Why I am not a fan of eulogies (but why they are surprising important for church families)

30 Jul

Photo by Rhodi Alers de Lopez on Unsplash

I am not a fan of eulogies.  I’ve told you before that one of the aspects of being a pastor that I was definitely not prepared for was death.  It affects me.  Some pastors tell me they love funerals, and can’t stand weddings.  I’m the exact opposite. I love weddings.  Funerals, though?  No.  I’m just not a fan.  Of course I officiate funerals, and I hope I do well.  I believe they are a very important event for the family and friends of the deceased.  Grieving is important.  Thinking about matters of life after death is important. And almost always a funeral includes a eulogy.  You know that speech that tells the history of the person who died, praising that person?

I have given numerous eulogies over the years, and many times I don’t like them.  It’s not just the fact that we are talking about dead person, which can be depressing.  It is that so often in eulogies we straight up tell lies.  Most often the family wants you to tell a totally positive story about the deceased, even if everyone knows the deceased had numerous, even glaring faults.

This week as we continue our study through1st Peter, I was shocked to learn something brand new about eulogies.  We’ll be looking at 1 Peter 3:8-12 all week.  Read it for yourself.

One phrase I want you to listen for is: if people insult you, eulogize them!  What could Peter mean by that?  Oh, you don’t see that phrase in there?  I promise, it’s there!  I’ll show you this week!  What’s even more important than finding that phrase is what it means and how we can apply it to our relationships in the church family.

Peter says in Verse 8 “Finally” and by that he means “here is the end of the matter”, or “let me sum up what I am talking about.”  For a few weeks now Peter has been talking about many different relationships that Christians experienced in his day.  If you want, you can review the posts and you’ll see that Peter talked about the following:

  • How Christians should relate to governing authorities.
  • How Christian slaves should relate to their masters…even mean ones.
  • How husbands and wives should relate to one another.

Peter taught a common principle that Christians should apply to all these relationships: submission.  That’s not a very popular idea in our era, but as we saw, Peter was teaching Christians to submit first and foremost to God and the mission of his Kingdom.  If you want to learn the specifics of what Peter said about each of those other relationships, feel free to scan back through previous posts.

What we see today in verse 8 is that he is now bringing his thoughts to a close.  This week Peter is going to talk about how people in a church family should treat one another.  As I said above, he is going to say, “If someone insults you, eulogize ’em.”  Next week, Peter changes the focus to how Christians should relate to people outside their church family.

So his “finally”, his concluding remarks will cover the next few weeks.  As he goes on in verse 8, notice that he says, “all of you” and begins listing adjectives.  He is saying “Church…Christians…every single one of you, let me describe what you should be.  Then he lists five adjectives that should define Christian relationships in a church family.  What adjectives do you think should define a church family?  Tomorrow we’ll look at the first one.  And I promise…the surprising thing I learned about eulogy is coming later this week!

 

The Christian teaching about marriage that was radical (and will certainly enhance your marriage)

27 Jul

Photo by Andrew Itaga on Unsplash

Remember your wedding day?  (Or maybe you are looking forward to it?)  It is an amazing day, filled with crazy, happy, anxiety and joy as you publicly vow to love your spouse for life.  The road before you seems clear and straight and free from any surprises or trouble.

But before you know it, five years, or 10 or 20 have gone by and all those feelings you felt on your wedding day seem like a distant impossible memory.

If you are experiencing difficulty in marriage, know that you are quite normal.  Not that the difficulty is good.  Most times struggle and pain can lead to very good things like growth, maturity, and spiritual depth.  (Check out this excellent podcast episode on Youth Culture Matters to learn more about that.)  In marriage, when a couple is struggling, it is important to work through the struggle.  I am convinced that the earliest Christians were teaching some radical things about marriage in their day.  This radical teaching just might be the key to help you solve struggles in your marriage.

All week we have been looking at 1 Peter 3:1-7 where Peter has been talking on the roles that husbands and wives have in marriage.  Today we get to verse 7 where Peter says something radical to the husbands.  What is this crazy, wild teaching?  It starts when Peter says: “In the same way.” In the same way?  Huh?  How is that radical?  Let me try to explain.

