Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Illuminating Conduct

One of the ways the Church can be a light in this dark world is the way individual Christians treat one another. 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.

In chapters 2 and 3 of 1 Peter that apostle Peter outlines how a Christian is to live.  He begins with some corporate thoughts for the entire Church (2:1-17), moves to some words to slaves (2:18-25), then some advice to wives (3:1-6), and then a word to husbands (3:7).  To wrap up his thoughts on Christian behavior 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 wants followers of Christ Jesus, those men and women who make up the Church, to live different from the rest of the world.  Our lives are to be as different from the way the world lives as light is different from darkness.  The Church should be the light in the world.  In order to do this there are for actions we need to commit to doing.

First, Peter says that we need to be of one mind. This is not any easy thing to do because it seems like if there are 10 people there are 12 different opinions.  To “be of one mind” almost sounds like an impossible task. 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). This isn’t so much about doctrine (though that is vitally important and there are doctrines that we have to agree on) as it is about having the same purpose and working towards the same goal.  A successful football team is guided by the same goals of winning games and ultimately winning a championship. Though the different players may go about achieving these goals in different ways having the same goals provides a unity and vision which is essential to achieving success on the football field. 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 and individual Christians accomplish that commission varies, but the unity of purpose should bring us together in one mind.

Second, Peter says we need to show sympathy to one another. None of us will live a leave of ease, which means that each one of us will eventually go through some tough times.  Not only are there hardships and tragedies to deal with, but there are also temptations and sins which plague our lives.  It is in this context of struggling that shows us the need for us to be sympathetic towards one another.  We can’t make it through this life on our own, and the Church is God’s agreement of that reality.  We need each other.  You need me for comfort, encouragement, and strength, and I need you for those same things.  We shouldn’t pass judgment on another persons weakness, rather we should extend our hand and do what we can do to help him out.

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. To me this emphasizes the fact that we need to bear each other burdens, that we need to put up with those foibles that annoy us, and we need to sacrifice in order to help on another out. If we can depend on no one else we should, at least, 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. That means if we are going to be different then we have to make a different choice like turning the other cheek and praying for those who persecute us.  Not the easy way to live, but it is the way of Jesus.  We also need to remember that  when we love people, regardless of what they have done to us or said about us, we show the world that there is a different and better way to live. In this way we provide evidence that the way of God is not only different but superior to the way of the world. 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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