When I first read through 1 Peter 5, the chapter we are reading together today, Peter’s commands jumped out at me. Shepherd the flock. Be subject to the elders; Clothe yourselves with humility. Humble yourselves. Cast all your anxieties on him. Be sober-minded and watchful and merciful. Resist the devil.
I started to think about selecting a few of these commands to write about. I have always loved the image of a shepherd, so I began to think about how I could apply that idea to our current lives today.
And then I read through the chapter again, and a different theme came into focus: you are not alone. No, these exact words are not in this letter. However, the language Peter chooses to use implies that he is encouraging his readers to remember that they are in community with one another. Although they may feel alone at times, they are members of a community of believers.
I knew that Peter had written this letter, but I did not know his intended audience. I learned that the recipients of this letter were “those chosen, living as exiles” (1 Peter 1:1). These exiles were most likely persecuted Christians. It makes sense, then, that Peter felt led to encourage them to remember that they were not alone in a harsh world.
In verse 9, Peter writes, “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:9) Peter is referring to the devil here, and he is exhorting us to resist him. Peter encourages us in our suffering by reminding us that others in the world are suffering in the same ways that we are. This is an encouragement not because we wish for others to suffer – but because it reminds us that there is a community of sufferers. We can encourage each other – and receive encouragement from each other – in our suffering.
My favorite example of Peter reminding us that we are not alone comes at the very beginning of this letter. In verse 2, Peter writes, “…shepherd the flock of God that is among you…being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3). By using the word flock (twice!) Peter reminds us that we are part of a group, a community of believers. We are not alone. More importantly, we are reminded in this verse that we have a shepherd to follow. He is the only shepherd we can completely trust; in fact, Peter refers to him as the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4). Thanks be to God!