1 Peter

Resisting The Roaring Lion (1 Peter 5:8-11)

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Most importantly, be sober (disciplined) and vigilant (stay on guard). Your enemy the devil is prowling around outside like a roaring lion, just waiting and hoping for the chanceto devour someone. Resist him and be strong in your faith, knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are fellow sufferers with you. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of grace who has called you [to His everlasting presence] through Jesus the Anointed will restore you, support you, strengthen you, and ground you.  For all power belongs to God, now and forever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:8-11) D.L. Moody once said, “I believe Satan exists for two reasons: first, the Bible says so, and second, I've done business with him.” Peter’s finale to his letter to the church ends with a warning about the devil, so let’s talk about the devil. There are two dangers in doing this.

First, that we talk about the Devil too much.Second, that we talk about the Devil too little.

Too much,and we are distracted from God and maybe even scared or overwhelmed by the reality of supernatural evil. Too little,and we forget there is a very real spiritual side to the world. We wrestle with “principalities and powers, with the rulers of the darkness of this world, with spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

So let’s talk about the Devil, but no more than the devil deserves. We do this “so that we may not be outwitted by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his designs.”  (2 Corinthians 2:11)

"Devil" is from “diablos”, and it means accuser, slanderer or even destroyer.  The Bible refers to the devil as "the enemy" (Mt 13:39), "a murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44).

'Satan' is derived from a Hebrew word “Satanas” meaning 'act as an adversary'; literally, an opponent in a court.  Generally, Satan is a title (“the Satan”) rather than a personal name. In the Old Testament, it is used to describe people as well as divine beings.[1]Perhaps that’s why Jesus can call Peter (the writer of this letter) Satan. He wasn’t saying Peter was a demonic being. Peter was the adversary in that moment, perhaps even representing the voice of the Ultimate Adversary.

The Bible does not give us a lot of backstory or description, but it does tell us a lot about Satan’s intent and plans. I think that’s purposeful.  It would be easy to become really consumed with what Satan and demons are like when the most important thing is to know what Satan does.

BACKSTORY

  • The two main passages from which we pull a lot of our understanding of Satan’s backstory are intertwined with the description of actual kings (Ezekiel 28 is about the King of Tyre; Isaiah 14 is about the King of Babylon). The kings are like Satan; Satan is like the kings. The line that separates where and what to apply to whom is not always clear. It’s enough to know they all embody evil in two different dimensions of reality.
  • When John wrote in Revelation 12 that a dragon was hurled out of heaven, that appears to be a symbolic reference to future events, not past events, but….it’s apocalyptic literature, which is pretty hard to understand anyway, so maybe it is looking back. Or maybe it’s about Rome. Maybe it’s divinely inspired to refer to all three. Commentators differ a LOT on what to do with Revelation 12.
  • When Jesus says, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning” after his disciples reported casting out demons, the implication is that Satan was being dethroned spiritually as the exorcisms were taking place. Jesus does not appear to be referencing a past event where Satan was cast out of heaven - though he could have been. (Luke 10:18)

I don’t think the lack of a really precise Satan template is a mistake in revelation JI don’t think God intended for us to get too fascinated by Satan. It is enough to know that:

  • Satan is real
  • evil people are his ambassadors
  • Satan and his servants are at war with God and His servants
  • Satan’s strength and plans are crushed by the power of God.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAsv6j7cs4o[/embed]

Physical description

Our idea of what Satan (or demons, or hell) is like is largely shaped by Dante’s Inferno and Hollywood. Think of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness in Matthew 4. There is no physical description of the devil at all. The devil is simply called The Tempter. I have the devil from The Passion Of The Christ in mind. That’s not biblical; that’s Mel Gibson. The Bible describes Satan through titles and various images that are used to explain the nature, intent, and plans of Satan. There are three key images used.

The first two are 1) a snake/serpent (Genesis) and 2) as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)

Both of these have to do with the subtle nature of deception: the serpent is crafty, the angel is falsely beautiful.

In the Ancient Near East, the serpent was viewed by almost all cultures as the bringer of wisdom (the Greeks loved the serpent); the writer of Genesis shows what happens when lies masquerade as truth. Sometimes that which appears to be wisdom is not wisdom at all. Proper authority is questioned (“Did God really say…?”); error looks good (“you will be like a god”).

Paul warns that, since there is an Angel of Light, “it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:15). Satan is an infiltrator of the church, and his servants bring harm to the people of God.

  • False servants of righteousness lead us from foundational, doctrinal truth (to “shipwreck our faith” – 1 Timothy 1:19). There is a reason there were councils and creeds in church history: there is strength and truth in looking to the historical church community for a solid foundation for biblical interpretation. #becarefulwithnewideas
  • False servants of righteousness claim to love holiness, but becomes a legalistic, pharisaical accuser to bring shame (as opposed to speaking truth in love that leads to a godly sorrow, which brings repentance – 2 Corinthians 7:10)
  • False servants of righteousness tempt us to compromise our integrity through sin, often by living in a way that models and thus invites personal or corporate compromise (gossip; lust; greed, etc)

As a roaring lion

A roaring lion is terrifying and overwhelming (think also of the “great dragon”, not the subtle serpent, in Revelation 12). There are times when Satan’s attack is meant to terrify us. Peter is probably referring here to the persecution the church was experiencing. I think this could refer to any time we are overwhelmed by the trials, pressures or persecutions. A lion’s roar is stunning; instead of “fight or flight,” “freeze or flight” kicks in immediately. It’s the time we are overwhelmed or scared of the spiritual battles in which we are engaged.

It strikes me that these two images of Satan highlight two questions that can undermine our faith, and two responses that can build it.

  • Did God really say….? Is this really the truth about God, me, and life?
  • Can God really do…..?  Is God really big enough for this?

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHqfb7mJ5qM[/embed]

But Peter gives us the path of resistance; that is, God’s design for resisting the Devil in all his manifestations.

 Be sober

This has to do with sobriety of temperament. We are not to be bland or unconcerned, but measured and steady in the midst of the storm. The Bible uses the imagery of God as an anchor in the midst of storms; we, his people; are to serve as anchors in the midst of a stormy world. We are cautioned not to be "blown about by every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14); I thinks it's fair to say we ought not be blown about by anything. We claim to build our foundation on the rock. We should live like it.

Be vigilant

The Greeks used the word “gregoreuo” to describe people crossing a river by stepping on slippery stones.  Jesus usedthisin the Garden of Gethsemane: "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and be vigilant(gregoreuo) with Me." (Mt 26:38). Which they didn’t (26:40). So what does vigilance look like for us today?

