IV. Occasion

IV. Occasion

Strange as it may seem, it is the character of grace itself that provides the occasion for this letter (see 5:12). The readers had found that their life in grace involved a basic conflict with the prevailing norms and customs of their society. That conflict had expressed itself in a variety of ways that together comprise the readers' suffering. We should not understand this suffering as a state-organized campaign of persecution against Christians. Rather, the suffering of the readers resulted from the social tensions created by their distinctive lifestyle. Their way of life inspired discrimination, slander, ostracism, and reproach from the non-Christians around them (1:6; 2:12, 19-20; 3:9, 13-17; 4:3-4; 5:8-10).

If Peter understood such suffering to be part and parcel of Christian life, clearly his readers did not. To them the sufferings seemed strange (4:12) and called into question the reality and vitality of their faith. Therefore, Peter writes in order to explain the nature of grace and to urge them to submit to the way of grace, which leads to glory (see the purpose in 5:12, summarized in 5:10). While grace accounts for the readers' suffering, grace also casts that very suffering into an entirely new light. Grace stimulates confidence, faithfulness, and joy as the readers anticipate glory when Christ returns.