Focal passage: 1 Peter 4:1-2, 12-19
For the past few months, I have been working with students prepping for AP Language and Literature exams. Because of the pandemic this year’s exam was different: one rhetorical analysis essay. My students and I reviewed how the prompt would be worded and essay scored, and then we delved into past questions.
As we read through the texts, we practiced noting the rhetorical or literary strategies used and to what effect given the context and overall message. My clever students pointed out allusions and juxtapositions. They mused on the pacing of the pronouns (one passage shifting from third person singular to first person plural at a very poignant moment) and the impact of repeated phrases.
Writing to his audience then, Peter, however, says he doesn’t want them to be shocked or surprised. Refining trials were coming. They would suffer. People would misunderstand, mistreat and malign them. “But,” Peter says, “rejoice …” That one tiny shift word pivots the command away from preparation to the joy and hope of proclamation: “do not be surprised … but rejoice!” It’s going to get bad, but it’s going to get so good! Why do we rejoice when we suffer in faithfulness to Christ? Because we don’t suffer alone. We suffer with Christ! There’s an intimacy with God and an opportunity for worship that only comes when we are despised and rejected.
So stay strong. Christ will not only sustain you, He will – once again – use what others meant for evil for good and even greater glory!