  • Obedience (James 4:7) This is ‘dying daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31) and “making our body our slave” (1 Corinthians 9:27). There is sweat equity we invest in the Kingdom not so that we can enter it, but so we flourish in the fullness of what God offers to us on the path of life.
  • Scripture(Jesus in the wilderness temptation – Matthew 4). Jesus countered Satan with the truth of Scripture. It’s meant to be a model for us. We don’t have to be Ph.D. theologians, but we must invest time in reading and studying the Bible.
  • Prayer (like, everywhere in Scripture). Over and over – pray.
  • [2]We are not meant to walk alone. We are rooted in Christ, we are fed by His Word, but we are planted in soil. That soil, ideally, is a holy church community. Sometimes God uses people in our lives to help us resist the devil. It’s called accountability. #embraceit

Spiritual warfare is often limited to exciting prayer battles and miraculous events, as if we resist the devil with exorcisms and contests like Moses had with Pharaoh’s magicians. Now, if you are a Christian, you know the Bible records the reality of that kind of spiritual battle. In countries where voodoo or the occult is strong, we hear plenty of accounts of how these kinds of battles are a necessary part of establishing the power of God in a ‘language’ that everyone understands. Take the right weapons to the battle.

But note how Peter tells people to resist: in the very ordinary, every day process of doing life together as faithful disciples of Christ. You want to fight the devil? Praying, absorbing our Bibles, and submitting our life to God and others is also spiritual warfare. Nobody writes glamorous stories about this, and it won’t make it to the big screen, but it’s wrestling against principalities and powers also.

The result? God will...

  • Restore and Support  Make you firm; blend with others; create mutual support – it’s the one body (1 Corinthians 12), one building metaphor (1 Peter 2).
  • Strengthen  Tighten up the interconnectedness of every part, so that there is no falling apart.
  • Ground   Create a firm foundation in Christ, the house built on the rock (Matthew 7)

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=US1-R-R9lYQ[/embed]

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[1]In 1 Sam. 29:4 : 'He must not go with us into battle, or he will turn against us during the fighting', i.e. 'become an adversary [Satan] to us'.

[2]https://overviewbible.com/one-another-infographic/

 

Because He Cares For You (1 Peter 5:6-7)

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You can see the Facebook Live stream of the sermon here. You can listen to audio here.

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Peter has written a lot about difficult matters so far in his letter to the church.

  • living in a hostile culture
  • being holy and genuinely abstain from sin and evil
  • living “above reproach” and never give anyone reason to come down on us
  • absorbing all the unfair criticism or suffering we will experience as we are faithful to Jesus
  • loving each other well in church community so that Christ’s love flowing through us can cover the multitude of sin around us
  • using our gifts maximally to lead and serve with mutual submission and humility?

The payoff is amazing: if a church community is like this, it would be a beautiful thing internally and externally. It would be a taste of heaven.  God has revealed what a fully embraced life in His kingdom looks like, and it’s a vision of the good life, at least as much as we can experience it on this side of heaven.

I suspect all of us have experienced it at some time and in some way.

  • Someone has loved us far more than we deserve
  • Someone has inexplicably hung in with us in spite of all the things we have done that would give them reason to push us away
  • We have seen holiness modeled – never perfectly, but at least in someone we have seen a serious commitment to living as one called out from the corruption of sin and callousness of culture
  • We have had an opportunity to see how our gifts make a difference, or we have benefited from someone else lavishly sharing and helping through the strength God has given them
  • We’ve experienced the grace of someone humbly serving us; we’ve had the privilege to do the same
  • We’ve seen the gospel both modeled and preached, where the words of life matched the life, where the hope of salvation and restoration is made clear in the real stories of broken sinners made whole.

That’s good stuff. That’s church at its finest.

But this “high calling” also sounds exhausting and little overwhelming.

  • “There is none righteous” (Romans 3:10).
  • There is a war within that Paul so clearly explained (Romans 7).
  • There is a need to “die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31) and “mortify” your sinful flesh (Colossians 3:5) as we “discipline our body a bring it into submission” so that we are not disqualified from effective ministry on behalf of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:27).
  • There are “thorns in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12) that remind us that, at the end of the day, it is God’s grace the carries us, that it is in our weakness that God’s strength is perfected; that there is a reason God must increase while we decrease.

This call to unreproachable holiness and love sounds exhausting and overwhelming to me simply because I know myself.I don’t have to look any further than the mirror to know that the Bible raised the bar above what Anthony is able to achieve. But Peter knows this. How would he not?

  • He’s the guy who was really proud of forgiving his brother a whole seven times, which wasn’t even close. (Matthew 18)
  • He argued with the others about who was the greatest, and I assume he made the case for himself.
  • He went to sleep in the Garden when Jesus asked him to keep watch (Mark 14). Jesus said, “You’re spirit is willing, but your flesh is weak.”
  • Then he cut off a dude’s ear, totally missing the point that Jesus’ Kingdom was not of this world. (Matthew 26)
  • And then he totally and publicly denied Jesus (Matthew 26)

It’s that Peter who insists we be holy and blameless. How could he demand this of us when he couldn’t even do it?

Because it’s also that Peter whom Jesus later forgave, reinstated, and commanded: “Feed my sheep…You must follow me.” (John 21) And it was that Peter who went on to be one of the authors of the New Testament, and eventually to give his life as a martyr for the sake of Christ.

Peter knew flourishing and failure; he knew forgiveness and restoration. He knew that the power of our testimony was not just about what we get right but also about how God moves in and uses us when we get it wrong. This too, is how we display Christ to the world. But that can only happen if we continually repent and surrender to the work of God. This brings us today today's text:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your cares (anxiety) on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Considering all of what has preceded this in 1 Peter, I assume the cares come from 1) persecution, and 2) the high call in our lives (he just talked about life together in the church). What is concerning his audience?  Living above reproach in their culture and in their church.

This will cause care and anxiety. But God cares…so give that over to him. That will require humility, but it is in our humility that we are raised up. It’s dying so we can live. It’s decreasing so God can increase in us. It’s God’s plan for our flourishing in the Kingdom of God and embodying the good news of the Gospel in our culture.

This command concerning our cares is found many places in Scripture.

“Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken (made to slip, fall or fail).”  (Psalms 55:22)

“Blessed be the Lord, Who daily bears our burden, the God Who is our salvation.” (Psalm 68:19)

“Be careful for nothing: but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall watch over your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

The Bible address other things that cause anxiety: “Take no thought for the things of tomorrow…” (Matthew 6:34) This broadly covers all the things we worry about: jobs, health, family, relationships. Everything that keeps us up at night. The things that give us anxiety and fear.

