Recently I had the opportunity to visit a beautiful city in a land that has a long and sad history of oppressive regimes. For many years the rich had oppressed the poor, and the poor had become poorer until they rose up in rebellion and overthrew the rich oppressors. A new regime was set up, which became oppressive and controlling. The new leaders lived in opulence, while the poor were still poor. This regime eventually fell too, and now the city is supposed to be free. On the surface it looked fine, a modern city where people were free to get education and jobs, to come and go as they pleased. However I could see and feel that they were still oppressed, not free to say what they really thought.
It made me think of 1 Peter 1:18-19, where Peter talks about the empty way of life handed down to us by our ancestors: ‘For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God’.
I saw this at work in that place. Despite the human attempts to break free from the oppression, control and poverty, there was no real freedom. I’ve seen this many times in the lives of individuals and families, but I saw it in a new and much bigger and wider way there. Peter says that Jesus was the one sent by God to pay the price for us to be set free from the inheritance that comes from the sin and selfishness of our ancestors. I’m sure that, in the past, some of the people of that city and country must have genuinely wanted to help the poor and oppressed people, but they would have got caught up in their own sin.
I realised too, in a bigger way, the truth of our scripture for today. Unless God does the work, we labour in vain, although this doesn’t mean there isn’t work for us to do. Builders and sentries were needed in the city. Peter confirms this in his letter when he explains that Jesus came to set us free from the life that was our inevitable inheritance, but we need to co-operate with Him to walk free from it. The city I visited hadn’t really been able to break free, despite human attempts. Neither can we break free from our inheritance, unless we receive and accept what Jesus has done for us, and then live in holiness, (that is in a way that honours God): ‘So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy’ (1 Peter 1:14-15).
Prayer: Father, thank You for Jesus, whom You sent to set us free from our inevitable inheritance. We accept that freedom today, and ask that You enable us, by Your Holy Spirit, to live in a way that honours You. We long too, Lord, that more people would know the freedom that You give us. Amen.
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