Friday, March 15, 2019

Let God Take the Wheel



Jesus, Take the Wheel – the phrase was popularized by a 2005 song by Carrie Underwood. The implication of the statement is that our lives are car rides and that we should put Jesus in the driver’s seat. The meaning of this metaphor is clear. We should direct our lives based on God’s will and what he tells us through His Word and the Holy Spirit. That is wise instruction for all Believers. However, a different take on the comparison between car rides and our lives may also be helpful.

In many ways, we live our lives like we drive our cars, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Have you been driven to rage by a driver that cut you off in traffic? Have you changed a lane too abruptly to avoid missing your exit at the expense of other drivers? Have you ever berated another driver, whether they were in a position to hear you or not, over a bad action that you yourself commit on occasion? Have you ever taken your focus off the road to put it on your phone or some other distraction? It’s unlikely any driver can say he or she hasn’t done any of those things. If we’re honest, at some point, most of us have committed all of those actions.

Are any of those things so different from what we do in our daily lives? We are easily offended or angered by every perceived slight or violation from other people. We prioritize our own self-interests even to the degree that we may harm others. We are quick to preach to others about their sins even though we commit a host of our own, some of which are the very ones we were preaching against. We say we live for God but are quick to shift our focus from him to the distractions the world offers.

The parallels between our bad driving habits and bad living habits are clear, but the consequences for those bad actions are no less congruent. Everyone has heard stories of road rage, inconsiderate driving, and distracted drivers leading to accidents? These bad driving habits often cause us to commit traffic violations, and such violations can have fatal consequences. Is it any different in our lives? Don’t anger, lack of consideration for others, hypocrisy, and a lack of focus on God in our lives lead to problems that can drag our lives down? Those bad living habits can lead to sin or themselves are sinful, and what does the Bible say about sin? For the wages of sin is death…(Romans 6:23).

Ideally, we would all work to eliminate our bad driving habits and make the roads safer for everyone. However, we are all humans and humans make mistakes. Even when we exercise our best behavior, it’s still possible that we may do something wrong. With millions of people on the road controlling vehicles, it would be virtually impossible to eliminate all accidents, even the serious and deadly kind. That is part of the reason why Google and other companies are exploring vehicles that drive themselves. The idea is that at some point with advanced artificial intelligence (A.I.) in control of vehicles and an integrated network that connects all the vehicles on the road, the kind of mistakes that lead to deadly accidents would become a thing of the past. Imperfect human drivers would be replaced by a better more efficient option and some believe the roads would be safer for it. The analog to vehicle A.I. already exists in our lives in the form of the Holy Spirit.
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. - Romans 8:11
The Holy Spirit already exists within every Believer and can connect us on a deeper spiritual level. What if everyone in the world was led by God through the Holy Spirit? The sin that leads to death would disappear from this world and we’d all be better off.

The problem is that we don’t like giving up control. No matter how much data you present demonstrating that driverless vehicles are a safer, better option, there will be people who insist on driving themselves. Similarly, no matter how much God shows us that his way is the best way, we often still insist on doing things our own way. Here is the point where the two sides of this analogy diverge. Decades from now if technology evolves the way some believe it will and society adopts driverless vehicles as the standard, you won’t have a choice. If you want to be a part of society, you’ll have to accept the change. God doesn’t work like that though. He lets you choose. If you want complete control over your life without having to pay heed to anyone, you can have it. If you want to give God complete control and let him direct you where he wants you to go, you can also do that. The choice is yours. Will you let God take the wheel, or will you continue to drive yourself knowing that one day you may very well make that one big mistake that costs you everything?

Chris Lawyer



Friday, March 8, 2019

Imperfect Heroes

The Bible is full of good stories that serve to teach us important lessons about God and what is necessary to serve and follow him. Many of the stories revolve around characters, that, in many ways, seem larger than life. Almost everyone knows the story of Moses boldly standing against the Pharaoh of Egypt and leading the Israelites out of captivity. He performed magical feats like turning his staff into a snake and splitting the Red Sea (all done via God’s intervention of course). You also have the story of Samson who was blessed with superhuman strength and could take on armies of men by himself. When reading these stories, one might be reminded of fictional stories such as those found in comic books and other media, where heroes blessed with incredible abilities go up against the forces of evil and somehow always manage to save the day in the name of good. The characters in those stories, especially early in their histories, are often painted as paragons of good. If you read some of those classic Superman or Captain America stories, you’ll have little doubt which side those characters are on. In many stories, they were unerring symbols of all that is good.