I could talk a lot about why it’s a bad idea to let these things eat away at us, but you know this. I don’t think I have to convince you it’s a terrible thing to be overshadowed or weighed down by anxiety.

Anxiety and depression have become close companions since my heart attack (and depression even before then). In prepping this past week, I found myself comforted and encouraged simply by reading what so many Christians have said about this issue.

“But He cares for us. My soul, has not Jesus proved it? Did He not care for you when He embarked in the work of your salvation? Did He not care for you when you were dead in trespasses and in sins? (Ephesians 2:1- note) And when the Holy Spirit convinced you of sin, and broke your heart, and led you in holy contrition to the cross, did not Jesus manifest His care for you then by raising you up from His feet, enfolding you in His arms, and applying His atoning blood to your conscience, saying to your tempest-tossed spirit, 'Peace, be still,' and there was peace? The Lord cares for you still. He cares for your needs, for your trials, for your temptations, for your sorrows. Still more, He cares for…  the doubts and fears and tremblings which sometimes assail you--for the darkness which often enshrouds you--for the loneliness and solitude of the way by which He is leading you home to Himself.”  - Octavius Winslow

“Treat cares as you treat sins. Hand them over to Jesus one by one as they occur. Commit them to Him. Roll them upon Him. Make them his. By an act of faith look to Him, saying, "This, Lord, and this, and this, I cannot bear. Thou hast taken my sins; take my cares: I lay them upon Thee, and trust Thee to do for me all, and more than all, I need. I will trust, and not be afraid…"  -  F.B. Meyer

“There is nothing Christ dislikes more than for His people to make show of Him and not to use Him. He loves to be worked. He is a great laborer. He always was for His Father, and now He loves to be a great laborer for His brethren. The more burdens you put on His shoulders, the better He will love you. Cast your burden on Him.” – Spurgeon

“I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath—these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely—these are my native air.” – Dr. E Stanley Jones

“You are staggering beneath a weight which your Father would not feel. What seems to you a crushing burden, would be to him but as the small dust of the balance… O child of suffering, be thou patient; God has not passed thee over in his providence. He who is the feeder of sparrows, will also furnish you with what you need. Sit not down in despair; hope on, hope ever… There is One who careth for you. His eye is fixed on you… He, if thou art one of his family, will bind up thy wounds, and heal thy broken heart. Doubt not his grace because of thy tribulation, but believe that he loveth thee as much in seasons of trouble as in times of happiness… He has never refused to bear your burdens, he has never fainted under their weight. Come, then, soul! have done with fretful care, and leave all thy concerns in the hand of a gracious God.” -Spurgeon

The Lord your God neither accepts nor rejects… because of the high or the low frame with which you approach Him. To suppose that He did—that the spiritual tone of your mind influenced His decision—were to make the turning point of His love to center in you rather than in Himself… God’s dealings with us from first to last, in the greatest and in the least… proceed upon the principle of His most free grace. And since He finds the motive of love and the bestowment of blessing solely within Himself, He, the unchangeable One, will not revoke the love, nor withdraw the gift, influenced by any fickleness or change He traces in you. Then, be your frame low, your heart dead, your faith weak—arise, and draw near to God… and the blessing, the richest God can bestow, or you desire, awaits your full acceptance. Little, obscure, despised, unworthy though you may be, or deem yourself to be, the Lord has an interest in you… Others may have ceased to care for you. Change has congealed the warm current of love, distance intercepts its flow, or death has stilled its pulse, and you feel as if there existed in this wide world no heart, no spirit, no mind that responded to, or that chimed and blended with your own. Yes; there is One!—Jesus cares for you.  – Octavius Winslow

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SOME RECOMMENDED SONGS

Selah – I look To You

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gP2IzErAQPs[/embed]

Kari Jobe – I am Not Alone

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow4OfW4DP9s[/embed]

Kari Jobe -  Be Still My Soul

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jY_csMVzvgo[/embed]

Laura Story –He Will Not Let Go

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaHISTo7g4w[/embed]

Laura Story - Perfect Peace

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKynh0Spy-Q[/embed]

Needtobreathe – Lay ‘Em Down

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PN-BMHi5L8[/embed]

Ginny Owens – If You Want Me To

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaXxwFpavj4[/embed]

Finding Favour – Cast My Cares

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKuAMmTqUbs[/embed]

Alisa Turner – My Prayer For You

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hj_0pvIGkks[/embed]

 

 

 

Money, Power, And Church Elders (1 Peter 5:1-5)

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  A guy named Lord Acton is credited with saying, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  It’s part of a longer claim (and here’s the actual quote): “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority…”

Some recent brain research has given a window into why Acton may have been on to something.  From “Power Causes Brain Damage”:[1]

  • Subjects under the influence of power suffered noticeable changes in the areas of the brain that controlled impulsivity, risk-awareness, and, crucially, and the ability to see things from other people’s point of view.
  • They were worse at identifying what someone in a picture is feeling, or guessing how a colleague might interpret a remark.
  • They stopped mimicking or “mirroring” others, an action which builds empathy by triggering the same feelings those others are experiencing. There is an “empathy deficit.”
  • They increasingly view everything 1stperson (George Bush famously held a flag backwards to an audience because it looked right to him).

 I want to talk today about power. We all have it – we all have influence and impact – but some of us are in positions where the influence and impact expands. As Christians, it’s crucial we recognize the dangers of it, but also the solutions that allow us to use the power God has given us in a way that honors God and builds the Kingdom of His church.

When Peter writes to the church about leadership, he focuses on this issue. That will be our starting text for today. 

To the elders (church leaders) among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherdsof God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherdappears, you will receive the crown of glory[2]that will never fade away. Those who are younger, in the same way be submissive to those who are elder (church leaders or simply ‘older’). All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:1–5

 

In the New Testament there are three terms used to describe the same office:

  • Elder focuses on the character qualities; he must be a mature man of God (See 1 Timothy 3:1-7and Titus 1:5-9)
  • Overseer (or bishop) is used interchangeably with elder (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5, 7) and has to do more with church governance.
  • Pastor (shepherd) builds on the shepherd metaphor: care, ‘feeding’, and protection of the ‘flock’

The apostle Paul gives quite a list of qualifications for being an elder (see 1 Timothy 3), but Peter is more focused. Other than mentioning that nobody should be forced to lead (good advice in a time when leadership might mean death), his advice revolves around character: specifically, how leaders are to handle money and power.

Not Greedy For Money

An elder dare not have money and riches – “filthy lucre” as the KJV would say - as a purpose or goal of being in church leadership. If leaders ever turn the church into a personal money-making enterprise, we are in trouble.

