Yesterday our community learned that police apprehended a man who is accused of, 25 years ago, killing a local school teacher. He has been living and working in our community all these years. Here’s the freaky thing, he has a long career as a popular DJ, and he recently deejayed our daughter’s 6th grade end-of-year party hosted by her elementary school. Undercover officers attended the party and were able to obtain a DNA sample giving them long-awaited evidence to confirm his involvement in the murder. They later arrested him at his home without incident. My wife and I read the news article with eyes wide. There was a killer in our midst.
Today, as we continue studying what Peter has to say in his letter to Christians in the first century Roman Empire, he teaches us about 5 killers in the midst of church families, and he says they need to go. If you want, go back and read the intro post from yesterday. Here’s the scary thing, though: the five church family killers could easily be within any of us.
Read 1 Peter 2:1-3 where Peter names the five: Malice, Deceit, Hypocrisy, Envy, Slander.
If we are to be a loving church family, all five of those family killers have to be discarded like dirty clothes, Peter says. Let’s make sure we know exactly what they are so we can identify them in ourselves and clean them out.
First up is Malice. Not a word we use too often. But this word Peter used is defined as, “a feeling of hostility and strong dislike, with a possible implication of desiring to do harm—‘hateful feeling.’ That is intense, right? Feeling hostile toward someone? Maybe even desiring to do them harm? My first thought is “Woah…wait a minute Peter. Are you serious? People in a church family are not like that toward one another. You’re starting us off way over the top here, Peter.”
But let’s face it. When it comes to church, our feelings can run really deep. In a culture that is changing rapidly, we want the church to be our safe place. When the church starts to change, that can set off deep feelings of anger and stuff comes out of our lives that maybe we didn’t ever imagine we were capable of. Rage and temper are powerful forces that many of us cannot control.
Peter is saying malice has to go. Do you have those strong angry feelings toward anyone? Those feelings need to go. Surrender your feelings to the Lord, repent, confess, ask forgiveness. Don’t let them eat you up. Malice has to go.
The next two are similar. Deceit and Hypocrisy. Deceit is defined as “to deceive by using trickery and falsehood.” This is lying. Hypocrisy is defined as “to give an impression of having certain purposes or motivations, while in reality having quite different ones.” Normally when we think of a hypocrite, we think of a person who says one thing and does another.
No surprise here that hypocrisy and deceit are church family killers, right?
My wife, Michelle, is reading a book right now called Sacred Slow, and the author says that hypocrisy and deceit can be poison. She says, “Physically most of us will never poison ourselves. But mentally, most of us habitually poison ourselves. “I’m unattractive.” “I’m all alone.” “I’m stupid.” “I’m worthless.” “If only I were…” “If only I wasn’t…” “If only I hadn’t…” These are poisonous thoughts which can ruin ourselves, our activities, and our relationships.”
We need to rid ourselves our deceit and hypocrisy first by telling ourselves the truth! The author of Sacred Slow says we need to speak truth to ourselves regularly: “God made me, I am not alone, I have Jesus, I have _____ as a friend, God loves me unconditionally and I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
What we allow our minds to focus on becomes our truth, and that flows into our actions. Dwell on who you are as a child of God. View one another in your church family as children of God. Peter says remove deceit and hypocrisy in the church family.
Fourth he brings up Envy. This one is defined as a “state of ill will toward someone because of some real or presumed advantage experienced by such a person” That definition might sound complicated. Basically, envy is jealousy. Here’s an example: have you ever had bitter feelings because a person in your church family clearly makes more money than you and is able to have a bigger house, better vacations, and nicer cars?
Jealousy can happen when one person has a certain kind of family, and another person doesn’t.
Jealousy can happen when one person seems to have a lot of friends, or is invited to certain social functions, and another person is not.
We can be jealous of another person’s personality, sense of humor, attractiveness.
Peter says get rid of envy.
Finally, Peter mentions Slander which is “to speak against, often involving speaking evil of” Slander and malice go together. Malice is the feeling of evil against another. Slander is speaking in an evil way against or about another. You might be a person prone to malice, where you feel strong feelings against another, but you are not a slanderer. You wouldn’t go so far as to actually open your mouth and speak against them. Slander involves another level of sin. It is not only having strong feelings, but speaking them. Gossip is very much related to this.
Peter says get rid of slander.
So there they are. The five church family killers. Malice, Deceit, Hypocrisy, Envy, Slander. That is a bad list! These are really awful behaviors. Peter wants the readers of his letter to be super clear: these things should have no part of a church family. It would be easy to think, “Well, geez, Peter, those are really bad behaviors…why are you talking about them? Wouldn’t it be super rare that Christians treat each other like that?”
Maybe. Maybe not.
I think it is important that Peter clearly lists out what is not acceptable in a loving church family. But more than likely, Peter is addressing issues that he actually heard about in churches. So let’s pay attention to our church family. Let’s call out these behaviors and work to stop them. They should have no part of our fellowship, and no part of our individual lives. Take off those dirty clothes!
But Peter doesn’t stop there. Peter doesn’t just want the people to stop things. He also wants them to start things. Remove the poor behaviors, and make sure you add what? Check back in tomorrow, and we’ll find out!