1 Peter 2:21. For to this [suffering] you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
What is the nature of our relationship to Christ? This is the big question that we explore every day here at TLIC. Is Christ our savior, or is Christ our example? Is Christ a gift to us, or is Christ a guide for living? Is Christ the end, or is Chris the means to an end?
Here in 2:21 Peter is encouraging the slaves in this church community to follow Jesus’ example in suffering. But what Peter knows, and what we too must always remember is that before Jesus can be our example, he must first be our savior. All of our understanding of Jesus Christ must begin with him as our Savior, our gift, our end. Christ also suffered for you.
Why is this order so important? Savior first, example second.
Because we must never turn Jesus’ life into just something to live up to (WWJD?). Just a teaching to follow, or a lifestyle to emulate. If we do, we have failed to live by grace through faith. What we need more than anything is to trust what Jesus has done FOR US. First and foremost, we need to trust that Jesus bore our sins on the cross. We need to know that we are truly forgiven and absolved of all our unrighteousness. Until we trust fully in the work of the cross for us, any talk of Jesus our example will only lead to death. The death that comes at the hands of self-righteous example following.
Think about Peter’s own personal relationship with the cross. The first time Jesus mentioned the cross Peter rebuked him. At Jesus’ cross itself Peter denied him. But then Peter was graciously forgiven, absolved, and restored by Christ. And what happened? Peter made the cross of Christ not only his forgiveness, but also the paradigm for all of life. That’s what this whole letter is about – living the crucified life. Letting the cross guide how you respond to suffering, and to one another. Peter doesn’t quote Jesus’ teachings as our example. He doesn’t review the Sermon on the Mount and say “go do likewise.” He doesn’t list all the good deeds of Jesus and tell us to get to work. No. He points us to the cross. The very thing that at one time evoked all his fight or flight instincts, now became his example. His pattern. His very personhood.
Christian, the cross of Christ is first our power for living and then it is our example for living. Self-sacrifice. Submission. Humility. Honoring others. Suppressing the need to be noticed, heard, and affirmed all the time. Releasing others from all the expectations we place over their heads. No vengeance. No reviling. No threatening. Not having to win every argument. Living simply. Practicing self-denial and self-control. Basically every command in the New Testament is Christ’s call to take up our cross and follow him.
It is Jesus’ unbroken trust in God on the cross that saved us, and now his trust in God is the gift of our salvation. And now his trust is our example to live by. Trusting God’s justice and mercy. Trusting his grace and love. Trusting that “to live is Christ.”
Do you see Jesus primarily as your savior or your example?
You in Christ
Why must Christ be your savior before he can be your example?
Christ in you
Where do you need to allow the cross to be your example for living today?
Playlist: Follow Christ.
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