“Husbands,” he says, “in the same way…”  Whatever he is about to say next, he is couching it alongside what he already said to the wives.  He wants the husbands to understand that they need to see a sameness with what he has been teaching their wives.  Just as we saw yesterday when we talked about the trajectory of this passage, Peter is once again laying a foundation for equality in marriage.  There is to be a sameness between husbands and wives.  That alone was unexpected, but he has more surprising things to say to the husbands.

He says, “be considerate with your wives and treat them with respect.”

Husbands treating their wives with consideration and respect is radical.  This would have been totally counter-cultural for the Roman Empire in 65AD.  In an earlier post this week we noted that it was common in both Jewish and Roman culture for men to see their wives as beneath them, even sometimes to the point of seeing their wives as possessions.  Into that patriarchal mindset Peter says, instead, that husbands are to be consider and respectful.  It is teaching that husbands need to hear for their spouses still today.

But as you read the passage, you might question what Peter says next.  He says, “treat [your wives] with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life…”

I think there is a very valid question we could ask: “Well if Peter is being so radical, why does he call the wives ‘weaker partners’?  ‘Weaker’ is so condescending and diminutive.  That sounds like Christian teaching that is promoting chauvinism, not setting a trajectory for equality.”  Very good question.

We might wince at the word “weaker” in 2018, but you need to understand that “weaker” was assumed by every single male in that audience.  That was the prevailing idea.  No one would have questioned that.  But the words “partner” and “heirs” would have raised eyebrows.  The men in the church would have had a really hard time with that, because Peter was clearly putting their wives on the same playing field as the husbands.  This is equality language, and therefore Peter was laying the groundwork, a trajectory, that for Christians means marriage can and should be approached with equality.

And notice the final phrase.  “So that nothing will hinder your prayers.”  That’s powerful. Peter is saying, Husbands, if you don’t treat your wives right, your prayers could be hindered!  Wow.  You want God to hear your prayer, right?  Treat your wives considerately, with respect, as partners and heirs.  We in 2018 need to see how dramatically radical this would have been for men, even Christian men, to hear in 65 AD.

So now is the day to decide what kind of husband and what kind of wife you will be.

First and foremost, make the mission of God your priority.  If you have an unbelieving spouse, win them without words, but with godly behavior.  You might need to stop preaching and start praying.  You might need to stop inviting them to church, and start serving them love right in your house.

Second, remember where true beauty is found.  Not outwardly, but by placing your hope in God and allowing him to transform your spirit.  No matter what you look like on the outside, you are beautiful or handsome or attractive when his fruit of the Spirit flows out of you.  Love, Joy Peace Patience Gentleness Kindness and Self-control.  These are vital for a healthy marriage.  Get the Fruit of the Spirit.  Pray for it.  Work at it.  See help, a mentor, a counselor.  At all costs, get the Fruit of the Spirit.

Third, love and respect and practice kindness and consideration to your spouse.  Wives to husbands and husbands to wives.  Clearly for Peter the issue is not who gets to be the head honcho in the house.  The issue is “make the mission of God your priority, and the best way to do that in marriage is to be a loving spouse.”

I started this week talking about Fred Flintstone’s caveman mentality that “a woman’s place is in the home.”  You can read that post here.  He seems like the classic male chauvinist.  But maybe even Fred Flintstone had a change.  Take a look:

So whether you are a husband or a wife, be loving, sacrificial, kind and considerate to your spouse!

Why trajectory is vital to understanding the marital submission passage in 1 Peter 3:1-7

26 Jul

Rocket launches have been all the rage recently, with private companies getting in the new space race.  I have always been fascinated with space shuttles and astronauts, and thus love watching the blast-offs!  A nighttime launch with is fire trail is especially amazing.  See the trajectory?

All week long we have been studying a controversial passage of Scripture, 1 Peter 3:1-7.  I’m convinced that the concept of trajectory is vital to understanding this passage.  Not rocket trajectory, but a missional trajectory.  What is missional trajectory?  Keep reading and I’ll explain.

In this passage we have seen Peter teaching about marriage roles.  Already this week, we have looked at verses 1-6.  You might want to read those posts first to see where we are headed…our trajectory!  Now as we continue in verse 6, Peter remarks that holy women of old were submissive to their husbands like Sarah, the matriarch of the Old Testament, who apparently even called her husband “master”.