Surely the same would be the case for the characters in the Bible. After all, the Bible is a religious and moral text, so the heroes in its stories have to be virtuous without fail, right? Not at all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Almost all the protagonists in the Bible are full of flaws, and the Bible is clear to point out when those protagonists were in the wrong. Sometimes, the missteps of those heroes were as simple as disobeying orders from God. Such is the case for Moses and Samson. In Numbers 20:6-11, God gave Moses instructions on how to deal with a crisis facing the people. Moses acted on God’s behalf, but he did not follow God’s instructions. God took Moses’ actions as a lack of trust and honor. As a result, Moses was denied entry into the Promised Land. In Judges 16:1-22, we read about how Samson, against God’s expressed instructions, told Delilah the secret to his strength. Because of that disobedience, he wound up losing that strength and eventually his life.

Some sins from the Biblical heroes were far worse. David is perhaps one of the most important figures in the Bible, and he also committed one of the most egregious acts of sin against God. He took another man’s wife for his own and tried to cover up his sin, leading to the death of one of his best men (2 Samuel 11:1-27). That David was the same David who wrote so many great psalms dedicated to God. The same David that took down the giant, Goliath, with God’s help. The same David who became a great king for God’s people. If anyone should have been a faultless servant of God, it should have been David. He had basically spent his whole life up to that point doing God’s work, and because of his sinful actions, he spent most of the rest of his life experiencing the consequences for his sins.

Even when you get to the New Testament, we see that those used by God are clearly flawed. Peter, as Jesus called him in Matthew 16:18, was the rock upon which the Church was built. Yet, while Jesus was on the path of suffering for our sins, Peter was denying he knew Jesus. Paul was, without a doubt, the key figure in the Bible associated with the spreading of the Faith from the Jews to all other people. However, before that, he was an avid persecutor of those who held the Faith.

Why is the Bible so filled with these flawed symbols? Why does it make it so clear that these people were flawed? It’s simple. It’s all for our benefit.
For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. - Romans 3:23

We Christians are painfully aware that we are sinners. We have to be aware. After all, repenting is one of the first steps of coming to the Faith. The Bible could have glossed over the flaws of the great figures in its stories, but would we have been able to relate to them the same if it had? We are capable of doing great things in the name of the Lord, and many of us do, but even in the midst of that greatness, the fact is, we still sin. It is more encouraging to read the unfiltered stories of God’s heroes and know that even though they did great works for God, they fell short too. If that can happen to the figures that God chose to have included in the Bible, then of course it can happen to us.

We also have to remember that when we fall short, all we need to do is repent and move forward with a resolution to do better. After all, those stories didn’t end with the heroes’ sins. Moses didn’t join his people in the Promised Land, but because of him, they still made it there. Through his faith and contrition, Samson was able to perform one last act of heroism in the name of God. David paid a heavy price for his sins, but in the end God still favored him enough to bring Jesus into the world through David’s lineage.

Only one person in the Bible was perfect, and that was Jesus. Our lives should be focused on being more like him, but in reality more often than not we’ll be more like Moses, Samson, and David. That is ok. In the end, all three were committed to God, and he was able to use them for his purpose, flaws and all. He certainly can and will do the same with us.


Chris Lawyer

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Black History is God's History



We humans have created many artificial divisions that we use to mistreat and ostracize others. This is not what God wanted for humanity, but it is what has resulted from our own sinful ways. Think about the story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). It was man’s own hubris that led to God punishing us with language barriers. Barriers, which arguably led to the first major divisions among humankind.

The differences between the various peoples of the world only increased after that, but with the coming of Jesus and through Paul’s work with the Gentiles, God made it clear that such differences did not matter to him. He did not distinguish between people based on race, class, nationality, or anything else. 

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. - Galatians 3:28
If we Christians truly followed Christ as we should, such distinctions would be meaningless. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. After all, there is an old saying that the most segregated time in America is Sunday morning when everyone goes to church. If there is anything that demonstrates that America is not the Christian nation some claim it to be, it would be the nation’s history with things such as racism, classism, and sexism.

