WEEK SIX, DAY ONE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION
WEEK SIX THEME: LOVE
DAY TWO THEME: THE DEFINITION OF LOVE
SCRIPTURE: I PETER 4:1-8 (CEB)
“Therefore, since Christ suffered as a human, you should also arm yourselves with his way of thinking. This is because whoever suffers is finished with sin. As a result, they don’t live the rest of their human lives in ways determined by human desires but in ways determined by God’s will.
You have wasted enough time doing what unbelievers desire — living in their unrestrained immorality and lust, their drunkenness and excessive feasting and wild parties, and their forbidden worship of idols. They think it’s strange that you don’t join in these activiites with the same flood of unrestrained wickedness. So they slander you. They will have to reckon with the one who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
Indeed, this is the reason the good news was also preached to the dead. This happened so that, although they were judged as humans according to human standards, they could live by the Spirit according to divine standards. The end of everything has come. Therefore, be self-controlled and clearheaded so you can pray. Above all, show sincere love to each other, because love brings about the forgiveness of many sins.”
THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD – THANKS BE TO GOD!
SOAKING IT IN: I Peter 3 ends with a focus on Christ’s suffering on account of sin. I Peter 4 begins with “Therefore” and goes on to say that God’s people are to arm themselves with the thinking of Christ, saying, “This is because whoever suffers is finished with sin.” Then in verse 8 this section concludes with, “Above all, show sincere love to each other, because love brings about the forgiveness of many sins.”
Inbetween the “Therefore” and verse 8’s Forgiveness, there is a contrast drawn between those who live their lives according the Spirit of God (as Christ did) and those who live according to human desires which inevitably ends up in all kinds of excesses – “unrestrained immorality and lust, drunkenness, excessive feasting and wild parties” – basically putting all things humanly enjoyable ahead of God – idolatry.
I keep going back to the suffering that I Peter indicates we are to take on. Is the suffering a result of any feelings of isolation at walking in a way that is contrary to those living their life full of humanity as listed earlier. I can remember as a child thinking that belonging to God meant that you just were not allowed to have any fun. There seemed to be lots of “don’ts” that didn’t feel like there was any room left for many do’s. That did seem both impossible to do and lonely over all. As life expands and our walk with Christ is an open door to great joy and much reward in living, things become clearer and we wish it for everyone.
At that point I wonder if the suffering that God’s people experience is a result of the heaviness they feel because of those around who are consumed with such living as mentioned earlier and their lives begin to spiral out of control, becoming victims of their own choices. There is a helplessness that comes with allowing the people we love and hold most dear the same space that God has allowed us to have free will even if our own experience shows that path’s consequences to be detrimental and hurtful. Where do we speak up, how do we intervene, what is our role as people of the Kingdom of God? There is suffering that we can experience in the period of time necessary to allow that loved one to reach their “pit” so to speak and be ready for any influence we may have to offer. Our ‘meantime’ is painful, but is best spent in prayer and focus so that we will be able to extend the loving hand and open heart that brings help to lift our loved ones out of the pit when God’s time comes.
I’m sure that Christ suffered humanly when the Pharisees, Sadducees – the “religious people” of the day – would call him out and try to elevate themselves by looking down on him and his followers…trying to catch them being unGodly by twisting the words of God for their own purposes. Staying the course for Christ was full of selfless acts and many lonely moments, personal suffering, when even his closest followers were not yet on board. He constantly had to make “unpopular” choices to counteract the disturbances caused by those “religious” people of the day. Our religiosity can get in the way of our experience with Christ, and our ability to love those around us. Religiosity leads us into judgement. God leads us into unconditional love!
There are moments when only love for others can allow you to stay in touch when nothing else in the situation is favorable. That love will carry you foward as you embrace others – even if from a distance – until God’s timing is right and the relationship can ignite in God’s plan. I’m sure the cross was the lonliest time of all for Christ, but his obedience out of love made it possible for all those who would follow Him to do so in a perfect relationship with our Father and Creator God.
God’s great love is the perfect motivator for us if we will allow it to seep into every nook and cranny of our living. May it be so!