Peter encourages these Christian women living in 65 AD in the Roman Empire to be submissive to their husbands like that.  Notice what he says in verse 6.  Those women will be like Sarah’s daughters if they do what is right and do not give way to fear.  Those are two interesting phrases.  Do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Why would he say, “do not give way to fear”?  It means that they can trust in God, put their hope in God, and submit. They don’t need to be afraid to submit.

For those of us hearing this with 2018 American ears, it can be very difficult, to hear this passage like those in the Roman Empire in 65 AD would have heard it.  Our cultural situation is vastly different.  We live in a society where there is a strong movement toward equality.  We are not there yet.   We still live in a patriarchal culture.  But in the last 100 years, our society has moved towards equality.  There are loads of jobs where women are paid less than men for the same job, for example.  We could go on and on about the many ways that our society is not equal.

But where we have made progress is in the area of marriage.  Men, most often, do not look at their wives as property.  As animals.  Instead men generally look at their wives in a much more equal way.  Of course there are still in our culture many different perspectives on the roles husbands and wives should have to maintain a healthy, godly marriage.

There is nothing wrong with having roles in a marriage relationship.  In our culture, it used to be that the man worked full-time, fixed the car and house, and did yard work.  The wife would stay home, cook and clean, and raise the kids.  But nowadays our culture has changed.  The man might want to cook, and they both might have jobs, and the wife might be the better mechanic.  What Michelle and I say to couples in premarital counseling is that each spouse needs to figure out which roles work for them.

Why?  Trajectory.  What do I mean by “trajectory”?  What I mean is that Jesus and the disciples were putting in motion a new way that had a trajectory.  In their day, they had to work within the existing cultural assumptions, but set a trajectory for a new way.

You know the Lord’s Prayer?  You know the line where Jesus prays to God asking God that “his will would be done and his Kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven.”  Jesus says that he wants his Kingdom to come on earth now, as it already is in heaven.  How is it in now heaven?  We read in many places in the New Testament that in God’s eyes men and women are totally equal, and Jesus once said that there is no marriage in heaven.  Before God, then, there is no difference between men and women, as we are completely equal in God’s eyes.  That equality, therefore, is the goal, the trajectory.  This is the same theological argument that is used to stop slavery.  In God’s eyes there is neither slave, nor free, and thus because we Christians are committed to ushering in the Kingdom of God now, we pursue a society in which slavery is eradicated.  In the same way, in God’s eyes there is neither male nor female, and thus because we Christians are committed to ushering in the Kingdom of God now, we pursue a society in which marriage roles are equal.  That is trajectory.

This trajectory has significant practical implications for a healthy marriage.  Because husbands and wives are equal, how should we have a healthy marital relationship?  In all relationships, and especially in the marriage relationship, we need to practice sacrificial leadership.

Did you ever notice how in most relationships one person thinks they are the sacrificial one?  You know how it goes, right?  One person thinks they are serving, helping, cleaning, doing so much, while the other person has been lazy, not helping, not communicating, etc.

And what is the other person thinking?  At the same time they are thinking that they are the sacrificial one.

When we are talking about sacrificing for one another in marriage, it is crucial to remind spouses not to mistake being sacrificial for taking abuse.  Peter is not saying to wives, if you are under a tyrannical husband, you need to continue being abused, as if that would somehow advance the cause of Jesus.  No way.  If you are being abused, get safe.  Same thing, husbands, if you are being abused.  Get safe.

Instead the teaching Peter gives, as we will see tomorrow, when he talks with husbands, is one that should eradicate abuse in Christian marriage.  For today, we focus on trajectory, seeing the biblical teaching of submission as one that was vital for Christian marriage in the First Century Roman Empire, while at the same time setting a trajectory for mutual submission in the future.

How to be beautiful (and handsome)

25 Jul

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How do we know if someone is beautiful or handsome?

Societies and cultures around the world and through the ages have had different ideas about what is beautiful or handsome.  And a society’s standard of beauty can change as time goes by.  You can pretty much tell what our current American culture believes about beauty by looking at advertisements.  For decades that standard of beauty has felt unachievable for many women, causing emotional shaming and guilt.  A recent study suggests that our American standard is changing!  That is a good thing.

As we have seen already this week in our posts here and here Peter in 1 Peter 3:1-7 is talking about roles in marriage.  In verses 2-6, again talking to Christian wives, Peter brings up beauty standards.  In so doing, I believe Peter reveals what true beauty is, no matter what culture or era you live in.  So what is true beauty?  Let’s see what Peter says.

