The idea of loving one’s enemies is central to the Christian life and doctrine. No true follower of Christ would deny this. Yet it is one thing to say it when there is no threat around and quite another to practice it under the shadow of possible crucifixion. Peter seems to see a need to encourage these churches who are living under the threat of impending persecution from Emperor Nero, which finally climaxes with the burning of Rome in 64 AD. Peter is attempting emphasize and encourage these believers by reminding them of an essential aspect of the Christian faith. “Although Christians would suffer injustice on this earth, there would come a time when God would right every wrong and reward those who have endured persecution for his name.”[1] Peter sums this emphasis up with the exhortation to “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:6-7, NIV).

However, this is more than simple reminder that God is in control; it is a reminder that God is not only aware of what is going on but also is concerned in the plight of the believers. The Greek word translated as “cares” in verse 7 is melό which according to Strong’s means “to take an interest in.”[2] Indeed, the emphasis of the word seems to imply to take concern of with apprehension.[3] The recipients of the letter would have been able to take comfort in the idea that God was apprehensive about their plight and would eventually right any wrongs in “due time.”

Christians in America have no true notion what persecution is. We have been blessed by God to live in country that allows us the freedom to worship Jesus without fear of death to ourselves and our loved ones. One only needs to read an issue of the Voice of the Martyrs magazine to realize how true this really is. In America, the Supreme Court rules that same-sex marriages are legal in all fifty states and many Christians start clamoring it’s the “end of time.” This is not persecution. This is just the acceptance of sin by the world. Real persecution is having to decide whether to be crucified upside down or not as Peter did.[4] For the most part we don’t have to worry whether or not attending worship services are going to result in jail time or death. We are free by the grace of God to worship without fear.

While the verse upon which this discussion rests is short and succinct; it is packed with theological principals. However, I believe there are three main principles that Peter wanted the recipients to extract from his statement:

  1. Humbling Oneself – The word humble is translated from a derivative of the Greek word tapeinos, meaning “lowly in position or spirit.”[5] In this passage, I believe Peter intended both to be assumed.
  2. Casting All Your Anxieties upon God – The Greek word pas is translated here as “all.” This can be slightly misleading as the emphasis in the Greek “of the total picture then is on “one piece at a time.”[6] The implication, then, is one of casting each problem as they come before God. Peter does not intend for his audience to look forward to the problems ahead. No, he expects them to focus on what is at hand, and cast that before God.
  3. God Cares for You – As previously mentioned, the word in the Greek carries the connotation of apprehensively taking an interest in something. This does imply that God is afraid of the situation, rather that He is dismayed at the occurrence. Peter intended that those who read or heard these words would take comfort in the fact that God was empathetic to their plight.

At this point, a pause must be interjected into the discourse. Time must be taken to test whether or not the principles I have asserted are consistent with the rest of scripture. I will use the principle of “a matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” to validate the theological principles I have proposed (Duet. 19:15b). If I am able to offer two separate Biblical authors, offer the same principles as the ones I have presented, then we will proceed on the assumption of validation.

I will begin with humbling oneself. The Gospel of Matthew records these words of Jesus, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (5:3). Here it is straight from the Jesus, himself. Humility is a requirement of entering the kingdom. I submit that no other evidence is required, however, to remain true to the principle imposed I will offer a second piece supporting scripture. This can be found in the book of Proverbs, where King Solomon wrote, “Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor” (29:23).

Moving on to casting all your anxieties upon God, Jesus once again provides validation when He said:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they…? Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:25-26, 34).

Jesus does not just offer the principle of casting your worries on God, but rather emphasizes the one problem or one day at a time approach just as Peter does. Since Peter was one of the original twelve disciples, it is indeed certain that he learned this principle directly from the Messiah. Yet for the purposes of consistency, I submit as evidence King David who wrote, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Ps 55:22).

Finally, the principle of God cares for you must be validated through the filter of scripture. This one is a little bit trickier, for it must not only be shown that God takes an interest in the plight of man, but that He is empathetic to their plight as well. I, there for offer the Apostle Paul who wrote:

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16).

In this passage, Paul not only asserts that Jesus understands our weaknesses, but that because of this empathy we can receive help when we need it.

While Paul states God’s empathy, Luke’s Gospel account records Jesus demonstrating it. Jesus is approaching the city of Na’in. As He approaches the gate He sees a dead man being carried out of the city. Being her only son, the dead man’s widowed mother is grieving severely. Luke wrote this about Jesus reaction,

“When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother” (Lk. 7:13-15).

The raising of the widow’s son from the dead was effected by Jesus’ empathy towards the grieving woman. When He saw how deeply she grieved, Jesus was moved to help. Unlike other resurrections which He performed, the catalyst here was empathy rather than the glorification of The Father.[7] While the latter was the result, the former was the motivation.

Having established the matter of validation of the proposed principles, our focus must shift to application. How should we, as individual Christians, live out the principles of 1Peter 5:6-7? The answer is simply stated: Live one day at a time; knowing that God understands our trouble and his eager to help us through it if you should ask. He is not absent or without empathy, rather He fully understands our plight as humans and Christians and offers every resource at his disposal to get us through it.

I said it was easily stated, not easily done. As humans we focus on all our problems and worries. At times, we even imagine problems that either aren’t actually there; or else; they have not actually occurred yet. We tend to look at everything except the moment. This is why Peter extorts us to humble ourselves. When we view our position has being under God’s control, then we can wait for God to work things out in his perfect timing. This patience is developed as we grasp the fullness of the truth that God understands what we are experiencing and is moved by that understanding into compassionate acts of love towards us. This is achieved through constant fellowship and communion with God.  Peter certainly stated it best when he wrote, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”

Bibliography

[1] New Illustrated Bible Commentary, ed. Earl Radmacher, Ronald B. Allen, and H. Wayne House (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999), 1674.

[2] James Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Abingdon Press, 1890).

[3] , Helps Word-Studies (Helps Ministries, Inc).

[4] “The Acts of Peter ” in The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Claredon Press, 1924).

[5] Strong.

[6] Helps Word-Studies.

[7] See the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11:17-44


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