1 Peter 1:18 “…you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers…”
The first century Christians to whom Peter wrote his first letter had far more to contend with than car problems or long working hours. Christianity brought persecution. For some it was government sponsored violence. For others it was dealing with rejection and isolation from former friends, family, or fellow members of the synagogue. Peter was writing to comfort suffering people.
As Peter encouraged them to struggle on with living as people who don’t belong to this world anymore, he reminded them of the way of life from which they had been redeemed. Now, when we think of our redemption, we usually think first of the guilt of our sins and the punishment from which Jesus set us free, and rightly so. The break in our relationship with God, his anger, and the death which follows are the prime predicaments of human existence. Where these things remain, no amount of tinkering with life or adjusting our habits makes any difference in the end.
But when Jesus set us free from guilt, judgment, and death, he did not leave us under sin’s control to remain its slaves. As Peter reminds us here, “…you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers…” For the people of Peter’s day, that empty way of life might have included the belief that a visit to the temple prostitute would somehow help the family have that boy they always wanted, or that worshiping the emperor was an honorable performance of civic duty which strengthened the community, or that working hard with your own hands was the shameful fate of inferior people who didn’t count for anything.
For the people of our day, that empty way of life might take us to the soccer fields where parents are cheering on their little athletes, or smart phone screens people stroke for hours in search of entertainment, or long hours at work pursuing a successful career. Please don’t misunderstand. Many fine Christian people who are active in their churches may find themselves doing any of these things. But if driving new cars, living in middle class neighborhoods, managing a successful career, and raising a fine, fresh-faced family is all there is to life; if there is no Jesus, no forgiveness, no life after death; then for all of its appealing appearance, these are features of the kind of empty way of life from which we have been redeemed and set free.
Perhaps we can appreciate our redemption more when we consider the fuller way of life to which we have been set free. We have been set free to handle the miraculous power of God’s word, to use it daily and see it work its wonders in the people it touches. We have been set free from a life that needs to be turned in on myself, and consumed with how I am doing. Our sins? Christ sacrificed for sins once for all. The daily necessities of life? God meets all our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. That means that we are free to be concerned with the work of God, and concerned with the needs of our neighbor. God has given us a life that has real meaning, real purpose now, and real glory and joy forever.
We have been redeemed, not for an easy life, but for a full and blessed life of service to the one who paid with his blood to set us free.