He starts by saying in verse 2 that Christian wives will be much more likely to “win over” their non-Christian husbands if they live a particular way.  By “win over”, he is talking about the process of helping their husbands choose to become followers of Jesus.  How should wives live, then, so that they might win over their husbands?  Should they preach at them every day?  Condemn their husbands for following a different belief system?  Withhold sex until the husbands relent and follow Jesus?

Of course not!  Peter says their lives should be marked by Purity and Reverence.  Be pure. Don’t cheat on them.  Stay faithful to your spouse.  Be reverent to God.  Follow the life principles and actions of Jesus.

And that opens the door for Peter to talk about beauty.  It would be very natural for wives to think, “If I want to win my husband over, I’ll need to make my body beautiful.”  Peter responds to that in verse 3, and what he says is “Yes, you do need to beautiful!  But beauty might be different than you think.  It is not ultimately outer beauty that is important but inward beauty.”

Verse 3 is often misinterpreted as Peter banning braiding and jewelry and fancy clothes.  That is not what he is saying.  He is simply saying that your beauty ultimately doesn’t come from outward adornment.

Peter is here telling us that we Christians have a different standard for beauty.

In verse 4, he calls it unfading beauty.  Outer beauty fades, if you abide by the current standard.  Older actresses will tell you that.  They were once queens of the movie screen, but as they age, they are no longer considered to be desirable because they cannot adhere to a standard of beauty that prizes youth.  So what is this unfading beauty that Peter is talking about?

Peter says beauty can be unfading when that beauty flows from within.  He calls it “a gentle, quiet spirit that is of great worth in God’s sight.”

In verses 5-6 he illustrates this inward beauty, this gentle quiet spirit, by saying that it is the way women of old put their hope in God and made themselves beautiful.  This is a significant point.  They put their hope in God rather than in outward adornment.  What are your hoping in to make yourself beautiful?  You can spend a lot of time and money on skin and hair treatments, exercising hours every day, purchasing new stylish clothing, all striving for a temporary cultural standard of beauty.  Peter counters and says, “Place your hope in God.”

Chasing outward beauty is not all wrong.  It is good to exercise, to eat healthy, and to dress with style.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Where the pursuit of outward beauty can go wrong is when we become addicted to it, when we hope and believe that if and only if we achieve a high level of outward beauty then we are actually beautiful.  I personally don’t know where to draw the line.  But I know this: way too much money can be spent the empty promise that outward beauty will bring you respect and attention from the opposite sex, or from people in general.  If you pursue beauty like that you will likely achieve notice, but ultimately it fade, leaving you frustrated and empty inside.

Instead let us believe what Peter says, “Put your hope in God.”  When you remember that you are loved in his eyes, you can know that you have everything you need, and you can pursue unfading inner beauty.

The difficulty over the years has been how we interpret what Peter means when he says that wives should express their inner beauty through a gentle quiet spirit.  This has been understood that wives should never talk, and it has been used to repress women.  But men and women are equal in God’s eyes! Why, then, does Peter say women should have a quiet spirit? Is he adding to the repression of women?

It seems that women in the brand new Christian church were embracing their freedom and equality in Christ, but they were taking it too far for that culture.  Theirs was not a culture that viewed men and women as equals.  Peter knows this.  He knows that if women in a deeply patriarchal culture start upending the cultural norm of women being submissive to their husbands, they will ruin their ability to win their husbands for Christ.  Peter knows that they will never be able to create a better, equal situation for women if the husbands are not on board.  Instead, it will likely ruin the Christian movement.

In other words, he is asking the women to maintain the cultural norm for the time being so that they might win over as many of their husbands as possible.  As we have seen already this week, the mission of the Kingdom of Heaven is Peter’s focus.

So both men and women in our society would do well to see where their true inner beauty comes from.  Let us be followers of Jesus that are not deceived by the beauty standards of the world around us.  May our beauty flow from within as we practice purity, reverence and place our hope in God.

The surprising reason Peter told wives to submit to their husbands

24 Jul

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Do you agree or disagree with Fred Flintstone that a woman’s place is in the home?  Check out yesterday’s post for more on that.  This week we are studying what Peter says about roles in marriage, as found in 1st Peter 3:1-7.  Give it a read.

