honor

Living With Honor: Part Two (1 Peter 2:12–3:7)

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13 For the Lord’s sake, accept the decrees and laws of all the various human institutions, whether they come from the highest human ruler 14 or agents he sends to punish those who do wrong and to reward those who do well. 15 You see, it is God’s will that by doing what is right and good you should hush the gabbing ignorance of the foolish. 16 Live as those who are free and not as those who use their freedom as a pretext for evil, but live as God’s servants. 17 Respect everyone. Love the community of believers. Reverence God. Honor your ruler. 18 If you are a slave, submit yourself to the master who has authority over you, whether he is kind and gentle or harsh as he deals with you. 19 For grace is clearly at work when a person accepts undeserved pain and suffering and does so because he is mindful of God. 20 For what credit is there in enduring punishment you deserve? But if you do what is right and yet are punished and endure it patiently, God will be pleased with you... The Anointed One suffered for us and left us His example so that we could follow in His steps. [he goes on to describe this more]

3 1-2 In the same way, wives, you should patiently accept the authority of your husbands. This is so that even if they don’t obey God’s word, as they observe your pure respectful behavior, they may be persuaded without a word by the way you live. 3 Don’t focus on decorating your exterior by doing your hair or putting on fancy jewelry or wearing fashionable clothes; let your adornment be what’s inside—the real you, the lasting beauty of a gracious and quiet spirit, in which God delights….

In the same way, husbands, as you live with your wives, understand the situations women face as the weaker vessel. Each of you should respect your wife and value her as an equal heir in the gracious gift of life. Do this so that nothing will get in the way of your prayers.

 

We talked last week about how honoring others for the sake of Christ accomplishes at least four important things:

  • “hushing the gabbing ignorance of the foolish” by doing what is right and good
  • displaying God’s grace
  • “persuading [toward Christ] by the way we live
  • supporting, not undermining, our prayers

Today, we are going to move further into this call to holiness.

 We talk in the United States about a government this is of the people, by the people and for the people. The church is of Christ, to the glory of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit…. and still for the people (the world…think the Great Commission).

The biblical language that explains our presence in the world is that we are to be salt and light. Salt preserves and protects; light shines into the darkness. We are here as Christians to preserve and protect truth, purity, love, peace, and hope to the glory of God and through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are here to shine the glory of Jesus and truth of God’s Word into even the darkest places and hearts in our culture. We are here to be of service to others on God’s behalf.

Honor was our focus last week. This week I want to look at how Peter gave some specific instructions on how to do this that I believe are meant to be applied to us all for the sake of our witness for Christ.

The advice to servants is advice to us all: display the grace God has given to us in the grace we give to others.

There is a parable of servant who is forgiven a debt he could never pay, who then promptly turns around and demands a petty debt his servant owes him (Matthew 18:21-35). His experience of unfathomable grace did nothing in him to bring out a desire to pass that grace on to others. Luke records Jesus teaching about how we are to pass on what God has given to us:

27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6)

It’s easy to love those who love us. Anybody can do that. But what about genuinely loving those who don’t love us? When we do that, we are salt and light: we step into a world that is all about “I will get what is owed to me!” and model grace (undeserved mercy). In the darkness of revenge and hate we shine the light of mercy, grace, and forgiveness.

The advice to wives is advice to us all: develop a gracious and quiet spirit. Biblehub.com defines the Greek used for these terms (2272  hēsýxios) in this way:

  • quiet, still, steady (settled) due to a divinely-inspired inner calmness.
  • "appropriately tranquil" by not misusing (or overusing) words that would stir up needless friction

It’s a God-inspired, Holy Spirit-empowered calm in our attitudes, words, and actions. This is a challenging one, because it has a lot to do with our inner life and the expression of emotions. If the other ones in my list were purposeful actions, this is purposing to have ‘appropriately tranquil’ reactions.

  • Your boss chews you out for something you didn’t do (or did do?)
  • Your kids tell you what a terrible parent you are
  • Your spouse breaks your heart with a poorly chosen word (or perhaps a carefully chosen one)
  • Your parents push your buttons once again
  • Someone publicly shames you on Facebook

How do we respond? Do we have a Holy Spirit-empowered calm in our attitudes, words, and actions? To have a quiet and gracious spirit, we must actively surrender to the work of God within us, and surrender our pride, our anger, our demand for fairness, our need to look good or be right in the eyes of others. “This is so that even if they don’t obey God’s word, as they observe your pure respectful behavior, they may be persuaded without a word by the way you live.”

