero killed my family.” “Well . . . Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
That is not what I learned in grief counseling courses in seminary.
I imagine that Peter said, “I’m sorry (as in ‘I have sorrow with you),” even wept their tears, but he didn’t apologize; he eulogized and then just wouldn’t stop talking. I’ve prayed through some immense traumas with folks, and sometimes Jesus will appear in visions. He often seems to be weeping, and he’ll say, “I’m sorry (as in, ‘I feel your sorrow’),” but he has never said, “If I were God, I’d do things differently.”
When I was 18, I had a job as a lifeguard at a community pool—not necessarily a good lifeguard. Due to my understanding of the transfer of momentum and knowledge of the diving board, I had learned that I could bounce a seven-year-old ten or twenty feet in the air. And I did. They often came down with an incredible smack—belly flops, back flops, all manner of flops. They’d smack, sink in the water, come up gasping for air, and immediately spin around wide-eyed and looking for me.
I discovered that in that moment I had an incredible power. If I screamed, “Oh my God! I’m so sorry! Are you OK?” Their lips would begin to quiver; they’d start to cry and then they would run home, tell Mom, and try to get me fired. But If I screamed, “Awesome! You flew like Superman! Way to Go!” . . . the quivering lips would begin to smile; they’d laugh and yell, “Do it again! Do it again!” (I always had a line of kids at the diving board waiting to get bounced.)
Same event but an entirely different experience depending on whether I apologized or eulogized. So, how do we explain that difference?
In psyche class, I learned about this thing called a “gestalt shift.” Around the turn of the last century, psychologists in Germany began to postulate that our brain fills in the missing details of any experience according to a “gestalt,” a pattern, or paradigm, held deeply in each one of us.
You’ve probably seen the picture of the showgirl/old woman, or the image of the two faces/chalice. What you see—showgirl or old woman, faces or chalice—is dependent on a gestalt within you, and when you see one instead of another, it’s called “a gestalt shift.”
What do you see when you look at Jesus on the tree in the garden on Mt. Calvary?
• Good or Evil? Death or Life?
• Our judgment or God’s Judgment or God’s Judgment of our judgment of His Judgment?
• The greatest tragedy or the Gospel?
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?” What does Peter see?
Verse 3, “…according to his great Mercy, he has begotten us anew (anagennao)” Five times in Scripture Jesus is called the “the only begotten (monogenes).” How could we be “begotten” and Jesus be “the Only-begotten” . . . unless he was begotten in us or us in him; unless we were in some sort of communion with him?
“…he has begotten us anew into a living hope,” We think hope is just an idea in our head, and Peter writes as if we’re an idea in Hope’s head.
“…to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,” That’s an inheritance that is not subject to chronological time. If I inherit eternal life, wouldn’t it mean that I am imperishable, undefiled, and unfading? Perhaps when I believe it, I enter God’s Rest, the Seventh day, the true self, the New Man hidden in Christ. And when I don’t believe it, I’m somehow in the flesh, the old man, the false self, and the outer darkness. And I need to repent (metanoia)—that’s a gestalt shift of epic proportions.
“…who by God’s power are being guarded by faith,” We think that we have to guard “the faith.” That’s what we often call “apologetics,” which is “a proof for the existence of God or explanation of faith.” Peter will later write, “Always be prepared to make a defense (apologia) for the hope that is in you.” Well, if that hope is alive, isn’t he perfectly capable of defending himself and who could ever explain God when he is the explanation of us? I think the “apologia” that God desires is a “eulogia,” a testimony, a witness. We think we have to guard the faith, but Peter just claimed that Faith is guarding us.
“…in this, you rejoice, since now for a little while it’s necessary that the tested genuineness of your faith… would result in praise glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus.”
There is nothing that God comes to know, by testing us.
But there is something that we come to know by testing him.
And that is that he is faithful to us when we are all utterly unfaithful to him.
God tests God at the cross that we would see that he’s faithful. God tests God in you that you would see he’s faithful in you. God passes the test, such that you would begin to eulogize him and see that even this is the revelation of Christ in you; Faith, Hope, and Love in you is Christ in you and you in Christ, the only begotten—an imperishable seed that grows into an entire new, and eternal, creation. Faith is divine treasure within us, and the Fire is divinity that surrounds us.
God has no need of endlessly torturing anyone. And yet everyone has need of the discipline of God for a time. For until you die to your own ego, you cannot know the Glory of God hidden in the sanctuary of your own soul and constantly radiating in creation all around you—Glory: the Good, the Life, even your own Life, an immeasurable weight of Glory that your ego cannot bear.
In Prayer for those who have suffered, Jesus will say “I’m sorry,” weep with those who weep, and often reveal that his wounds are on their body and theirs on his. It means that when you were rejected, beaten, or raped, he was rejected, beaten and raped. And when you forgave, you bled his glory.
The shape of your sufferings, even those you inflict on yourself, will become the shape of his glory in you, and you will know this once you have surrendered those sufferings to him. You are a theater for the eternal glory of God in Christ Jesus our Lord rising from a tomb that you once thought was yourself.
Verse 12, “…concerning this salvation, the prophets… inquired carefully, inquiring as to what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the subsequent sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories (plural!)… they were serving not themselves but you in the things that have now been announced to you through those that preached the Gospel to you… things into which angels long to look.”
The angels are utterly unimpressed by what we call “signs and wonders,” but they are utterly fascinated with faith, hope, and love—the glory of God that is God—rising in you; they worship God because of Christ revealed in you.
The next time you get bounced and then come up for air looking for an explanation, if you look to the principalities and powers of this world, the tribal deities, or your flesh, they will tell you to never jump again for you’ve failed and are endlessly rejected. But if you look to the communion table, and the man on the tree, and the one who controls every bounce, he will tell you: “This suffering means that I am making you in my own image by the power of my Word who always accomplishes that for which he has been sent. And so, you will see this suffering turn into our Glory.”
That’s not an apology; That’s a eulogy and an epic gestalt shift.
Blessed be the God and Father our Lord Jesus Christ!