One of the ways the Church can be a light in this dark world is the love Christ-Followers show to each other. I am firmly convinced one of the reason the Church in the first century grew like it did was because of the unique love that existed between her members. The world is a tough place and loving relationships in which we can feel safe and secure are hard to find. The Church can be different because of the love we show to one another.
Peter writes: Finally, all of you should be of one mind, full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate when people say unkind things about you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God wants you to do, and he will bless you for it (1 Peter 3:8-9; NLT).
Peter is writing about Christian conduct in these two verses. I believe he has in mind certain principles that should govern our lives as we seek to be different from the world. In order to shine in the dark we need to live differently.
First, Peter says that we need to be of one mind. We can recognize the difficult with this because we know that it is difficult to get total agreement on anything. There are so many different influences which account for what we believe and how we live. Bruce Oberst wrote; “Few of us always agree on how to carry out the thousand details of everyday life. But we should strive to have the same basic goals, purposes and motives, that provide the very foundations of Christianity” (Letters from Peter; pg. 81).
A successful football team is guided by the same goals of winning games and championships. Though the different players may go about achieving these goals in different ways the goals provide a unity and vision which is essential to achieving the goal. The church needs to have a firm grasp of its goal. Generically that goal is to make disciples of all nations, but how local congregations accomplish that, and how individuals get involved varies this goal should provided the unity that is needed. Understanding the local church’s purpose is essential for the unity of that church, to be of one mind.
Second, Peter says we need to show sympathy to one another. Each person is different and thus each has different struggles. Something may not be a struggle for us, but it could be faith threatening to a brother or sister in our church. Rather than passing judgment because they cannot live up to the standard we think they ought to live to or ignoring their situation we need to offer our help. If a person is struggling with sin we need to provide them with the pray, resources, and encouragement to overcome it. If a person is struggling with a difficult situation we need to offer them our prayers, presence, and assistance. Sympathy is not simply a feeling, but it is what we do to help each other in time of need.
Third, Peter says we need to love one another. Here Peter reminds us that the church is like a family. We are to love and care for one another in a similar manner of what we would expect to happen in a family. That means bearing each other burdens, putting up with those things that annoy us, and sacrificing to help each other out. If a Christian can depend on no one else he/she should always be able to depend on other Christians. In a selfish world the sacrificial love of Christians should provide people with a hope and draw them closer to God.
Fourth, Peter makes it clear that we are not to retaliate against those who have wronged us. To repay a wrong with a wrong is the way of the world. It makes the Church no different than the world. When we love people, regardless of what they have done or said to us we show them that there is a better way to live. We provide evidence that the way of God is different. When we retaliate we darken the light of love and compassion that should characterize the church. We can only be lights if we are different from everyone else.
Peter tells us that we should live differently from the world, and that includes the way we treat other Christians. Living in this manner allows us to be lights in a dark world as we show them that there is a better way to live.
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