A Seminar on Personal Relations

17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:17

This verse sums up how we are to treat others. First, proper respect. If someone is mistreating you, yes, you are to love him but you probably won’t respect him. This is especially important in cases where there is abuse. We are not to respect those who abuse us. A modern day example is what I’ve been seeing in protest videos. The “other” side is violent, profane, and arrogant. There’s no reason to respect someone like that. Similarly, there’s no reason to respond in kind.

Next, loving the family of believers. This is certainly a lot more difficult than it looks at face value. As we’ve discussed elsewhere, believers don’t make themselves easy to love. But over and over again, we see in Scripture that people outside the church will know there’s love when they see us loving one another. Of course, entire books have been written about this very topic, but suffice to say, if it’s in your court to be loving, be loving.

Thirdly, fearing God. All throughout the Book of Proverbs we discussed fearing God and what it means. Having a healthy reverence for God will go far in life. A number of years ago I was talking with a life long resident of Florida. She mentioned that in every lake lived at least one alligator. I asked if that caused her to be fearful. “No, I’m not fearful, but I respect them and what they can do.” She had a healthy fear of alligators. In the same way, our respect for God will be healthy and reverent.

Lastly, honor the emperor. Over the last few days we’ve been discussing this. We don’t have an emperor; we have elected officials. We don’t always agree with what they say or do, but we can vote them out of office. It’s not perfect, but it’s a relatively just system. It’s usually more just if you have more money, that is, as long as people can be bought. We even like to joke that we have the best politicians money can buy.

So this verse is a 15-word seminar on personal relations. We would do well to study them.

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Living as God’s Slaves

16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 1 Peter 2:16

Within this verse is a paradox: ‘live as free people’ and ‘live as God’s slaves.’ Paul talked about that in Romans 6-8. We are no longer slaves to sin; therefore, we are free people. On the other hand, we are to be slaves to righteousness and thereby being slaves to God. Paul said that sin should no longer have mastery over us. Instead we are willing workers for the kingdom.

In practice this is much more difficult because our sin nature gets in the way. The enemy knows our weaknesses and will exploit them in every way possible. Of course God has not left us to ourselves. He provided the Holy Spirit to help us in our time of need. We are certainly better off having God as our master than to be master over our own lives.

Call on Him often.

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Silencing the Ignorant Talk of Foolish People

15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 1 Peter 2:15

The verse prior to this verse helps reveal the kind of good Peter was referring to: submitting to rightful authorities. Again, when we pray for those in power instead of complain about them, we disarm those who try to slander us.

Now I know that politicians and those in government authority are not our most favorite people in the world. They lie, cheat, steal, and connive to get elected. And they do some terrible things too! There are good and honest people in government, and they may even be a majority, but the bad ones get the most press.

Yes, we’re going to pray for them, but they don’t make it easy. That’s the point, isn’t it? If they were easy to pray for, everyone would do it.

Continue to pray for government officials. They need the prayers, and we need to pray.

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Praying for Those in Authority

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 1 Peter 2:13-14

We’re beginning to see a lot of anarchy in some of our cities. It’s well-funded, semi-organized, and often violent. They wear masks and shout down anyone who opposes them. Politicians are terrified to come against them despite their violence. It’s just the beginning now but it could get out of control soon. These people are the exact opposite of those who submit to human authorities.

It’s not necessary to go to those extremes in order to be disobedient to this verse. Complaining about authorities without praying for them is breaking the spirit of this verse. In fact, we really should be praying for city, county, state, and federal officials when we think about them. They don’t always do what’s in the best interested of the majority of their constituents. Minneapolis radio personality has a saying that’s timeless: “If we don’t stay on ’em, they’ll get it wrong.” In other words, without sufficient pressure placed on government officials, they do what’s expedient for themselves. Pray for these officials. Make their job easier. If you’re brave enough, jot them a letter and let them know you’re praying. Most will appreciate it.

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Living Such Good Lives

12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:12

Rev. Billy Graham and Vice President Mike Pence are two modern day examples of this verse. Billy Graham knew that money, sex, and power were the temptations he would need to guard against as he began his ministry. He put safeguards in place to prevent the appearances of evil or misconduct.