Frankly, I think church elders are under a higher obligation to consider what is an appropriate wage from the church. I don’t mean they shouldn’t get a decent or good wage – Paul tells Timothy not to “muzzle the ox” because the laborer is worthy of his hire. But Paul told Timothy that elders were not to be covetous of riches – that is, in love with money, serving it rather than Christ.[3] I think Proverbs gives the reason:

Two things I ask, O God. Sometime before I die, grant these humble requests: Eliminate any hint of worthless and deceitful words from my lips. Do not make me poor or rich, but give me each day what I need; For if I have too much, I might forget You are the One who provides, saying, “Who is the Eternal One?” Or if I do not have enough, I might become hungry and turn to stealing and thus dishonor the good name of my God. (Proverbs 30:7-9)

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coHKdhAZ9hU[/embed]

Not lording over others.[4]

 2,000 years ago, Jesus warned Peter that His Kingdom was not of this world. Both Peter and Paul, by the many ways in which they put structure around those who lead in the church, were warning us about the problems that can accompany power, even in the midst of God’s people.

Leaders in the church cannot become lords. 2,000 years of history has proven the practical wisdom in this.  Whenever the church has become intertwined with national power, the church has become either oppressive without and compromised within.[5]

Constantine legalized Christianity in the early 300s for selfish political reasons, and that combined with his reputation for violence hurt the reputation of the church even as Christianity spread.[6]The Anabaptists claimed the fall of the church began during Constantine’s reign. “By recognizing Christianity as a legal religion (including making Sunday a legal holiday), he slowly strangled what was once a vibrant, close-knit, committed fellowship of persecuted believers, and turned it into a religion that would become, by law, at the end of that century, the official state religion of the Holy Roman Empire (HRE).”[7]Within less than 80 years from Constantine’s legalization, the “Christian government for the first time executed Christians that deviated from the government-endorsed orthodoxy.” [8]

Thousands were killed by the Church’s Inquisitional courts[9]in the Middle Ages.

In early America, Christians who fled here to escape persecution by the powerful suddenly had power - and did the same things:

  • Puritans banished people for not being Puritan
  • Protestants denied Catholics property, voting rights and even holding public office – but then again, in the 1500s the Spanish Catholics had slaughtered hundreds of French Huguenots in the New World.
  • Then there was the coerced conversion of Native Americans; the Salem Witch Trials; the hanging of four Quakers in Boston in the mid-1600s for being Quaker. In the mid-1800s there were Bible Riots in Philadelphia, where two Catholic churches were destroyed, houses were burnt, and 20 people killed.[10]

Unfortunately, the problem of power we see in the big picture or national politics occurs in individual churches and church leaders as well. As a leader in a church, this concerns me deeply. I want to talk about what I’ve been reading from Christian leaders concerning ways to make sure power does not corrupt, and also talk about how this plays out in our church.

Surround yourself with “toeholders.” “Power Physically Damages the Brain, New Research Reveals”[11] gave some examples of "a toeholder" who tugs you back towards reality whenever you threaten to float away on your inflated ego.

  • Winston Churchill’s wife, Clementine, once wrote to him, “My Darling Winston. I must confess that I have noticed a deterioration in your manner; & you are not as kind as you used to be.” He had been acting “so contemptuous” toward subordinates in meetings that “no ideas, good or bad, will be forthcoming.” This was written on the day Hitler entered Paris.

If a church leader is surrounded by "yes men", it's a problem. There have to be people who have no problem confronting, challenging, grabbing them and pulling them back when they begin to stray in orthodoxy (right doctrine) or orthopraxy (right actions).

Be transparent and accountable.Some Christian leaders I intensely admire have been falling from the pedestals on which I (wrongly) put them. They have lied about qualifications, misused money, and contributed to the #metoo movement by harassing, using and even abusing women. Beth Moore wrote a heart-wrenching open letter a week or two ago about how men in power in church circles have treated her for decades. [12] How did they get there? I suspect it was in large part due to a lack of transparency and accountability.

Welcome feedback from everyone. Everyone. It does not mean everyone is right, but it’s possible for anyone to have valuable insight. It's up to leasers to take that feedback and present it to the rest of the leadership (see the next point), as well as and to those who are close to them. This group filter helps leadership to process feedback in a healthy way and respond appropriately.

Serve in plurality of leadership.[13] In both the Old and New Testament, there is always a plurality of elders. Plurality brings a variety of gifts: finances, organization, relational wisdom, hospitality, teaching, preaching. Itprevents burnout; it brings accountability (in life and doctrine); it increases the reach of the ‘shepherds’ and increases wise decision-making.

Practice empathy and 3rdperson thinking. LISTEN!! Spend time talking with people in order to genuinely understand and love them. Practice “walking a mile in another’s shoes.” Learn what it’s like to hold up a flag so it makes sense to other people. I personally have found fictional books, movies and TV shows to be very helpful in broadening my understanding. Not every story is a good story - obviously - but as authors, directors, and writers create stories that can't help but reveal their experience of the world, we can put on the lense of a biblical worldview filter and grow in our understanding and empathy as we pray for wisdom on how to effectively reach everyone with the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 Follow in some area of your life and leadership. Don’t lead everything. Look for ways to divest of power appropriately. Don't micromanage every aspect of the church. It's a good idea to answer to others in our organization about something - maybe even many things.

Get over yourself.It’s God’s gig, not yours. All good things are His. If the church genuinely flourishes, it's to God's glory, not the glory of leadership.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcVdq5Q-Paw[/embed]

But Peter speaks to the church here also.

“Those who are younger, in the same way be submissive to those who are elder(s).”

In other words, be respectful and considerate, and seek to serve the leadership even as the leadership seeks to serve you.

  • “Respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)
  • “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17)

Respect does not mean you are timid in speaking truth. Respect is not avoidance of confrontation or criticism. I’ve heard some leaders use the phrase, “Don’t touch God’s anointed”[14]as a means of bullying people into silence. That’s silly. That was specifically, “Don’t kill my prophets because you don’t like what they say.” The Bible itself tells you how to confront someone in leadership who is in sin (Matthew 18; 1 Timothy 5). Respect has to so with approach and attitude.

Submission does not mean you follow and obey anyone blindly especially me. We are all to be Bereans[15]when it comes to examining Scriptures for ourselves. You are not lemmings; we are all priests and kings (Revelations 1:6).

“Being subject” is primarily an attitude of respect and cooperation with the elders as they do their best to follow what they believe is the Lord’s will for the church (Heb. 13:17).

Everyone: Be clothed with humility

To the Greeks, what you wore outwardly signaled what you were inwardly. If you were a slave, you wore slave garb. If you were noble, you wore the clothing of nobility. To be clothed with humility was not a false cover up. It was identifying who you were.

