Suffering and doing good

An exegetical approach to the ethical challenge of suffering in 1 Peter

My interest in the topic of suffering has been stimulated essentially by the experiences from the pastoral visits and pastoral encounters in a Transylvanian congregation where I work as a pastor. The interchange with the believers and their hardship lead me to conclude that many homes along the streets there are houses of suffering, many life-stories are stories of suffering. Often the suffering encountered at the heart of the believers’ home is something what makes them to “live as if they will never die and die as if they had never lived”. Nevertheless, accompanying the believers in their search for meaning and comfort I realized that they continue to believe in God despite suffering, impoverishment and oppression. But what I often experience is a struggle with ethical shortcuts in the midst of suffering. Hence, they all ask: in which manner or how should I respond to those who attack me (verbally or physically), as a child, woman or as the head of the family, or gossip about me, slander me, and so on? What should I do? And often the response of the sufferers reflects ethical egoism, limitation, and source for new tensions and conflicts. 

The struggling with a good or proper behavior and the moral deficit recognized among the suffering-stories lead me to connect with 1 Peter as a reliable guide to reconsider and receive fresh input concerning the ethical dimension of hardship. Because 1 Peter as a letter for suffering believers provides special interest to the well-doing during the critical times, I attempt in this work to engage in a dialogue with the message offered to and received by the suffering Christians scattered through Asia Minor in the middle of the first century.

Thus in the research I will address the question of suffering not in the context of theodicy, but in the ethical context with specific attention to the interaction between suffering and doing good as it appears in the following texts from 1 Peter: 2:19–21, 3:17, 4:16 and 4:19.

Bibliographic reference

Éles Éva: Suffering and doing good. An exegetical approach to the ethical challenge of suffering in 1 Peter. Kampen: Theologische Universiteit Kampen 2021

Content category

Publication type: Manuscript
Subject area: New Testament
Keywords: szenvedés, hit és jócselekedetek, etika
Bible reference: 1 Peter