II PETER 9
THE DAILY CHALLENGE OF PATIENCE
When one views the world of Christendom today, with hundreds of warring factions wearing different labels to identify their differences, it is quite evident that this is not what Jesus meant when He said, “I will build my church”. From His fervent prayer for unity and love among His disciples, it is obvious that men have totally changed the meaning of church from what He had in mind. To assume that belonging to one of these organizations, no matter what its name, makes one a Christian is quite foreign to what Jesus taught.
When Paul said, “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together”, he obviously meant that the family of God should gather together regularly to share and enhance their faith and worship . This is what Christians do. It is not what makes them Christians.
Reading carefully and seriously the first chapter of II Peter, one cannot but be impressed with what an individual matter being a Christian really is. Assembling with the church family every Sunday is important, but it is a small part of being a Christian. The seven characteristics Peter mentions here, and the stress he places on the importance of them in living the Christian life, makes it quite clear that imitating our Lord and walking in the Light with Him every day is the central truth of being a Christian. John, in the first of his three short letters, makes it clear that being cleansed of sin by the shed blood of Christ is dependent upon our walking in the Light with Him. That is a daily and on-going necessity for every Christian.
As we have pointed out before, no one can completely fulfill any of these characteristics listed by Peter. However, it is equally evident that we must pursue them every day if we are to call ourselves Christians. Going to “church” every Sunday, and carrying out the rituals we call worship, is hardly sufficient to one’s quest for eternal life.
Each one of these traits demands a constant effort on our part, but perhaps none of them more than “patience”. If anything would impress us that Christianity is not merely a Sunday morning, church going activity, it is the challenge of “patience”. This requires my attention and alert discipline every hour of every day of my life. Being a Christian, according to Peter and many other New Testament writers, means using your faith to develop patience. To be patient in this world of evil and immorality, which threatens and entices us at every turn, nothing could be more difficult. To act like a Christian when surrounded by those who are not, is a task that calls for deep faith and personal sacrifice. This is the time to really deny your own instincts and act like the One who speaks from the Cross.
Patience is a discipline. It calls for me to set aside my instinctive reaction to every situation and to calmly assess what is the right thing to do. Ask yourself, “What would Jesus do here?” This is very difficult in a world where one is taught to demand his personal rights and make his own standards the rule for everyone. When being “number 1” is the competitive goal in our society, it is difficult to follow Him whose disciples are humble servants who love and wish the best for even their enemies.
I realize that I am being repetitious, but in three-quarters of a century of preaching, I have perceived this as being such a universal problem that I feel it takes special attention. Assembling with the saints to share our faith and lift our voices in worship and praise is essential for a full Christian life. However, this is not a substitute for a daily personal relationship with Jesus Christ. To be a true Christian, I must be very diligent to make my daily life, at home, at work or play, reflect the presence of His Holy Spirit guiding and directing my action and my choices. Going to “church” on Sunday is fine, but loving my neighbor on Monday is just as essential. To fail in this regard makes one a pious hypocrite, and I am afraid much of Christendom is populated by such.
Division in the Lord’s body is largely caused by those who legally and meticulously keep all the rituals of the church and worship, but ignore Him in their daily life and are deaf to His prayers for humility and oneness. Love of the brethren, which was central to the teaching of Jesus, does not mean just loving those who agree with me. We are all sinners and all make mistakes, but when I am selective of those I accept as brethren, by the standards I set up, I become a judge, and Jesus positively condemned such. My love should be the same as His, and if that were not universal it would leave me out. True humility is to let Him be the judge, but for me to deal patiently with all who claim Christ as Lord.
Patience is to move my personal reactions and opinions aside and choose to act in love, regardless of the situation or the person with whom I am dealing. That takes a lot of humility and a lot of faith. But that is what Peter is talking about when he urges us to exercise our faith.