Tag Archives: eulogy

How to be a peacemaker (shocking lessons from an “insane” person!)

3 Aug

Image result for seek peace and pursue it

All week long, we’ve been looking at 1 Peter 3:8-12 where Peter teaches a very difficult thing to do: when people insult you, ask God to bless them.

Is Peter saying you can never defend yourself?  I would submit that Peter would answer, “No. You can defend yourself. But there is a right way and a right wrong to defend yourself.”

First of all, if you are abused, report it and get safe.  We live in a country where there is legal recourse to deal with abuse.  That is a very good thing.  Not all countries throughout history have been like this.  There are certainly Christians living in places around the world even today where they are physically abused, maybe sexually and emotionally too, and they have no recourse.  Imagine how difficult it must be for them to hear Peter’s words.  They might not be able to get safe.  They too, however, can bless those who persecute them.

Thankfully, ours is a country where abuse and persecution are not tolerated.  But I think here in his letter Peter is primarily thinking about how interpersonal relations in a church family can get ugly.  Meanness.  Unkindness. Gossip. In those cases he is not saying, “Do not stick up for yourself.”

He is saying that there is a difference between aggression and assertiveness.  We do not need to attack back.  It will only make things worse if you attack back.

I once heard Ravi Zacharias say: “When you throw mud at others, you not only get your hands dirty, but you lose a lot ground in the process.”  When people are evil to us, or insult us, we are not to get revenge.  Instead, as I said yesterday, if they insult you, eulogize ’em!

Peter supports his argument with a quote from the Old Testament.  Psalm 34:12-16 to be exact. Psalm 34 is a fascinating psalm written by the great poet, warrior, king of Israel David. And it has a wonderful backstory.  The subtitle of Psalm 34 tells us that David wrote this psalm as he was reflecting on a really difficult situation in his life.  At the time he was a fugitive, on the run from his father-in-law King Saul who wanted to kill David.  In 1 Samuel 21 we read that David made the surprising decision, after retrieving Goliath’s sword (the same Philistine Goliath from Gath whom David had killed years earlier), to go to enemy Philistine territory, and of all places the city of Gath.  Can you tell that David was under a lot of pressure and maybe not thinking straight?  He arrives at Gath, and the Philistine leaders there are very suspicious.  In their eyes David was the most well-known Philistine killer.  Not only had he killed their hometown hero Goliath, but in the years following, he had commanded Israelite armies that had killed thousands of other Philistines.  Now he is in their town, hoping for asylum?  David sees their reactions, their doubt, their fear, and he starts thinking “Uh-oh…did I just make a horrible decision coming here?” This would be the Philistines perfect opportunity to get their revenge on David. So what does he do?  He acts insane, to the point of allowing drool to dribble down his beard!  I encourage you to read the account for yourself.  It’s quite a vivid episode in David’s life.  Find out how the Philistines reacted to his insanity ploy!

That is what David was thinking about when he wrote Psalm 34.  The whole psalm is amazing and deserves lots of attention and further study, but Peter only quotes verses 12-16, so that will be my focus here.

I’ll start in Psalm 34 verse 11, “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” I see David in Psalm 34 as older man, wanting to pass on wisdom to his grandkids.  Telling them the story of the time he pretended to be crazy, and then saying these words.  And what does he say?

He starts with: “Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days…”

You probably don’t have to look hard to find people who love life and desire to see good days. So for those who want that, what do you have to do?  David has some specific instructions.

He says, “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

Four things that line right up with Peter’s teaching, and can be summed with: control your mouth!  That means not speaking any evil or lies, no matter what has been done to you.  Then do good.  Turn from evil.  Finally, seek peace. Actually pursue it.

David is not just saying, “be a peaceful person;” he is saying the we should be actively pursuing peace.  Seek it out, make it happen. When you pursue something, you strive for it, and it often takes intense effort.

David, therefore, is not just reactive; he is teaching a proactive seeking of peace.  When our seminary president, Tony Blair, spoke at Faith Church a few years ago, he made a comment I’ll never forget, “mature Christians deflate drama.”  Peace-seekers reduce drama.  And that can be hard work, but it is necessary work in the life of a church, family, workplace, or neighborhood.

This does not mean you agree with people all the time.  It means that you handle things in such a way that drama is reduced.  This goes back to verse 9 and choosing not to react back, or fight back against someone who has been evil to you or insulted you.

Finally look at verse 12, where David personifies the Lord.  God is spirit.  He doesn’t have a body.  It’s hard to know how to depict God.  When I illustrated this part of the sermon, I chose a lion for the slide because there are times in the Bible when God is described as lion.  He’s not a lion.  But look at how David uses human body parts to teach us about the Lord.

Eyes – on the righteous

Ears – attentive to their prayer

Face – against those who do evil

What a comfort!  No matter what is going on in our lives, our God knows, our God hears, and our God defends.  That means we can take hope in the Lord and do good, loving those in the church family, even when people are unkind to us.  He knows, he is on the side of the righteous!

If they insult you, eulogize them!  Guess what I learned this week?  I should love eulogies!  I should be eulogizing all the time!

