When making observations, it’s helpful to look at descriptions the author uses when describing people or networks of relationships. Last week we talked about the use of metaphors. These are powerful comparisons that draw our attention to a particular detail.
Peter today uses some REALLY powerful language to describe how Jesus Followers should relate to one another. Christianity is not a loose affiliation or network of like minded people. It is common in our western, individualized world to see our relationships to others vital only in the way that they can enhance our own ideas of flourishing and achievement. “What do ya got for me?” becomes the unspoken motto of a culture that is focused on our own personal pursuit of joy and happiness. If this perception of relationship is pursued, it can damage not only the community, but ourselves as well! Todd Hellerman writes in his book, When the Church Was a Family,
“We in America have been socialized to believe that our own dreams, goals, and personal fulfillment ought to take precedence over the well-being of any group—our church or our family, for example—to which we belong. The immediate needs of the individual are more important than the long-term health of the group. So we leave and withdraw, rather than stay and grow up, when the going gets rough in the church or in the home.”Todd Hellerman – When the Church Was a Family
Peter describes our relationship to one another as that of “brothers and sisters”. This vivid nomenclature gives clues as to how we should treat one another. While a coworker or friend may not receive preference over others, all cultures share a similar elevated expectation of responsibility from those that are family. Families are tied not by preference or affinity for one another. The decision to be family is not based on our own desires. We are family because we are family.
Alyssa and I were able to purchase our first home in 2012. A big dip in the housing market allowed the use of my full time ministry salary to afford a home that was certainly a fixer upper. Have you ever seen a pretty rough house and heard a friend explain away its dilapidated state with, “It has good bones?” That was our home. While somewhat handy, we had nowhere near the capability to make this thing liveable. Alyssa’s grandparents jumped in almost instantly. Armed with decades of experience in construction, culminating in building their own home themselves, they jumped headfirst into helping with our “fixer upper”. As amazing as this voluntary assistance was, it certainly was not out of place. Family members are known for their willingness to jump in, support, and care for those that share familial ties.
I would not have that same expectation of my bank teller. While fixing up this property, I became pretty familiar with Kevin. Kevin was there every two weeks as I deposited my paycheck. We shared a similar taste in music and even played guitar together once. But Kevin was nowhere to be found when I was in need of ripping drywall off and adding insulation to the attic! Yet I had no expectation for Kevin to participate; Kevin wasn’t family.
As we participate with our New Hope Community AS brothers and sisters, giving preference to one another, we not only support the community, but are TRANSFORMED ourselves!
“Spiritual formation occurs primarily in the context of community. People who remain connected with their brothers and sisters in the local church almost invariably grow in self-understanding, and they mature in their ability to relate in healthy ways to God and to their fellow human beings. This is especially the case for those courageous Christians who stick it out through the often messy process of interpersonal discord and conflict resolution. Long-term interpersonal relationships are the crucible of genuine progress in the Christian life. People who stay also grow.”Todd Hellerman – When the Church Was a Family
As you read today, make note of Peter’s use of these familial terms. How does this confront any ideas you might have about your community of faith?
As a reminder, here are our steps for S.O.A.P.:
- Find a quiet place and read the SCRIPTURE of the day. Read it again. Read it slowly. Read it out loud!
- What OBSERVATIONS did you make? What does this passage teach you about God or yourself? Are there any calls to action? Do you have any questions?
- How will you make APPLICATION of this scripture and live your life differently today in light of what you just read? Be specific!
- Let it marinate. Take some time for PRAYER – thank God, confess any shortcomings, and ask to be empowered. Sit for a few moments and see if God has anything else for you.
Here is our passage for the day:
8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.1 Peter 3:8–9 (NLT)