Peter writes to Christians who are called to live faithfully in the face of mounting opposition (I Pet 1:6) In the face of persecution and suffering, Peter wants to encourage faithfulness and to enable the effectiveness of God’s people. He doesn’t want them just to hang on and get by, but wants them to grow and thrive as they achieve God’s good purposes in the world.
One of my favorite stories of Christian love is one that comes from a trip that my family calls the worst vacation ever. I was not with them but most of the rest of my family was. They were traveling to Alabama to attend a wedding, but while they were in route Hurricane Katrina hit destroying the venue and much of the coast. Thankfully they realized what had happened and stopped heading south while in Tennessee. But as they started back, they ran into car trouble in Franklin Kentucky. This was Saturday night, and they found a motel but were at a loss as to what to do – except for Sunday morning. Everyone knows what to do then. They found the local congregation of the Lord’s people and showed up for Sunday services. Thankfully the Church in Franklin also knew what to do. They were friendly and welcoming and made sure that before services were over, they knew who these strangers were and what they were doing. When they learned the situation one of the members (a manager at the local Ford dealership) opened the auto shop where he worked and got the repairs done on the mini van. The members there also made sure that everyone was fed and comfortable and had extra money to cover added expenses including the car repair which they also paid for.
If you had never heard the phrase “going above and beyond” you might invent it just to describe the care and hospitality demonstrated by the Franklin Ky Church of Christ. I would suggest though that it describes or should describe the attitude and behaviour of all Christians as they live their Christian duty and demonstrate their love one for another. I might further suggest that this is exactly the kind of thing that Peter has in mind as he reaches out to the struggling faithful.
God always Goes Above and Beyond Expectations – Consider:
- That He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
- You’re Not Just Forgiven, so don’t just forgive. I Peter 1:18-19 Knowing you were ransomed form the futile ways inherited from you forefathers not with perishable things such as silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ, like a lamb without spot of blemish. We might ask, what does it mean to forgive and who do you know who has done it? When was the last time you forgave someone?
- How Jesus forgives: It required great cost and enormous sacrifice in order for Jesus to forgive. “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Rom 5:8-10) What about Phil 2:6-8, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”. Jesus had to go on a rescue mission. He had to leave the glory of heaven and then suffer humiliation, torture and death and guess what? This was all for people who weren’t asking. Is that what forgiveness looks like for us? Do we seek forgiveness and reconciliation while the person who wronged us is still doing it? Do we go to the person who has wronged us, or do we sit back and wait? Do we reach out to offer forgiveness to those who don’t like us or want us? What about when we need forgiveness, who do we want to go to? If you have wronged someone stop what you’re doing and go apologise and seek reconciliation.
- You’re Not Just Cared For, so don’t just care. We can read in I Pet 5:7 that we should cast our cares upon God because he cares for us. How much does he care? In everyone’s favorite verse we can read “God so loved the world that he gave his only son.” In Rom 8:32ff “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Some have asked “does God care about the suffering, death, hardship, anguish the cruelty that people may endure in this life?” What I can tell you is that people who ask that question don’t know Him. They don’t know his plan, and they don’t know his people.
What about us though, do we care?
James describes a man who sees his brother in need James 2:15-16 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? I must add that I hear another story every day of some brother or sister who called or picked something up or took time to check in on someone else. I also know that there are times when I withdraw my concern when I think to myself, I don’t have time to help with that or I don’t have the means. God didn’t just care, he invested his heart in us, he sees us in need, separated and alone and he doesn’t just give us a hand – he provided a way to make us all that we could be. He has redeemed us and then added us to his family, secured our eternity and made us Holy as Priests I Pet 2:9-12. It would be like paying someone’s debt then buying them a new house.
You’re Not Just Righteous, so don’t just be right (I Peter 1:14-15) “As obedient children do not be conformed to the passions of you former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct”.
Remember when Jesus said, that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Mat 5:20)? Maybe you read that and thought, what? how is that even possible? certainly the original hearers would have thought this. This is a key concept that we need to understand. God is perfect I Jn 1:5. “In him is no darkness at all.” So only those who are perfect can be in his Kingdom. The scribes and Pharisees certainly didn’t qualify. But Jesus wasn’t talking about a person who did all the right stuff at all the right times. The righteousness that comes from God is not about being right it’s about being made anew. I Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”.
Do we read that and say “wow I’m pretty impressive!” I must really be something to be qualified for all that. Of course not, we understand that our own efforts are worthless and hopeless unless empowered by God. I unapologetically work as hard as I can to obey God and live according to his word and I believe every Christian must do that. However, I don’t for one second think that I am doing it alone or that I have achieved anything. I obey because of who I am because of what God’s grace has done in my life. A truly righteous person lives God’s will to the best of their ability because of what God has done, because of who they are in Christ. They do not do so in order to accomplish their own salvation. You can’t get there by your own efforts. So don’t just be right, understand that you are God’s child…that you are freed from sin and death and then live like it!
When God works he does more than we can ask or imagine . He goes so far beyond what we need and beyond what we can even understand. As we live this life we are to be a manifestation of the God whom we serve. People need to look at us and see a reflection of our Saviour. If that is to be the case then his Church has to look as special as he says it is. His people need to look as sanctified as he says they are. Jesus said that “I when I am lifted up will draw all men unto me”. Are we lifting him up in our lives in our churches to the extent that people can see the light that they so desperately need and experience the Love and Grace that God wants to show them.
Photo used with permission. Source link: https://www.photos-public-domain.com/2011/03/02/sun-in-blue-sky/