2 Cor. 3:5: “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.”

 Don’t let selfishness and prideful agendas take over. Embrace true humility, and lift your heads to extend love to others. Get beyond yourselves and protecting your own interests; be sincere, and secure your neighbors’ interests first.”(Philippians 2:3-4)

“I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 2:19-21.

Humility is not feeling stupid; that’s shame. Humility is not underplaying our strengths; that's disrespectful to the God who gave us those gifts. Humility is not devaluing yourself; we are all bearers of the image of God, and if we have given our lives to following Jesus, we are now His spiritual children. Humility is a commitment to having an attitude that says, “I do not have more value or worth than you do. I offer whatever I am about to do or say because I think God has something for me to offer in this situation for your good and God’s glory.”

If we can all do this together, we will be flourishing in God’s model for the church.

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[1]https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/07/power-causes-brain-damage/528711/

[2]An Olympic reference. Winners of the Greek games received a garland that would shrivel and die; this crown for “running the race” (to use another Pauline reference) would last through eternity.

[3]Paul says that “the elders who rule well [should] be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17). “Honor” (in Greek) meant both “respect” and “price.” As 1 Timothy 5:18makes clear, elders who labor at preaching and teaching should not only be respected, they also should be paid.  http://biblehub.com/commentaries/1_timothy/5-17.htm

[4]  “Lording it over” the flock (5:3) recalls the silly debates the twelve had about who was the greatest, and the Lord’s teaching about the greatest being the servant of all. “Be clothed with humility” recalls Jesus taking a towel and girding Himself as He washed the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). The word about Satan (5:8) recalls Jesus’ warning that Satan would “sift” Peter like wheat (Luke 22:31). The verb, “to perfect” (5:10) is the same word translated “mending their nets” (Matt. 4:21) when the Lord called Peter to follow Him. http://biblehub.com/commentaries/1_timothy/5-17.htm

[5]“The historian Paul Johnson concludes, “Attempts to perfect Christian societies in this world, whether conducted by popes or revolutionaries, have tended to degenerate into red terrors.” ― Philip YanceyChristians and Politics Uneasy Partners

[6]To quote John Wesley from 1791: 'After the empire became Christian, a general corruption both of faith and morals infected the Christian Church; which by that revolution, as St. Jerome says, "lost as much of her virtue as it had gained of wealth and power.’"–

[7]https://simplychurch.com/2005/12/28/313-ad-the-death-of-christianity-and-the-birth-of-the-christian-religion-2/

[8]Read more at this sobering article: “How Christianity Became Aligned With Politics Under Constantine.” http://butnotlost.blogspot.com/2011/03/how-christianity-became-aligned-with.html

[9]http://www.themichigancatholic.org/2016/11/inquisition-50-68-million-killed-church/

[10]https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/americas-true-history-of-religious-tolerance-61312684/

[11]https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/power-physically-damages-the-brain-new-research-reveals.html

[12]https://blog.lproof.org/2018/05/a-letter-to-my-brothers.html

[13]"In the New Testament, there is always a plurality of elders (overseers, pastors) over the church in a given location. Acts 14:23 reports how Paul and Barnabas appointed elders (plural) in every church (singular). Acts 20:17tells how Paul called to him “the elders of the church” in Ephesus. In Titus 1:5, Paul reminds Titus how he left him to appoint elders (plural) in every city. In the New Testament, the church in a city was viewed as a unit. Thus you have the church in Jerusalem, Ephesus, Antioch, etc. Each church may have been broken down into house churches that met all over the city on any given Lord’s Day. But over each church there was a plurality of elders or pastors." (I don't know where I got this, but it's not my original words).

[14]Psalm 105:15; 1 Chronicles 16:22

[15]Acts 17:11

It is The Will Of God That You Suffer (1 Peter 3:17-4:6)

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After some great opening chapters about how we can move deeper into the holiness God has given us by living lives of honor and integrity, and how that movement can silence critics and point people toward Christ, Peter follows up with another important truth about life in the Kingdom:

17 “For if it is the will of God that you suffer, then it is better to suffer for doing what is right than for doing what is wrong.” 

In other words, living with integrity does not promise people will like you. It will just not justify their dislike of you. Now comes the theological explanation of why this will happen: it’s the pattern Jesus demonstrated.

18 The Anointed One suffered for sins once for all time—the righteous suffering for the unrighteous—so that He might bring us to God. Though He died in the flesh, He was made alive again through the Spirit. 19 And in the Spirit, He went and preached to those spirits held captive. 20 It was these who long ago lived in disobedience while God waited patiently as Noah was building the ark. At that time, only a tiny band—eight people—was spared from the flood.[1]

 21 The water through which the ark safely passed symbolizes now the ceremonial washing through baptism that initiates you into salvation. You are saved not because it cleanses your body of filth but because of your appeal to God from a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King. 22 Now He has entered heaven and sits at the right hand of God as heavenly messengers and authorities and powers[2]submit to His supremacy.

I could probably spend an entire morning talking about that passage, but for our purpose, note that the main point is that the Jesus suffered to free those who are unrighteous, captive to sin, and doomed. Now, back to the narrative.

 (4:1) Since the Anointed suffered in the flesh, prepare yourselves to do the same—anyone who has suffered in the flesh for the Lord is no longer in the grip of sin—2 so that you may live the rest of your life on earth controlled not by earthly desires but by the will of God.

What does it mean that ‘if we suffer in the flesh for the Lord we are no longer in the grip of sin’?

There seem to be two main ideas about how to understand this:

  1. It implies that if we take a stand and do not deny Jesus in the midst of persecution, it is a sign that our allegiance to God is a far greater power in our lives than the ‘grip of sin’ that would cause us to reject God to escape pain.
  2. If we resist the strong urge of temptation, it will be clear that the sins that once enslaved us no longer do.

I suspect Peter was referring to our struggle against temptation, since he follows with a specific contrast of their former life of sin and their current life in Christ. However, that is a form of ‘not denying Jesus’ as well, so I think it’s safe to say that what Peter wrote covers all the ways in which we pay a price for taking a stand for Jesus. Back to the text:

You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy--their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.4 Because of this, they consider it strange of you not to plunge with them into the same flood of reckless indiscretion, and they heap abuse on you. Someday they will have to give an account of themselves to the One who judges the living (those alive in Christ) and the dead (those dead in their sin).[3] This is why the good news had to be brought to those who are now (spiritually) dead so that although they are currently judged by their life in the flesh, they have the opportunity, because of Christ, to live in the spirit in the way that pleases God.[4]

We will talk about this in a bit, but I want to back up first.

“…prepare yourself to suffer in the flesh for the Lord…that you may live the rest of your life on earth controlled not by earthly desires but by the will of God.”