The advice to husbands is advice to us all: Protect and defend those who are ‘weaker’ than we are. The context of 1 Peter likely had to do with social clout or physical strength (the gymnasiums were for men; women rarely had any kind of significant public voice). I am going to broaden the principle.

If we have areas in which we are stronger than others, that is not an excuse to dominate or bully. It’s the opportunity to serve.

Everyone in this room is strong in some way, in the sense that we all impact someone else’s life. One of the definitions of power is this: “the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events.” That’s all of us. Our very presence directs or influences the behavior of others or the course of events.

We can be strong or have power in a lot of ways that are more specific than just our presence.

  • Have we thought about the power of our eyes? A look of contempt vs. a look of love. A guarded look vs. an open look. Dismissive vs. engaged. Honoring vs. dishonoring.
  • Our posture is powerful. Body language speaks volumes. We can lean in or lean away from people. Even things like wearing headphones or isolating ourselves on a phone can send a very clear message to people.
  • Our clothes are powerful. According to an analysis of “over 30,000 articles on fashion published throughout 2017… ‘power’ is the word that appeared the most frequently.” [1] We can steer someone’s view of us or invite someone’s gaze with a carefully chosen outfit. If I wear a suit vs. my “drug rug” (apparently that’s what my fun new sweater is called by the kids these days), I can change the impression people have of me or encourage them to view me a certain way just by what I wear. A T-shirt with a slogan will invite or direct people’s eyes to the wearer’s chest; so will a skin-tight T-shirt. That’s power. In Chicago and Costa Rica, we are told how our clothes will invite certain responses or send certain messages. There is power involve just in choosing what to wear.

Then there is personality, money, words, prayer, listening, muscles, reputation, intelligence, empathy, spiritual gifts… These are all ways we “direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events.”

We are more powerful than we know.

Here’s the key biblical principle: The purpose of strength isn’t to be strong. That’s just what strength is. We might say, “I want to be strong or have power,” but then the obvious next question is, “Why?” As a Christian, I can’t just say, “So I can be strong.” Biblically, there is a purpose to our strength. I know this because there is a purpose to God’s strength.

  • Psalm 18:1-2 “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust...”
  • Psalm 22:19 “…O LORD, do not be far from Me; O My Strength, hasten to help Me!”
  • Psalm 28:7-8 “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped… the LORD is their strength, and He is the saving refuge of His anointed.”
  • 2 Samuel 22:3 “The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge…”
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:3 “But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.”
  • Ephesians 6:10 “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”
  • 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, because my power is strongest when you are weak.”

God uses His mighty power for our good. He did not design power for us to use to separate us from others or so we can dominate, exploit or use them, or so we can isolate ourselves. The power and strength God gives us is a tool to accomplish His purposes by helping those weaker than us to the glory of the God who has made us strong.

As Christians, we can’t just say…

  • “I want to be rich.” Why? For what purpose? Whom will you protect and build with your money?
  • “I want to be smart.” Why? For what purpose? Whom will you protect and build with the knowledge you gain? How does what you now know express itself in loving care of others?
  • “I want to be a powerful communicator.” That’s not enough. Powerful communicators can learn very quickly how to bully or seduce others with their words. I’ve said before how I had to come to grips with the reality that I can overwhelm people with my words. I have to keep this question in front of me: How am I using my words to protect and build those around me? (By the way, that means speaking truth with grace and humility. The solution is not to stop communicating. It’s to use the power of words in a godly manner)
  • “I want to own my own business.” Why? So nobody can tell you what to do? That’s not an option. God has things for you to do. If you are a Christian, your life is God’s. Everything you have belongs to Him, and that includes your time. I suspect God wants you to use the power over your schedule for the good of those around you, especially those who have some degree of powerlessness in your life. Maybe you have time to volunteer more. Maybe you have time to fill in for your employees occasionally and give them a surprise break.
  • “I want influence. I want to be known.” It can’t be just for the sake of being known. How will you use your influence to protect and defend?
  • “I want my kids to immediately respond to me.” Why? Is this for your sake or theirs? Why do you want that power? Is it to make your life easier, or is this actually part of a very purposeful plan for their good, to protect them from…what?
  • “I want the power to prophecy, or speak in tongues, or heal.” Why? Who do you plan to serve with that gift? Paul is clear in his letter to Corinth that these are gifts of service, not gifts meant to cement authority or build one’s own reputation.

