The apostle Peter wrote his letter at a time when Christianity was still in its infancy. Sometimes eyed with suspicion and downright hostility, it was probably not easy to treat everybody with respect. Today the question still remains – how can we be gentle in a violent world?
Growing up, I had issues with a violent stepfather. He scared me. I would get up in the morning and the living room was trashed; or I would wake up at night to find my mother sitting next to me in the bedroom with doors locked while my stepfather hammered against the door demanding to get in. Domestic violence was not even a buzzword back then. Thankfully this marriage ended after five years. While the divorce eliminated the violence from our home, it still left a lasting impression in my heart. I had become afraid of men and afraid of life; most of the decisions in my young adulthood were fear-driven.
At age 19 I moved from my childhood home into the city where I enrolled in college to study foreign languages. Within a year’s time I dropped out of school and moved into an apartment with a group of people who, like me, had decided to join a young mission. For years following I stayed behind the walls of a religious community that dictated every aspect of my life and separated me from family and friends. Eventually, I became fed up with the situation and left.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to deal with violence, but there are certainly wrong approaches; seeking revenge is one, escapism is another. I chose the latter and I can say that we don’t escape from violence by going into hiding. When we hide from a problem, the problem follows us and grows bigger in the process.
Back to the initial question: how to be gentle in a violent world – To me the key is getting to know Jesus. The Son of God is gentle and fearless. He never defended Himself from violent people, but He was not afraid of them either. I have grown from fearful to hopeful and know that Jesus initiated that change in me. Without Him I would still be stuck in a very small world. I do not have all the answers, but what I do have is hope.