Why would we be willing to suffer? Because the will of God for our lives is amazing. It’s for our good and His glory, and it serves as a witness to those far from Christ that God’s design for life is beautiful and holy, and thus the God who designed it is as well. We see this become clear as we look what Peter highlights from the sinful pasts of those in his audience. Peter is not doing this to shame, but to contrast.

They walked in immorality and lust (strong appetites of all kinds).They were controlled by their urges. They were addicted to sin. One of the things the #metoo movement has brought to light is the reality of so many people who cannot seem to control their sexual urges. There is no filter, no self-control. They cannot seem to stop themselves. That’s a biblical notion, by the way. God sometimes gives people up in the lusts of their hearts. (Romans 1:24)

That’s what it means to be a slave to sin. We can reach a point where we so give ourselves over to our habits and lusts that God gives us over to them. This is not life. This is death.

If you have ever been there, you know the haunting despair this brings. You are never satisfied; you are always on the prowl, always on edge.  You always know you are going to go to porn again no matter how long you fight temptation. You are always covering up, always wondering how long you can maintain this. Maybe it was worse: you stopped worrying, because you didn’t care. This is death, not life.

Feasting, drunkenness, and wild parties.Literally, they were inflamed continually by what they brought into their bodies and then expressed theirinternalchaos with external chaos. Loud, chaotic, empty, angry, meaningless parties, followed by a bitter fruit of excessive drinking and drunken hookups.

The terrible worship of idols.In Peter’s context, this was typically temple orgies. It was not just a rejection of God; it was a debasement of people, the ruin of personal lives on the way to toppling an empire (just read the history of how Rome fell from within)[5]. Ultimately, people worshiped at the idol of ME, and the idol of “ME” will dominate and destroy everything around me.

  • Who suffers most:The one who indulges as Peter described, or the one who, with God’s help, resists this, ‘suffering’ by denying themselves for the sake of Christ? Who has “abundant life”?
  • Who suffers most:those who live around the self-indulgent and destructive worshiper, or the one who lives around those surrendered to the will of God and the path of life?[6]

God’s design for our good reflects reality– it should, because God created and designed it all, so he knows how it’s meant to work. I’m thrilled that the message of Christianity is entirely counter-cultural on these issues.

  • God’s commands, not earthly pleasures, revive our souls. (Psalm 19)
  • Life is found not when we indulge, but when we take up a cross. (Luke 9:23)
  • Life is found not in selfishness, but in laying down our lives for others. (John 15:13; Eph. 5:25)
  • Self-control, not indulgence, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. (Galatians 5:22-23)
  • Life is found not in lawlessness but in the boundary of good moral laws. God’s commands are a ‘school master’ to guide us in the path of life, not keep us from the good stuff. (Galatians 3:24)
  • It's when we reject the life of the world that we find eternal life. (John 12:25)
  • It’s in service, not power, that we find an honorable life. (John 12:26)

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mqia1Ft1Zy4[/embed]

So, ’suffering’ by resisting sin - even at the cost of being mocked or persecuted -  is a small price to pay in exchange for living in the goodness that God has offered to us. Christ offers life; the Kingdom of God is meant to be a place where humanity flourishes as they are saved by Christ, filled with His Holy Spirit, guided by His word, and connected with His people.

“Would that men might come at last to see that it is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there its consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross.”  - St. John of the Cross

  • We ‘suffe'r by resisting the desire to gossip, but the fruit is friendship. Our suffering is redemptive rather than destructive.
  • We ‘suffer’ by confronting our addictions, but the fruit is all kinds of health.
  • We ‘suffer’ by forgiving those who are hard to love, but the fruit is internal peace rather than anger and bitterness.
  • We ‘suffer’ by being generous with money we want to keep, but the fruit is that we will worship God, not money.
  • We ‘suffer’ by biting our tongue when we want to lash out, but the benefit is not burning bridges and wounding others.
  • We ‘suffer’ by humbly repenting of our failures, sins and stupidity, but the fruit is maturity.
  • We ‘suffer’ by aligning our sex lives with God’s design, but the fruit is honor and purity.
  • We ‘suffer’ by taking a stand for our faith in the midst of criticism and mockery and even persecution, but the fruit is that we “live the rest of your life on earth controllednot by earthly desires but by the will of God.”

But it’s not just about us. Peter has been making the argument for several chapters that our lives open the door for our words. He’s been saying this for the entire letter, and I think he closes this section in the way he does to remind us that this isn’t just for our good and God’s glory, it’s part of our fulfillment of the Great Commission. Our lives open the door for us to bring the good news of salvation so others, too, can live in the in will of God through the blood of Jesus and the power of his Holy Spirit.

Someday they will have to give an account of themselves to the One who judges the living (those alive in Christ) and the dead (those dead in their sin).[7] This is why the good news had to be brought to those who are now (spiritually) dead so that although they are currently judged by their life in the flesh, they have the opportunity, because of Christ, to live in the spirit in the way that pleases God.

We have the opportunity to preach the good news of the Gospel, a gospel which will lead to a righteous, healthy and holy life lived in the power of the Spirit now and in the glorious presence of Jesus

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[1]3:19 “The three most common views on this passage are: (1) Between Jesus’ death and resurrection, he preached to the dead in Hades, the realm of the dead (the view of many church fathers, citing 4:6)… (2) Christ preached through Noah to people in Noah’s day (the view of many Reformers). (3) Before or (more likely) after his resurrection, Jesus proclaimed triumph over the fallen angels (the view of most scholars today, citing v. 22) Early Christians nearly always used “spirits” for angelic or demonic spirits rather than human ones, except when explicitly stating the latter. The Spirit raised Jesus; by the Spirit (and thus, in this context, presumably after his resurrection) Jesus “made proclamation”; in v. 22, his exaltation declared his triumph over fallen angels. Most ancient Jewish readers believed that Ge 6:1 – 3 refers to angels who fell in Noah’s day (v. 20); after the flood, they were said to be imprisoned (so also 2Pe 2:4Jude 6).”  (NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible)

[2]“Angels and authorities and powers - That is, all creatures and beings… are put under subjection to Jesus Christ…He alone can save; and he alone can destroy…. Well may his enemies tremble, while his friends exult and sing…If angels and authorities and powers be subject to him, then he can do what he will, and employ whom he will... We can conceive nothing too difficult for Omnipotence. This same omnipotent Being is the friend of man. Why then do we not come to himwith confidence, and expect the utmost salvation of which our souls and bodies are capable?”  (Adam Clarke Commentary)

