Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Above all, love each other deeply

Tonight in Bible class we were talking about 1 Peter 4:1-11. We talked about the suffering of Christ and suffering for the faith. Hard times can make us stronger or break us down. Here Peter is warning his fellow Christians of what to do when the hard times come. He first points to Christ as our example. Then he goes on to give some pratical advice of fighting the dark times:
7The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
He continues with other advice such as practicing hospitality, teaching and serving. But he echoes the idea that Jesus tried to teach us. Loving God and Loving each other is the most important thing "because love covers over a multitude of sins". The covering of sins certainly refers to Christ's love in his sacrifice that brings us redemption. But in this situation, he's referring to our interactions as a body. The MOST important thing we can do to fight the hard times that the world throws at us is to love each because all the petty arguments, offenses, and differences will be abated by love. The covering power of the love is over our sins towards our fellow Christians. They criticize us, reprimand us, believe different from us, worship different than us, and raise their children different than us. How dare they be so different from us. But all my attempts to straighten them out and set them on the right path are just clanging symbols (like the kids banging on the pots in the kitchen) if I have not love.

When they do this things, believe these things, teach these things what am I to do? Am I not to correct them? We throw around the terms conservative, progressive, liberal, anti-this, and non-that. Whatever the labels, whatever the positions, whatever the doctrines, love must bind us all together. Whether I think you're wrong and don't choose to worship as you do or you think I'm wrong and don't choose to attend my gospel meeting, we must remember the words of our Lord and his servant Peter that love must be practiced above all.

I don't have to condone your actions or accept them for myself and I can certainly discuss with you where I think you may be in need of guidance. But I must not hold a grudge, spread gossip (true or not), publish nasty letters on my blog, or write you up in a Christian publication.

If my salvation is based on doing and believing the correct things throughout my life then I'm hosed. If my salvation is based on getting everyone around me to do and believe the correct things in their own lives then I'm equally hosed. I can't do it on my own and neither can you. But together when the dark times come (such as when some big man in a black helmet tries to extinguish your light from the galaxy) we can stand up under the suffering that the world throws at us. We can use our gifts "To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen."

Epilogue:
The thoughts in this article have been stewing around for a bit and our class tonight finally got me going on the track to write it all down. Some of the things rattling around in my brain are from a recent story involving the school where my mother work and my youngest 2 siblings graduated and the churches local to the area. I won't go into the story, but there are some blog entries, national Christian articles, and my brother's blog that refer to the situation. These things always make me sad. The congregation here where we attend has gone through a similar situation with lingering resentment (or fear of resentment) from some people.

Let us pray that we can love and be loved and that we will forgive others as we wish to be forgiven.
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