Do you remember why Peter told husbands to honor their wives? “So nothing would hinder their prayers.” If I am understanding this correctly, Peter means a husband will undermine what he is praying for if he misuses his strength. He can pray all he wants that God is glorified, but it will be hypocritical and grating if he is living in a way that makes it so that Christ is not.

This is the ultimate purpose of all of our power: to point people to Christ, to use our power to serve in order to point toward Jesus, God in the flesh, who served us at such great cost.

From “All The Poor And Powerless,” by David Mathis: [2]  You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Cor. 8:9)

 Christianity is not for the self-sufficient. It’s not a religion for the rich and the strong. Jesus didn’t come to comfort the well-to-do and rally those who have their lives all in order. He didn’t come to gather the good, but the bad. Jesus came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Mark 2:17). This is one of the great paradoxes of the gospel.

 It’s the poor he makes rich, the weak he makes strong, the foolish he makes wise, the guilty he makes righteous, the dirty he makes clean, the lonely he loves, the worthless he values, the lost he finds, the have-nots who become haves. Not mainly in this age, but in the new creation to come. It is not the emotionally endowed that he blesses, but the poor in spirit (Matt. 5:3). It’s not the buoyant and boisterous he comforts, but those who mourn (Matt. 5:4). Not the prideful, but the meek (Matt. 5:5).

 He prophesies in Hosea 2:23, “I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people.’” God loves to show himself strong by being the strength of the weak, by showing mercy to those who otherwise receive no mercy. To take people that typically would hear “not my people,” and make them his people…

There is a great beauty to our God being the strength of the weak, and the riches of the poor. This is truly good news to those who of us who will acknowledge how needy we really are, how weak are hearts can be, how poor we really are in spirit. What good news that we have a God like this: who takes the foolish, the weak, and the lowly—like us—and makes us into trophies of his grace, for our joy and for his glory. ___________________________________________________

[1] https://www.wmagazine.com/story/fashion-word-of-2017-was-power-woke

[2] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/all-the-poor-and-powerless/

 

Living With Honor (1 Peter 2:12–3:7)

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I spent three summers in Kentucky at a Mennonite bible camp. One of the great parts of this was getting to experience Appalachian life, which was very different from my life in a farm community in Ohio. There are lots of stereotypes, but actually being there and meeting people gave me the opportunity to see for myself what the lifestyle and the people were like.

I was an outsider, right? I was not from there. Some of the language did not make immediate sense to me (what’s a tarpin?); some of the leisure activities were knew (catching crawdads for a meal); even going and playing pick up basketball was different, because on-the-court rules were different

But as I got to know people, I loved them and I loved it there. Now, whenever I see a movie or read a book set in Appalachia (like Justified Hillbilly Elegy), I have a context, a measure. How those around me lived set my mind toward them in a particular way. The people I got to know there represented where and who they were in a way that was compelling to me as an outsider.

Being ‘outsiders’ is a universal experience in that we all go places and are put in situations where we not comfortable because it’s not our place or not our people. It’s as simple as shopping or eating out somewhere new; vacationing somewhere new; working for new company; going to a new school. And in all these situation, you will likely have some preconceived ideas of what the experience or the people will be like (or should be like), and in every situation, your experience will confirm or change what you thought to be true. And when you leave, you will tell others what you learned.

After Peter talks about our holiness as followers of Jesus for a chapter and a half, he reminds us that we are in this challenging situation of being ‘resident aliens’ in this world, but rather than discourage us, that should encourage us to embrace a fantastic opportunity 

12” 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.”

Note: These are good works designed not to earn salvation or get brownie points in church circles. This is about bringing glory to God by living with honor. This is life as a witness: displaying the redeemed life that Jesus offers to a broken world in such a way that God’s glory at work in us is clearly seen. By doing this, they can break stereotypes and change the way the Greeks and Romans thought of followers of Jesus, which meant they would change the way they thought about the Jesus they were following.

I want to talk about what this looked like for the early church, and then how it applies to our lives today. So history first for a context, then the application.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * *

The ‘crimes’ of the early church involved the potential disruption of social hierarchy of authority in Greek and Roman culture: rulers above citizens, free above slaves, husbands above wives. The Romans thought it mirrored the life of the gods, and that the gods would bless Rome to the degree that the people mirrored their life.

As far back as the fourth century BC, there is record that the Greeks viewed the household to be a miniature and crucial version of the order found in the realm of the gods. Aristotle even identified the three key relationships within the household that mattered: “The smallest and primary parts of the household are master and slave, husband and wife, father and children.”  These developed into “household codes”.