There you’ll find that Peter says, “Wives, be submissive to your husbands.  You are free in Christ, but still submit.”  Peter is using the same principle as he did when he taught slaves that they should submit to their masters.

Likewise in Jewish and in Roman society it was expected and commonplace that wives were to submit to their husbands.  In some cases the understanding of marriage roles was so severe that wives were considered the property of their husbands.  Wives, for example, were expected to conform to the religion of their husbands.  They didn’t have a choice.  And here come the Christians into that society teaching that in Christ men and women are equal (Galatians 3:28), and that all are free in Christ?  To us that equality and freedom is normal.  That has been the norm for us for a long time.  But in the society of the First Century Roman Empire, Peter’s teaching was radical.  More on that to come.

So here is Peter saying to these Christians wives, “Follow the cultural assumption.”  But why?  He goes to explain himself, “in order that you might win over your husband.”  The implication is clear.  If you don’t submit, you could seriously damage the possibility that you could help your husband become a follower of Jesus.  The cause of Christ, Peter is saying, should be more important than our personal freedoms! Peter is being very wise here.  He knows that if the wives rise up and say to their husbands, “I’m free and I am equal with you buddy,” they will be in a very precarious position with their unbelieving husbands who totally disagree with the idea of women’s equality.

Peter is concerned that their husbands will either severely mistreat their wives, or will want nothing to do with those wives. Husbands might divorce them, life will be miserable for the women, and Christians will be seen as people who are crazy.  In other words, in that culture, because it was so deeply patriarchal, Christianity needed to work within the patriarchal marriage system in order to survive.  Christianity didn’t yet have the stature or influence to change the system.

It is just like missionaries who go into a new culture and work within that culture.  There are ways that my sister-in-law, who lives and ministers in Malaysia, dresses differently, for example, than she would in our culture.  Her family has to approach the expression of the faith with caution as well.  They wouldn’t get a megaphone and go out on the street corners loudly proclaiming that Muslims are repressing women.  They have to be more wise than that.

What Peter is teaching, then, is in the same vein as his teaching to slaves.  There we saw that he was not saying that slavery is okay.  Instead he was teaching Christians who were already slaves to advance the cause of Christ within the culture in which they live.  Same thing for married women.  He is not saying that the repression of women is okay.  Rather he is saying, wives, you can submit or obey your husbands in order to advance the cause of Christ.

Peter and the other apostles had to work within the system, seeking to win as many people as possible, so that the Kingdom of God would advance.  The best approach at that moment in time, then, was for the wives to submit to their husbands.

But look at what Peter says next, “Win them over without words.”  Additionally he adds the qualifying phrase in verse 1: “if any of them do not believe the word”. This indicates that some Christian women were married to non-Christian husbands.  Those unbelieving husbands had heard the message of the good news about Jesus, but they chose not to agree with it.

As Peter continues his teaching through this passage, this unique situation is what he is talking about: how should a person handle their marriage role and responsibility when they are married to a non-Christian spouse?  It seems that there were husbands in that society, just like there are husbands and wives in our day, that hear about Jesus and say, “No. I’m not into that.”  Once the husband says that, Peter teaches here, it is time for the wife to stop preaching the words.  But that doesn’t mean the unbelieving spouse is a lost cause, or that the wife no longer has to submit.  Why?  Look at what Peter says next.

He says, those unbelieving husbands “may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives!” Actions speak louder than words.  This is so instructive to sharing the Gospel.  Peter says that there is a place for sharing the words. Peek ahead to verse 15 of chapter 3 where Peter teaches, “Always be prepared to give an answer…But do it with gentleness and respect.”  So while the primary purpose of verses 1-6 are to give believing wives with unbelieving husbands some very important instruction about how to win over their unbelieving husbands, there is a principle embedded here that applies to all relationships between those of us who are followers of Jesus and those who are not.

Share the words of the Gospel with gentleness and respect.  Win them over without words, but with the right behavior.  Words alone will rarely, rarely win people over.  Gentle, loving, respectful behavior is vastly important, therefore, for winning people over. And that is what this submission passage is about.  Whether slaves to masters, or wives to husbands, Paul wants them to see the mission of God as of utmost importance!

