VIOLENCE WEEK, Q & R: Peter and Violence
Here's the Q:
I am involved with a group of Jesus followers in N'Ireland and are currently looking through the book of Acts and last week we had a lengthy discussion about the subject of judgement / violence and Peter's involvement in the story.
The particular story is found in Acts Chapter 5 verse 1-10. Looking at the story it initially seems to stand out and be incredibly 'matter of fact' about the death of two people involved in the early church. We have looked at commentary/theology mentioning this particular passage and found some to be incredibly convoluted and confusing. The involvement of Peter in the story is also interesting/confusing as he seems to be incredibly blasé about the fact and very quick to pronounce judgement resulting in the death of the husband and wife.
If you have any comments it would be greatly appreciated.
Here's the R:
I wish I could have been part of your discussion on this troubling passage. I know for some people, there's no problem - God kills people, God has the right to do so, Peter approves, so should we all. Others, though, feel a number of tensions when they read this passage. If God inflicts capital punishment here, why not elsewhere? Why would God allow Christians to be violently Antisemitic or launch Crusades or steal lands from Native Peoples or support torture with no intervention - but take such drastic action here?
The passage is especially troubling in light of Peter's violence in the gospels. He opposes Jesus (in the "get behind me, Satan!" passage) when Jesus says he will suffer and die (rather than attack and kill others - like the kind of authority figure Peter assumes or prefers). Peter pulls out a sword to strike the high priest's servant when Jesus is arrested (and is told "those who live by the sword will die by the sword"). He seems ready to reduce Jesus to the level of Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration - who, unlike Jesus, participated (in various ways) in religious killings.
I know that authorship of 1 Peter is disputed, but if one believes it is by Peter, there Peter seems completely nonviolent, specifically urging people to follow Jesus' example of choosing exemplary suffering over revenge.
Perhaps folks would like to offer some insights into this passage on my facebook page....