I PETER 9
Roy Osborne 2006
Reprinted July 2014
CHRISTIANITY IS RELATIONSHIPS
At the end of chapter three, Peter concludes a series of admonitions to various special groups (slaves, wives, husbands, etc.) and then says, “Finally, all of you…” What follows is a series of things which each of us should do, or not do, in our relationships with other people. There are times in the Christian life when we need to have meditation, prayer and solitary communion with the Father. However, Christianity is not a monastic religion. We are supposed to live our lives sharing and communicating with others. We are witnesses, faith sharers, mutually responsible for the welfare of those around us. One of the most grievous errors religious teachers can make is to assume that Christianity is a series of orders to be obeyed, or rituals to perform. Christianity first, last, and always is relationships. “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself”! To get all of the rules right while we create division, antagonism, judgementalism and enmity is the worst of travesties.
It is significant that Peter begins this section with, “…live in harmony with one another”. Later, in quoting the Psalmist, he says, “…seek peace and pursue it”. Peter’s formula for achieving this harmony is simple. “Be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble”. It was not accidental that Jesus started the Sermon on the Mount with, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” and ended it with, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God”.
We do not pursue holiness by hiding away in some cloister, but neither do we do it by aggressively pushing our version of truth down the throats of others, nor writing off all who disagree with us. When Peter speaks of those who suffer for righteousness, he is not talking about those who use their religion to irritate and castigate others until they retaliate.
William Barclay, in his work on Peter, has a great paragraph about this problem. He says, “…many people state their beliefs with a kind of arrogant belligerence. Their attitude is that anyone who does not agree with them is either a fool or a knave…The case for Christianity must be presented with winsomeness and love, and with that wise tolerance which realizes that it is not given to any man to possess the whole truth”.
A hedonistic world will always be opposed to Christianity. However, Christians are often responsible for their own persecution. The harshest opprobriums are for the hypocritical ones who preach loudly about their religious beliefs, but whose lives belie everything they say. Also, blatant party loyalty, on the part of congregants, which leads to division and conflict, does much to discredit Christianity before the world. When Peter talks about suffering for doing good, he is not referring to these people. Unfortunately the Christian world abounds with them, and the cause has suffered greatly because of them.
The true Christian takes his relationships very seriously. To other Christians he is tolerant, loving, striving for harmony and peace. To those without he radiates goodness and compassion, a disciplined life and a willingness to serve. Christianity is relationships.
Toward the end of this section, Peter says you should be ready to “give a reason for the hope that you have”. Christianity is not getting on some emotional high, or some ecstatic experience. Faith takes place in the mind. The facts of Christ’s sacrifice and the evidence of God’s love appeal to the intelligent mind. We are not wild fanatics. The basic reasons for all Christian principles, and for the relationships which we maintain, are based on logical conclusions. They are based on the wisdom of the Creator of all things, and are given to us in the Bible. In an insane world of self-seekers, warfare and misery, Christianity makes sense like nothing else.