[3]“There are four main interpretations of the "dead" in this passage (cf. comment on 3:18-22). (1) Christ, while in his three-day death, went and preached salvation to all the dead, offering salvation to those who lived in pre-Christian times. (2) Christ, while in his three-day death, went and preached salvation to the just of OT times. (3) The apostles and others on this earth preached the Gospel to those who were spiritually dead. (4) The dead are Christians, who had the Gospel preached to them and who then died (or were put to death). (Expositor's Bible Commentary (Abridged Edition): New Testament) I am partial to #3, because it makes sense in light of the next verse, which is best translated as, “the good news had to be brought to those who are now dead…”

[4]Three possible translations of this confusing verse:

  • "For this indeed was the effect of the preaching of the Gospel to the dead, (the unconverted Gentiles), that some will be punished as carnal men; but others, (those converted to Christianity), lead a spiritual life unto God." - Wakefield.
  • "For this purpose hath the Gospel been preached even to the dead, (i.e. the Gentiles), that although they might be condemned, indeed, by men in the flesh, (their persecutors), yet they might live eternally by God in the Spirit." - Macknight.
  • "For this cause was the Gospel preached to them that were dead; that they who live according to men in the flesh, may be condemned; but that they who live according to God in the Spirit, may live." - Knatchbull.

My rendering seeks to do justice to all the ideas bouncing around :)

[5]"Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, said that the following five attributes marked Rome at its end: first, a mounting love of show and luxury (that is, affluence); second, a widening gap between the very rich and the very poor (this could be among countries in the family of nations as well as in a single nation); third, an obsession with sex; fourth, freakishness in the arts, masquerading as originality, and enthusiasms pretending to be creativity; fifth, an increased desire to live off the state. It all sounds so familiar."Francis Schaeffer- How Should We Then Live

[6]Living a lifestyle of sin is notthe good life. We don’t even need to read the Bible to see this. I could talk about a lot of things, but I will just point out the things Peter specifically calls out to demonstrate that when the Bible talks about life, the Bible tells you the truth about life.Even those outside of the church see what the Bible revealed long ago.

[7]“The interpretation of this verse is often linked to 3:19, but the vocabulary of the text and its context differ. There are four main interpretations of the "dead" in this passage (cf. comment on 3:18-22). (1) Christ, while in his three-day death, went and preached salvation to all the dead, offering salvation to those who lived in pre-Christian times. (2) Christ, while in his three-day death, went and preached salvation to the just of OT times. (3) The apostles and others on this earth preached the Gospel to those who were spiritually dead. (4) The dead are Christians, who had the Gospel preached to them and who then died (or were put to death). (Expositor's Bible Commentary (Abridged Edition): New Testament) I am partial to #3, because it makes sense in light of the next verse, which is best translated as, “the good news had to be brought to those who are now dead…”

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To This You Were Called (1 Peter 3:8–3:16)

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I have often heard people ask, “What has God called me to do?” It’s a great question. We want to know if we were made for something; if there is something we can do that really, really matters to God and can have an impact on the world. When I was teaching high school, this was a common dilemma of seniors, but it can apply to any of us who wonder if we are really being the person God intends for us to be. So, I have good news: I am going to tell you this morning what your calling is. But let’s back up first.

The latest section we have been covering began this way:

“Live honorably among the outsiders so that, even when some may be inclined to call you criminals, when they see your good works, they might give glory to God when He returns in judgment.”(1 Peter 2:12)

Then Peter highlighted three groups of people to honor:

  1. Rulers
  2. Masters
  3. Spouse

 

In 1 Peter 3:8, we get to the “finally” - the last admonition in this section on how to live honorably so that our good works will glorify God in the midst of a hostile world. This “finally” is now addressed to “all of you.”[1]

Finally, all of you, be like-minded and show sympathy, love, compassion, and a humble mind to and for each other— not paying back evil with evil or insult with insult, but repaying the bad with a blessing. It was this you were called to do, so that you might inherit a blessing. It is written in the psalms: “If you love life and want to live a good, long time, then be careful what you say. Don’t tell lies or spread gossip or talk about improper things. Walk away from the evil things in the world—just leave them behind, and do what is right, and always seek peace and pursue it. For the Lord watches over the righteous, and His ears are attuned to their prayers. But His face is set against His enemies; He will punish evildoers.”

Maybe not what you were expecting, but there is your calling:

“Be like-minded and show sympathy, love, compassion, and a humble mind to and for each other— not paying back evil with evil or insult with insult, but repaying the bad with a blessing.

This letter has been relentlessly reminding us that God’s transformation of our hearts must result in a transformation of our lives. Specifically, it is molding us into the kind of people who will (or at least should) model righteous relationships: honest, faithful, loving, and sacrificial.

Sometimes when I am prepping I think, “We are going to talk about how to move deeper into the holiness which God gave us yet again? And we are going to focus on how this impacts how crucial our relationships are as an expression of this?” Yep. And we are going to keep covering it until Peter moves on.

[2]Be ye all of one mind (divinely inspired harmony) -  It’s about inner outlook that manifests in outward behavior. Having the heart and mind of Christ changes how we live with each other. It coordinates us. We are in sync with Christ and each other for our good and God’s glory. This does not mean we agree on every secondary issue. This means we unite around the nature of Jesus and the salvation He brings, and then lock arms and work together as a testimony to how the Holy Spirit’s divine inspiration unites in a way that defies human explanation. We can argue, disagree, even wound each other – and then we kneel together at the foot of the cross, repent to God and each other, and extend the forgiveness to others that Jesus gave to us.

  • Politics does not separate us. Even obnoxious people who talk obnoxiously about politics do not separate us, because Jesus is bigger than politics.
  • Social class or IQ or Personality Types don’t separate us, because Jesus is stronger than these differences. We should be able to say, “Wow, we are so different - but Christ is enough.”
  • There are good social issues that we think ought to be prioritized in a Christian’s life – abortion, immigrants and refugees, sex trafficking. There are good ‘in house’ issues that we think are important: singing vs. preaching on a Sunday, where and how and how often to do missions, prioritizing evangelism vs. discipleship. How we prioritize these issues ought not destroy our unity, because if we have the heart and mind of Christ, we are already united in the idea that these issues are important, even if the where we place them on a scale of importance differs.
  • Anger at those who let us down in some way or wound us should not separate us. Now, if it’s actual physical, emotional or spiritual abuse, safe boundaries are necessary, and that includes physical, emotional and spiritual space. But in relationships that have unavoidable and appropriate conflict, anger or frustration at someone else should unite us even more because we walk into it, which means we walk toward the people who are part of the problem and not away from them. (Ideally, there is reconciliation and healing in ALL the scenarios).

