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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, May 12, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  1 Peter 3:13–4:6

Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and respect. Maintain a good conscience so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight lives, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

Since, therefore, Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your time in the flesh no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the gentiles like to do, living in debauchery, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does. (NRSV)

Years ago, while working with college students in campus ministry, I came across Eric Etheridge’s stunning book of photographs, Breach of Peace. In the book, Etheridge offers updated portraits of Freedom Riders alongside their youthful mugshots during the days when these college-aged women and men decided, in the face of opposition and almost certain harm, to integrate interstate bus routes through the southern United States. At the time those mugshots were taken, each of these individuals had been arrested for acts that were then deemed illegal.

The students I was working with and I were enthralled and inspired by the courage of the Freedom Riders as we browsed the pages of photographs, marking how close in age the students I served were to these Freedom Riders when they first set out on their perilous journeys. Someone blurted out, “I don’t think I could do this!” Browsing further, we noticed several mugshots where some Freedom Riders appeared to sport smiles and slight grins, including a young future Congressman John Lewis.

What could produce such a smile in the face of suffering? How might doing good produce joy even in the midst of pain? There is no straightforward answer, but the author of 1 Peter, cognizant of the difficulties of Christian witness in times of persecution, offers precious clues. Here’s one: “Do not fear what they fear.” Each generation, I believe, produces such figures such as Freedom Riders, who somehow, through the spirit’s persistence, resist the urge to fear the same things their opponents fear and to dream what only God can cause us to dream. In doing so, they see past the fears that lock some in inaction and cause others to inflict pain. May the spirit of Christ, who when resurrected spoke peace, give us the freedom of those who do not fear.

Redeemer God, may the spirit of Christ dwell in me today, giving me the courage to press on without fear, living generously for the good of all. Amen.

Written by Joseph L. Morrow, Associate Pastor for Evangelism and Community Engagement

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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