How to handle difficult people: When they insult you, eulogize ’em!

2 Aug

I learned a shocking thing about eulogies, and in this post I’m going to reveal what I learned.

This week we are studying 1 Peter 3:8-12, and so far we have learned the Top 5 adjectives that Peter says should describe a church family.  Now he gets to some verbs, some actions that members of a church family should practice.

Look at Verse 9 and we see the verb “paying back”, or as the NIV says “repay”.  This can be positive or negative.  You have to look at the context.  A payback can be very positive, right? When you borrow money, you pay it back.  That is good.  Or when someone is kind to you, then you are kind back.  Or you might pay it forward.  You are sitting at the drive through and the person in front of you pays for your meal, so you pay for the meal of the person behind you.  Those are awesome paybacks.

Then there are other not so awesome paybacks.  And that is the verb, the action Peter is talking about.  But he puts a tiny little three letter word in front of it, the word “not”.  Do not repay.  Do not do the negative paybacks. At a recent youth group pool party, I witnessed tons of paybacks.  A person would be standing on the edge of the pool, and another person nearby would push them in!  Guess what would happen five minutes later?  Yeah, paybacks.  I think we got to the point where there paybacks for paybacks for paybacks.

The first things Peter mentions is paying back evil for evil.  Don’t do that, he says.  The second thing he mentions is paying back insult with insult. Don’t do that either.

The word Peter uses for “insult” means “highly insulting and slanderous.”  We are not sure if Peter is referring to the method or the message, or both.  It doesn’t matter.  Don’t do either one.  Don’t speak with an insulting tone, and don’t speak insulting messages.  He is saying “Don’t pay back an insulting comment with an insult of your own.”

This requires huge amounts of self-control and love.  We need it in church families just as much as we need it in any family, any friendship, and workplace, any neighborhood.  Christians show self-control when someone treats us bad.

How about you?  Do you have trouble with self-control?  Has your mouth gotten you in trouble?   The escalation of insulting one another is rampant in our society, and it can happen in the church too.  Drama increases! What should we do when people are mean to us?

As Peter continues in verse 9, he gives us the answer.  Guess what?  He says the answer is eulogy!  See the word “Blessing”? In Greek this is the word from which we get our English word “eulogy.”

I have done a lot of eulogies in funerals.  But Peter doesn’t have a funeral in mind here.  He is saying “Eulogize people when they insult you!”  Now, when you are insulted, you might be inwardly wishing it was that person’s funeral!  But no, Peter is saying, bless them.  Here is the definition of eulogy, the specific word that Peter uses.  This definition blew me away, when I thought about how Peter uses it in the context of a person who has just been insulted!  The definition is “to ask God to bestow divine favor on, with the implication that the verbal act itself constitutes a significant benefit[1]

That is amazing.  When they insult you, eulogize ‘em! And it doesn’t mean you wish them dead!  It means you ask for God to bless them.

What’s more, Peter supports his teaching by saying that we Christians are called to eulogize people who insult us, so that we might inherit a eulogy.

Think about that.  If we bless people who insult us, or who are evil to us, that means that we will inherit a blessing.  Again, remember the definition of this word blessing, eulogy, “to ask God to bestow divine favor on.”  Would you like God to bestow his favor on you?  If so, we are to be the kind of people who ask God to bestow his favor on those who insult us or who are evil to us!

So now whenever someone says something mean to you, just put on a smile and say “I am going to eulogize you right now.”  They’ll give you a weird look.  So maybe don’t do that…they might misunderstand and think that you want them dead, which could make things worse!

Instead, you might just need to not say anything.  You know yourself.  When you are attacked, you might have a really hard time reacting with kindness.  If so, maybe the victory for you is to just respond with a smile, and pray silently in your thoughts that God would shine his favor on them.

You’ll have to evaluate the emotional temperature of the situation.  It may be that the person is so upset that they are not in a place to hear anything, even blessing.

For one of my college soccer games, we were playing another Christian college.  I played defense and my main job that game was to cover one-on-one an offensive guy from the other team.  So we battled a lot throughout the course of the game, and this guy had some attitude.

There we are, players from two Christians schools playing a level of soccer that was maybe the quality of good public high schools.  Not world cup.  Not professional.  Not even close.  And this guy on the other team was fired up, pulling at my jersey, talking nasty to me, and I’m thinking to myself, “You have got to be kidding me.”  Now I will admit that it was not a proper eulogy or blessing, and my attitude definitely had a dose of snarkiness, but at one point I looked at him and said, “Jesus loves you, man.” It was a Christian soccer player attempt at repaying an insult with a blessing.  The funny thing is that it seemed to hit home. 

After the game, he actually came up to me, shook hands and thanked me, saying that it totally convicted him!  I was shocked.  Glad, but shocked.  Embarrassed because my motivations weren’t totally pure, but still amazed that God used that.  When we played that team the next year, that guy came right up to me with a big smile, remembering the previous years’ interaction and he was like a totally different guy.  It was wild.

When they insult you, eulogize ‘em.

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 441. Print.

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!