Aristotle believed free men were by nature intended to rule over their wives, children, and slaves because they were created by the gods to be better. His writing is pretty clear on this point, noting that “the one gender is far superior to the other in just about every sphere,” and that “the slave has not deliberative faculty at all; the woman has, but it is without authority, and the child has, but it is immature.” 

An upper class Greek or Roman husband was the head of the family (like Augustus was the head of Rome, and Zeus was the head of the gods). His word was law. His wife, kids, and slaves were all possessions. He could kill his children or divorce his wife on a whim. If a wife did not meet the needs of her husband in any way, she could be beaten.

The reason for marriage was primarily for wives to bear legitimate children and to keep the family line going. Athenaeus explained the set up: “Is not a ‘companion’ more kindly than a wedded wife? Yes, far more, and with very good reason.  For the wife, protected by law, stays at home in proud contempt, whereas the harlot knows that a man must be bought by her fascinations or she must go out and find another.”

The double standard for women is remarkable. In the face of this behavior for men, “Good Roman wives demonstrate their character by respecting and honoring their husbands, by working faithfully to manage the domestic affairs of the household.”[1] Piety, chastity and modesty were so important for women that the words were often given abbreviations on the tombstones of women.

Upwards to 2/3 of those living in Roman society were slaves of some sort. The word for ‘slave’ that Peter uses is more specifically a house servant, of which many were probably in the church. (When Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians, almost everyone he addressed specifically ‘were of the household’ of someone.[2] Slaves loved the church, because it offered honor that was unheard of before. Read the link at footnote #2)

They could own property, achieve social advancement, and even be released or purchase their freedom. They were often highly educated: doctors, professors, teachers, administrators, public servants and even policemen. They often earned their freedom by the age of 30 or after an average of 10 years of work.[3]

Still, a master owned a slave like property and was free to be kind or cruel. The freed people scorned anyone who did not have freedom. Aristotle said slaves were “living tools,“ slaves by nature, almost like animals.  The Romans had a saying translated as “a slave has no persona,” no personality.

Christians were already finding themselves butting heads with both the culture and the law as they came to grips with what it meant to follow Christ. They were now part of a “new humanity” in which the divisions so crucial to the Greeks and Romans were meant to dissolve in mutual love toward Christ and each other. For example, Jew and Gentile, slave and free, men and women, were now sharing common meals together in their meetings (1 Corinthians 11). This was unheard of. Meals separated the free men from everybody else. While the Romans passed laws forcing widows to get remarried, the early church helped the widows (1 Timothy 5:3-16) without insisting they get remarried.

This was not sitting well with Rome. The early Christians were called “haters of humanity” because they challenged the structures that the Greeks and Romans believe brought stability to the nation and honor to the gods. So when the husband/father became a follower of Christ, his conversion brought him and his household shame and suspicion in the eyes of the Romans and Greeks. They were pretty sure this man and his family were on the verge of being traitors to their country, the gods and the order of the universe.  

So Peter has his work cut out. The early Christians needed to show ‘outsiders’ who they really were. They had to show the worth of Christ in the integrity of their lives. In the portion of the letter we are reading today, Peter is going to offer a way for believers to enter into the structures of a hostile culture and apply a gospel of love and servanthood that reflected the heart of Christ.

 

RULERS

13 For the Lord’s sake, accept the decrees and laws of all the various human institutions, whether they come from the highest human ruler 14 or agents he sends to punish those who do wrong and to reward those who do well. 15 You see, it is God’s will that by doing what is right and good you should hush the gabbing ignorance of the foolish. 16 Live as those who are free and not as those who use their freedom as a pretext for evil, but live as God’s servants. 17 Respect everyone. Love the community of believers. Reverence God. Honor your ruler.

 MASTERS

18 If you are a slave, submit yourself to the master who has authority over you, whether he is kind and gentle or harsh as he deals with you. 19 For grace is clearly at work when a person accepts undeserved pain and suffering and does so because he is mindful of God. 20 For what credit is there in enduring punishment you deserve? But if you do what is right and yet are punished and endure it patiently, God will be pleased with you. 21-22 For you were called to this kind of life, as Isaiah said, He did no wrong deed, and no evil word came from His mouth. The Anointed One suffered for us and left us His example so that we could follow in His steps. [he goes on to describe this more][4]

 SPOUSES

3 1-2 In the same way, wives, you should patiently accept the authority of your husbands. This is so that even if they don’t obey God’s word, as they observe your pure respectful behavior, they may be persuaded without a word by the way you live. 3 Don’t focus on decorating your exterior by doing your hair or putting on fancy jewelry or wearing fashionable clothes; let your adornment be what’s inside—the real you, the lasting beauty of a gracious and quiet spirit, in which God delights….In the same way, husbands, as you live with your wives, understand the situations women face as the weaker vessel.[5] Each of you should respect your wife and value her as an equal heir in the gracious gift of life. Do this so that nothing will get in the way of your prayers.

