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    July 27, 2021


    When Joseph Louis Barrow began spending time with a local gang, his mother, Lillie, sought to isolate her son from trouble by having him take violin lessons. Joseph was a teenager at the time and his mother believed he needed direction. The lessons were not successful because the violin felt puny in Joseph’s big hands and while the music was not difficult to learn, he resented having to stay at home as opposed to being able to play ball with his friends. What made the lessons worse is that the neighborhood kids teased him mercilessly. One boy made the mistake of calling Joseph a sissy, and so he smashed the violin over his head.

    Fortunately, one of the boys, Thurston McKinney, did not ridicule Joseph; rather, he invited him to exercise with him at the Brewster gym. Joseph was thrilled because Thurston was a Detroit Golden Gloves boxing champion. Once a few weeks passed for Joseph to learn the basics, Thurston invited him to be his sparring partner. Joseph was teeming with pride to enter the ring, yet received a severe beating instead. The experience made him angry, so Joseph clobbered Thurston and nearly flattened him. The reigning 146-pound division Golden Glove champion looked at Joe grinning, and said, “Man, throw that violin away.”

    Joseph dropped his last name so when his mother read the newspaper she would not know he was boxing. While his mother would not know for some time, the world knew for years that Joseph Louis Barrow had been transformed from a “sissy” into the unbeatable Joe Louis, the “Brown Bomber.” “The newfound sense of direction combined with a growing mastery of boxing infused Louis with a feeling of empowerment unlike anything he had ever before experienced. . . . [H]e marveled at the transformation it wrought” (Marcy S. Sacks, Joe Louis [New York: Routledge, 2018] 29). Joe Louis’ classmates thought they knew him, yet never could have imagined how wrong they were.

    Simon Peter is another transformed man. His occupation as a fisherman was a humble one, yet Simon did not become a fighter when he met Jesus; he was later commissioned by the Lord to be his servant. The transformation in Simon’s life was so dramatic that he wrote 2 Peter as a reminder that the Christian life does not result in one remaining unchanged. Second Peter 1 reveals the nature of such transformation. 

    The author identified himself as Simon Peter, which is dissimilar to the first epistle in which he introduced himself as “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.” Using his old name, Simon, and new identity, Peter, suggests the transformation that occurred in his life. Simon was his name when he met Jesus, and prior to his determination to follow Christ. Peter (meaning “rock”) is the name given to Simon by the Lord himself (cf. Matt 16:18). Christ Jesus is the Rock, and Peter became one with Him, thereby transforming Simon’s life into one of boldness and courage (cf. Acts 4:13). 

    The new Peter identified as “a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.” Calling himself “a bond-servant (lit. “slave”) of Jesus  means he was subject to the will of his divine Master. Referencing himself as “apostle,” Peter emphasized his authority as one commissioned by Christ for the proclamation of the gospel message (cf. Matt 28:18-20). Simon was transformed into a humble servant and authoritative apostle (1 Pet 1:1a-b). The righteousness of God received through faith in Jesus Christ is precious (v. 1c). God’s power enables the one who believes to apply all diligence in that faith for the purpose of supplying transformative characteristics that enable one to live an effective and productive life for the Lord Jesus (vv. 3-11).

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