1. Operate with financial transparency
2. Avoid even the appearance of sexual immorality
3. Avoid criticizing other pastors and churches
4. Be painstakingly honest in all publicity

The most famous of these safeguards was number 2, to avoid even the appearance of sexual immorality. He never was alone when a female entered the room or an elevator. He even had someone go into his hotel room to make sure no one was hiding in the room (to avoid a lady jumping into his arms with a photographer nearby to snap the photo). Mike Pence also adopted this policy so that he never had lunch or dinner with a woman other than his wife, unless his wife was present.

Unfortunately those two men are considered the extremes instead of the standard. People are watching us even if we think they aren’t, and they may be making a judgment about our faith. Of course the answer to this is simple: what would you say and do if you knew your life was being filmed?

Are you doing anything that is “cringe-worthy?”

Would you do anything differently?

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Living Godly Lives in a Pagan Society

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 1 Peter 2:11

It’s interesting that Peter considered himself and his friends foreigners and exiles. They – we – don’t belong here. This world isn’t our home, even though we’ve never actually been to our real home. We’re only passing through. Peter was begging his friends to keep their thoughts, desires, and actions in check. People are watching and making judgments based on what they see and hear from us. You can’t run from that. However, we are told elsewhere to make the teaching of Christ attractive. I don’t believe at all that it means to have coffee and donuts for visitors when they come in to make them feel comfortable, though there’s nothing wrong with that in itself.

I’ve known plenty of people who have joked with me that if they walked through the doors of a church it would cave in. The implication was that they were very unholy while everything about the church was holy. I don’t get that sense anymore. The church I’m afraid has lost that cutting edge. The differences between unholy activities and godly activities has been blurred. While this is tangential to today’s verse, it brings up a valid question: is there a difference between what we do Monday through Saturday and those who do not call themselves Believers? If that difference is blurry or minimal, we need to step back and re-examine our lives.

Why are we here? How did we stray? More importantly, how can we get back on track?

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Before and After

10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:10

I always like “before and after” scenarios. He was heavy; he lost weight. Her teeth were yellowing; now they’re white. He was a 98 pound weakling; he’s the bully on the beach now!

All of these pale in comparison to “I had no mercy; I now have great mercy.” Of course we take this mercy for granted far too often. We forget what it was like without mercy: dreary, dull, hopeless.

Hopelessness is tragic in anybody’s life. It’s even worse than putting your hope for the temporary things in life such as riches, fame, and looks. It’s worse because it’s an empty, unfulfilled life. You can’t see beyond your current situation. It’s the reason that people use to take their lives.

You probably know someone who is hopeless. On the outside, they probably have most of their life together. Inside, they may be the only people who know the truth of their despair. There’s someone like this that God just laid on your heart. Reach out to that person today. In all likelihood, this person will not seek you out first. Pray for that person and approach them because they’re probably crying out without saying a word.

Give them an extra helping of hope.

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No Junk Here!

God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

We’re special. This brings me back to the old adage. “You’re special. God doesn’t make junk.” It’s probably more real than we know. It also harkens back to the paradox. On the one hand, we’re special. However, we shouldn’t break our arms patting ourselves on the back because of who we are. Whatever God did on our behalf was only done to bring glory to Him and His character. There is nothing inherent about us that makes us special. It’s Him who makes us special.

Today is a day we rejoice in God who, in fact, did call us out of darkness. We are His special possession. We shouldn’t take this lightly but we should rejoice in God.

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The Priesthood of the Believer

a royal priesthood, a holy nation, 1 Peter 2:9b

This is a direct reference to Exodus 19:1-6, where God called Israel out of bondage in Egypt so that the entire nation would serve him as a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” As Believers we have free access to the Holy of Holies whenever we choose. We don’t need to offer our sacrifices on special days or during ceremonial events. We can go today – right now even – to that Throne of Grace. We do not have to wait for our pastor or priest to go to God on our behalf. This is what is considered “the priesthood of the Believer.”

Think about the implications of this priesthood. We give our sacrifice of praise and a pure heart. We can say as much or as little as we want when we’re in that throne room. And that throne room could be in the front seat of your car as you are preparing for an important interview. We don’t need to shed animal blood for the remission of sins. That was already done for us by the perfect Lamb of God.

So, knowing all this, why aren’t we in the Holy of Holies a lot more often than we now are?

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