There needs to be balance when it comes to sharing the Gospel.  The Gospel is a message that can and should be told with words.  “Always be ready” means we should be willing to share the words of the gospel all the time.  And the Gospel is a message that can and should be told without words.  Peter says, “share the words and yet win them over without words.”

How do we know when the time is right to share the words?  Pray about it. Ask God to open a door of opportunity and give you the words, because it can be very scary.  Then maybe if face to face is too scary or confrontational, how about writing to them?  Make sure it is with gentleness and respect.  Tell the story of how Jesus has changed your life.

And that is exactly what he goes on to describe in verses 2-6, again talking to Christian wives, which we will look at tomorrow..

Was Fred Flintstone right that a woman’s place is in the home?

23 Jul

How many of you remember the 1960s era cartoon, The Flintstones?  If you haven’t seen it, the cartoon is set in an imaginary cavemen society, except their society has all the amenities of modern society with cars, television, and neighborhoods.  The main characters, Fred and Wilma Flintstone, are husband and wife.

In Season 2, Episode 23, “The Happy Household,” Fred and Wilma had gotten into a fight because Wilma came home from a shopping trip, and Fred blamed her for spending more money than he makes.  Fred thinks Wilma should get a job.  So the next day Fred is surprised when he comes home from his job and Wilma is not there.  He is used to Wilma having a big dinner waiting for him.  Instead Wilma wrote him a note saying Fred should warm up a frozen dinner.  Fred is not happy.  He tries to get leftovers from his neighbor Barney, but Barney says there aren’t any.  Barney tries to placate Fred by turning on the TV.  Does it work?  Nope, Fred gets the shock of his married life.  Here’s the clip:

Later that evening, Wilma returns, and things blow up.  Take a look at the next clip:

I don’t know why the person who posted that YouTube video gave it that title, because Fred never hits Wilma.  And yet, the cave man speaks.  Did you hear what he said? “A woman’s place is in the home!”  Is that just a cave man speaking?  Or do we still hear that phrase today?

You might think, “Well, the Flintstones came out over 50 years ago!  Society has changed.”  Very true.  Society has changed.  But for many people the questions remain. What are the appropriate roles for husbands and wives in marriage?  Does God care?  How do we find out?

Around the world we Christians for centuries have had strong feelings about these questions.  Christians have been in sharp disputes.  It still goes on today.

Think about it.  That day you say your marriage vows you begin a new journey with a long road in front on you. How should a husband and wife relate to one another?

What does the Bible say?  In our next section of 1st Peter, 3:1-7, Peter talks about husbands and wives. Check it out and see what you think.  Peter says “Wives be submissive to your husbands.”  Before we get into Peter’s teaching, the primary question that people ask about these submission passages, is this: Is this passage to be applicable for all time OR is it to be understood as for that time only?

If the passage is to be for all time, then that means that Christian marriage, always, everywhere, forever, should be a relationship of the wife being submissive to the husband.  Period.  The husband is the leader, the head of the household, the decision maker, and the wife must submit to or obey the husband’s authority!

If Peter only was writing for that time, then Christian marriage roles between a husband and wife could look different.  Shared leadership.  Equal authority.  Or the wife could lead, and husband could submit.

So how do we know?  Christians still today disagree about which interpretation to use.  I think Peter has BOTH in mind.  I suspect he is thinking both about the Christians in that day, but also laying a foundation for Christians in the future.

Here’s why.  Peter seems to be responding to the Christian teaching of freedom in Christ.  This teaching was new. He told them that they were free, but asked them not to use their freedom for evil.  That’s back in chapter 2 verse 16.  There he says, “you are free, but don’t use that freedom as a cover-up for evil.  Instead, though you are free in Christ, you are bound to serve God.”  That is a massively important mindset.  Yes we are free in Christ…free to serve God!  That means we first and foremost submit to God and to the mission of his Kingdom.

This week we’ll explore further how freedom in Christ can help us understand what Peter has to say about the role husbands and wives have in marriage.  See you tomorrow.

How to submit to God when life is hard

12 Jul

Image result for not my will but yours be done

There was Jesus on the worst night of his life, knowing that horror was just hours away.  He is kneeling, praying to God, experiencing human pain and anxiety, wishing like we all do that there might be another way, some escape from suffering.  What do you when you don’t want to do what God wants you to do?