Have compassion -  This is being tender-hearted; the biblical language carries the idea of letting our bowels yearn over the distressed and afflicted.

I spent a while being really annoyed at people saying I had “white privilege.” I have never thought of myself as living with privilege. My parents lived below the poverty line from the time I was 10. But I must “let my bowels yearn over the distressed and afflicted.” So I spent time reading and listening to what people who are not white had to say.

It took a while, but eventually the frustration and pain that I had not previously understood began to make sense to me. As a result, a more tender heart formed. I might not have fully understood, but I was certainly better equipped to understand, to feel compassion, to want to draw close rather than distance myself and offer dismissal and judgment.

My calling, as a Christian, is to be tender-hearted in these moments. If people around me are distressed, if they are afflicted, if they are being harmed or dishonored or dismissed – my calling is to have the heart and mind of Christ for them. Purposeful investment (listening, reading) can builc compassion – a tenderness that helped me long for wrongs to be made right.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean I will agree with the validity of everything someone else says or feels. But even if I don’t, I have still taken the time to honor them by investing in their lives.

People in pain don’t have to be right or justified in order for me to care.

My calling is to know and seek to understand them, because they are people created in the image of God, and whatever I do to anyone, it’s as if I did it unto Jesus. So I genuinely enter into their world to honor them and bring the transformative truth and grace of Jesus.

Love -  this is philadelphos; brotherly love. Agape love has to do with purposeful sacrifice for the good of the other. It’s a term of commitment and priority. This word is more emotional. Be ‘affectionate friends’ of your brothers and sisters in Christ as if they were beloved family members. If you have been in a family where you have had a good relationship with at least one family member, you know it’s simultaneously beautiful and really difficult. Not every day (or week or month) is a good one, but they are family. You know at the end of the day you are not letting go of each other, and so you figure it out. And on the other side of ‘figuring it out’ you (ideally) know and understand each other better. There is unity.

Humble-minded -   acquire and cultivate a friendly disposition. It’s from a word that means God-reliant rather than self-reliant, and so it never self-exalts. I use to go to a gym with a guy who would say, “Did the room just get smaller?” every time he would walk in (he was joking, btw).

This is so important. If the room gets relationally smaller when we walk in, if we go into conversations or relationships thinking we are all that, it’s not going to go well. If we constantly think, “I’ve got this. I am the smartest person in the room right now,” odds are really good we don’t got this, and we are not.

And in situations like this, walls go up in the people around us. They know when we are so full of ourselves there is no room for anyone else. Even God resists the proud – but He gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

Not paying back evil for evil/insult for insult - Purposing, saying, doing nothing but good; and invariably returning good for evil. There’s a movie with a scene where a bouncer is training a group of other bouncers how to de-escalate and resolve tense situations. His advice: “Be nice.” If someone calls you an idiot? Be nice. If someone suggests your mom participates in the world’s oldest profession? Be nice. “When can we stop being nice?” I’ll tell you, he says.

Now, nice isn’t really a biblical word, but kindness - “actions which are eternally and ultimately beneficial for others - is. Here’s what the Bible tells us: be kind. Do not pay back evil and insults with evil and insults. Never stop doing that which is eternally and ultimately beneficial for others, and this can include a boldness and bluntness that we don't think of as ‘nice’.

But it will always be done out of and with love, humility and compassion, and never out of anger, frustration, pride or revenge. It will never overcome evil with evil, but with good.

It was this you were called to do

“This is your calling - your business in life, to do good, and to do good for evil, and to implore God's blessing even on your worst enemies. And this is not only your duty, but your interest; for in so doing you shall obtain God's blessing, even life for evermore.” Adam Clarke

Peter wraps up this section with the following conclusion:

13 Why would anyone harm you if you eagerly do good? 14 Even if you should suffer for doing what is right, you will receive a blessing.[3] Don’t let them frighten you.[4] Don’t be intimidated, 15-16 but exalt Him as Lord in your heart.[5] Always be ready to offer a defense, humbly and respectfully, when someone asks why you live in hope. Keep your conscience clear so that those who ridicule your good conduct in the Anointed and say bad things about you will be put to shame.”

“When someone asks you why you live in hope.” In context, this question apparently comes from people who are astonished at our behavior.

  • Why don’t you take the bait?
  • They started it, why don’t you give them what they’ve got coming?
  • Why didn’t you move in for the sarcastic ‘kill’?
  • How do you absorb all those verbal and emotional punches without lashing out?
  • How is it that you stay so calm when people come at you?
  • How do you stay so gentle with such obnoxious people?
  • I’m pretty sure you love everyone. How is that possible?
  • How is it that you live with such honor for everyone? How is it possible that you do not repay evil for evil?

 

Be ready to talk about Jesus :)

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[1] As you read, note what Paul wrote in Romans 12:9-21:“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

[2] My definitions and explanations for these are heavily indebted to Adam Clarke’s commentary and the definitions at biblehub.com.

[3] “This seems to refer to  Matthew 5:10, etc. Blessed or happy, are ye when men persecute you, etc. It is a happiness to suffer for Christ; and it is a happiness, because if a man were not holy and righteous the world would not persecute him, so he is happy in the very cause of his sufferings.” - Adam Clarke

[4] “The exhortation may mean, ‘Fear not their gods, they can do you no hurt; and supposing that they curse you by them, yet be not troubled; "He who fears God need have no other fear.’" – Adam Clarke

[5] But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts -  “Entertain just notions of God; of his nature, power, will, justice, goodness, and truth… separate him in your hearts from every thing earthly, human, fickle, rigidly severe, or capriciously merciful… Do not confine him in your conceptions to place, space… heaven, or earth; endeavor to think worthily of the immensity and eternity of his nature, of his omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence… conceive of him as infinitely free to act or not act, as he pleases. Consider the goodness of his nature; for goodness, in every possible state of perfection and infinitude, belongs to him. Ascribe no malevolence to him; nor any work, purpose, or decree that implies it… Do not suppose that he can do evil, or that he can destroy when he might save; that he ever did… pass them by without affording them the means of salvation. Thus endeavor to conceive of him; and, by so doing, you separate him from all that is imperfect, human, evil, capricious, changeable, and unkind. Ever remember that he has wisdom without error, power without limits, truth without falsity, love without hatred, holiness without evil, and justice without severity on the one hand or capricious tenderness on the other. In a word, that he neither can be, say, purpose, or do, any thing that is not infinitely just, holy, wise, true, and gracious; that he… has so loved the world, the whole human race, as to give his only-begotten Son to die for them, that they might not perish, but have everlasting life. Thus sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and you will ever be ready to give a reason of the hope that is in you to every serious and candid inquirer after truth.” – Adam Clarke’s Commentary