 

Paul is telling the church how to live so their perceived criminality or wrong-doing will not get them arrested and will not be a stumbling block to those who are far from Christ. In fact, if they do this right, God will be glorified.

  • They will obey the rulers to “hush the gabbing ignorance of the foolish.” But they will do more than that: they will use their freedom to live as God’s servants and even honor those who dishonor them.
  • Servants will patiently obey their masters to display God’s grace, always doing right and enduring wrong, trusting in God to make things right when He judges.[6]
  • Wives, “demonstrate your character…respect and honor your husband” (the Greek/Roman ideal) so unbelieving husbands are “persuaded [toward Christ] without a word by the way you live.”
  • Husbands, treat your wives with gentleness and respect so your prayers will not be hindered (possibly the prayers for their conversion, or to avoid being hypocritical. I tend to think it has to do with the genuine conversion of a wife who would have ‘converted’ if her husband did, since that is consistent with the overall topic being emphasized in this section.)

In Christ, there is no slave or free, Gentile or Jew, male or female – but in Rome, there is. So while the NT writers value how the radical nature of the Kingdom of God erases hierarchies of value and worth, here Peter is telling people in a particular time and place how to live as effective witnesses in a world that holds remarkably different values.[7]

  • Everybody - honor rulers, don’t just obey them.
  • Servants – honor your masters by serving your masters in a way that your patient suffering and grace models the patient suffering and grace of Jesus.
  • Wives - be modest, respectful and honoring of your husband to delight God, and to win him over if he is an unbeliever.
  • Husbands, your honoring of your wife removes a stumbling block that could be at odds with your prayers for your wife’s genuine conversion.[8]

This is all about living honorably as a witness. This is all about honoring God by honoring others, living in a way that gains the respect of your culture while simultaneously pointing toward God to reveal the power of His salvation and love to the world.

So that has me thinking. How do we witness to our culture today? By honoring everyone properly in order to:

  • “hush the gabbing ignorance of the foolish” by doing what is right and good
  • display God’s grace
  • “persuaded [toward Christ] without a word by the way you live”
  • support, not undermine, our prayers for the salvation of the lost

I’d like this to be the focus of our thoughts and prayer this week. Online, at work, in our homes, at church, in every conversation we have: Did we bring honor to God by honoring others? And then, add the prayer of the surrendered and desperate: “Oh, dear God, help me to honor you by properly honoring others.”

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[1]Russ Dudrey, “SUBMIT YOURSELVES TO ONE ANOTHER" A SOCIO-HISTORICAL LOOK AT THE HOUSEHOLD CODE OF EPHESIANS 5:15-6:9.”

http://studyres.com/doc/14271524/-submit-yourselves-to-one-another---a-socio\

[2] “Slavery And Early Christianity.” earlychristians.org. http://www.earlychristians.org/index.php/texts/studies-and-documentations/item/1802-slavery-and-the-early-christianity/1802-slavery-and-the-early-christianity

[3] For more insight on slavery, particularly how Paul addresses it in his letter to Philemon, see “The Best Way To Change A Culture” (https://clgonline.org/best-way-change-culture-insights-philemon/). Also, “Runners and Rulers” (https://clgonline.org/runners-rulers-insights-philemon/) and “A Place To Call Home” (https://clgonline.org/place-call-home-insights-philemon/)

[4] Paul gives the same reason why slaves should be obedient: for the sake of God’s reputation (1 Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:9-10) Read more at http://www.earlychristians.org/index.php/texts/studies-and-documentations/item/1802-slavery-and-the-early-christianity/1802-slavery-and-the-early-christianity

[5] Much has been made of the ‘weaker vessel’ comment. Roman, Greek and even Jewish men were pretty sure women were inferior by nature. Not so, says Peter. They may have less strength (physically or in social status/power at the time), but they are not a lesser or inferior person by nature or in the eyes of God.

[6] Other places Christian masters are challenged about their new responsibility as Christians, but that’s a different sermon.

[7] See the following sermons for more information:

[8] “Where there was no reciprocated respect, each recognizing the high vocation of the other, there could be no union of heart and soul in prayer.” (Cambridge Bible For Schools and Colleges)