You do what Jesus did.  That’s what Peter teaches next. What did Jesus do?  Let’s find out.  Peter’s third and final illustration of the principle “submit to human created authorities, for God’s sake” is found in in verses 21-25 of 1 Peter 2.

He starts by saying: “To this you were called.”  Called to what?  “Followers of Jesus,” Peter has been declaring through his letter, “you have been saved, you have been reborn into his family.  You citizens of a new nation, God’s nation.  You are his holy, royal priests. You have a totally new identity and responsibility.  To this you were called!”

That means Christians will live in a way that is different.  Christians submit to and respect human authorities, even when those authorities mistreat you.

And look at who Peter brings up as the epitome of this.  Jesus.  That’s what the rest of the chapter is all about.  From the rest of verse 21 through verse 25, Peter is glorying in Jesus.  He says Jesus is our example, and we should follow in his steps!  We can submit our lives for the cause of Christ, because Jesus submitted his life for us.  When faced with the darkest day of his life, though he looked for a way out, he still said to God, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

So I urge you, submit yourselves to God first. Make that your daily priority the moment you wake. Pray: “Lord, I submit my life to you today.  I want to live every waking moment for your sake, for your cause, for your mission, so that as many people as possible that you bring across my path today, even if I am struggling hard, will be pointed to you by my respectful, loving attitude and actions.”

And then every moment throughout the day, live that kind of life, for God’s sake.  Throughout each day, who knows what we will be faced with? Meanness? Unkindness? Difficult situations? How will we react?  Will we take up arms and try to maim and injure and hurt back?  Will we take to social media and try to destroy?  Will we unleash venom from our tongues?

Peter says, “Live good lives.  Be respectful.”  The way of the world is to erupt and rage and react with vengeance.   Peter says that is unbecoming of a follower of Jesus.

Stay focused on Jesus, our example.  In the face of intense persecution at his arrest and crucifixion he did not retaliate.  Peter was there!  He saw how Jesus handled it.

Of all people, Jesus had the right to retaliate and call down fire from heaven.  But he did not.

Yes, this is hard teaching to swallow.  Is Peter saying that we should just take abuse if we are being abused?  No!  You have to remember that it was a different cultural situation.  Peter was talking to slaves who were Christians.  Peter was talking to Christians who were being persecuted.  Facing severe bodily mistreatment was a real possibility in their daily lives.  Peter wasn’t saying that the abuse was okay or justified.  Peter was simply speaking to a situation that was their daily reality.

You and I don’t live in that situation.  In our culture, abuse is illegal and wrong, as it should be.  We have legal recourse and means to deal with abuse.  First, get away from it.  Second, take appropriate legal action.  But in the midst of our response to abuse, we can still apply the principle: be respectful and considerate for God’s sake.

Make the mission of the God your priority, even when you are being abused.

This passage also applies in many situations in our daily life when, maybe we are not being abused, but we are being overlooked or treated unkind or unfair.  And in some cases we try to take appropriate measures to address the situation, politely pointing out to a boss, for example, that we have not received a raise, while others have.  What if the boss still denies us the raise?  Peter would say, “handle that situation with the cause of Christ as your guide.  Be respectful.”  Peter isn’t saying, “Stay at that job and be mistreated.”  Peter isn’t saying, “Be a doormat for Jesus.”  He is saying, “Handle yourself with kindness and gentleness.  You represent Christ first and foremost, so represent him well, and it will be especially noticeable how you handle yourself under the pressure of mistreatment.  People will notice!”

But how do we know if we Christians should stop respecting and obeying our government?  What would we do, for example, if America outlawed evangelism like they did in Nepal last year?  What will our Nepalese sister churches do?

I will tell you what we will do, and what our sister churches have already started doing.  We’ll do what Peter said to do: “Obey God rather than men.”  I pray we never have to make that choice.  But there are plenty of places around the world, like Nepal, where this is an issue.  That’s why there are underground churches all around this world.

So while we praise God we are living in a country where we are free to worship and to speak our opinions, let’s communicate in respectful, God honoring ways.  As Peter reminds us, we Christians are not really free to do as we please. We are, like Jesus, bound to the mission of God.  As much as possible, we submit ourselves, we bind ourselves to obey and respect all authority, so that the cause of Christ might advance.

Are you facing a situation where you are being mistreated?  How will you respond with respect to that authority, for God’s sake?