Thursday, December 4, 2008

1 Peter 4:7-11 - Love That's Out of This World

This Sunday we'll be studying a small passage from 1 Peter that follows-up on the last lesson, Christ's Vindication. When you read the Bible in snippets, as most people do, you sometimes fail to find the connectivity and lose context from the topics that led up to the text at hand. That is the case with this text. Taken by themselves, they're very helpful instructions for day-to-day living as a loving Christian. When linked to the concepts of Christ's second coming and the much-prophesied days leading up to that event, this text becomes all the more poignant.

In prep for this Sunday's lesson, I've been reading Mark 13. I've just been pondering what these times will feel like. What it would be like to live in a day where being a Christian was an open invitation to discrimination, ridicule, torture or death. Sadly, many places in the world are already in this state of existence. If we take Mark 13 literally, I believe all places on earth will one day present this same unfavorable climate for believers.

I'm reminded of an observation that one of my friends made many years ago. The husband of a professional child-birthing coach, Chip cited Romans 8:22 and commented that every minute of labor, the mother-to-be thinks it's the worst pain she's ever had. Then the next minute, it's even worse. He then added his observation that the generations of mankind have been the same way. Every generation there are preachers that talk about how awful and sinful our generation has become, and therefore conclude that the end must be near. I cannot think of a more crystal-clear way to understand this metaphor.

So, are we in the last days? As a mother in labor, we may certainly feel that this generation is the worst the world has ever seen. Maybe the next will top it, who knows. What we do know is how Scripture tells us to deal with the ever-increasing pressures against our faith and difficulties of this world, and it's not to worry or speculate. It's to love!

We are told in this passage and elsewhere that our love should be out of this world... literally. It should come from the strength of God. Which is convenient because as I read the instructions in 1 Peter 4:7-11, I'm struck at how unable I am in my own strength to accomplish it. But, so God may be praised, He empowers us to live in loving community so great that it's out of this world.

By God's strength, we're to face the adversity this fallen world has for the Church with open hospitality, taking care of brothers in more dire need than us. We're to take on an attitude of love toward others, which will cover the rough edges that our sin one-to-another creates. We are to serve one another and speak to one another as though we were representing God to them—the God of mercy and love who has poured out His grace on His elect.

Because after all, Christ for whose name we suffer will be vindicated, the first born among many brothers. "To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 4:11)

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