Once again, the Black experience in America perfectly highlights the failures of this nation and the people within. Blacks were slaves in this country and then freed only to be made into second class citizens. Even today, after the nation as a whole acknowledges the wrongs of the past with regards to how blacks have been treated, we still see much of the same problematic treatment directed towards blacks and other disenfranchised groups. Black history in America has been a history of struggling against oppression, cruelty, and discrimination. Some may wonder how any group could have survived through such an onslaught, but Christians should already know the answer.

The previous blog entry (The Double-Edged Sword) acknowledged that God has had a place within the black community ever since blacks were first brought to this country en masse as property. The parallels between the stories of the Jews and Christians in the Bible gave hope to the black slaves in America. The faith that those blacks developed helped many of them survive the harsh experiences that were forced upon them. The faith held by the abolitionists was what drove many of them to fight so hard against the unjust institution of slavery. Eventually, that institution fell, but the struggle of Blacks was not over and neither was God’s work in the community.

Blacks had to deal with government sanctioned discrimination in the form of the Jim Crow Laws, and race based violence perpetrated by the KKK and other groups. The fight against such forces was hard, and, at times, probably seemed unwinnable. Is there any surprise that the church served as the place from which most of the movements against those evil forces sprang? Paul Harvey wrote in a paper titled Civil Rights Movements and Religion in America*:
The civil rights revolution in American history was, to a considerable degree, a religious revolution, one whose social and spiritual impact inspired numerous other movements around the world.
and also:
The civil rights movement sought to achieve specific legal and legislative aims, many of which were achieved with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. To that degree, it can be seen as a successful movement for political reform of the working of basic institutions of American public life. But the movement itself could not have been successful without the spiritual empowerment that arose from the culture developed over two centuries of black American Christianity. In other words, religious impulses derived from black religious traditions made the movement move.
Martin Luther King Jr. is perhaps the most well known figure associated with the Civil Rights movement. He was also a Baptist minister, so it should come as no surprise that he had plenty to say about the church and its role in the fight, even if that part of his message is not always talked about. For example,
The Philosophy of Christianity is strongly opposed to the underlying philosophy of segregation. Therefore, every Christian is confronted with the basic responsibility of working courageously for a non-segregated society. The task of conquering segregation is an inescapable must confronting the Christian Churches.**
Christianity has always had a place in facilitating the black struggle, and God has always been an ally. The story of what African Americans have managed to survive and achieve is just one big testimony for what God can do if the faith is there. The black struggle is not finished. More remains to be done. The same can be said about the Christian struggle. In some ways they are one in the same because both should be rooted in the idea that all God’s children deserve to be treated with love and respect. So when we celebrate Black History, we should absolutely applaud all those men and women who worked to bring us where we are today. However, we should make sure not to forget that God was the one behind them making it all possible. We can’t celebrate them without celebrating Him because the history they made is just a small part of the history He created.




*http://oxfordre.com/religion/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199340378.001.0001/acrefore-9780199340378-e-492
**https://juicyecumenism.com/2016/01/18/top-10-quotes-church-martin-luther-king-jr/


Chris Lawyer

Friday, February 22, 2019

The Double-Edged Sword



The Word of God is powerful and capable of bringing monumental change to the lives of those who heed it and the world at large. The Bible, which is the Word, compares it to a sword.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. - Hebrews 4:12
In the above verse, the comparison is meant to illustrate how profound the impact can be when someone encounters the Word. It is interesting that the verse mentions a “double-edged” sword in particular. We commonly use double-edged swords as metaphors to describe something else. Typically, we are saying that something is capable of both helping or hurting depending on how its used.

That more commonly used sword-based metaphor is also true for God’s Word. We as Christians believe the Word can save. That is God’s purpose for his Word. It was written to give us knowledge of his Son and understanding of salvation among other things. Unfortunately, when God put his Word in the hands of Man, it also gained the ability to hurt and destroy. That certainly was not God’s purpose for his Word, but the sinfulness of Man made it so nonetheless.

This happens to be Black History Month. Sadly, slavery happens to be a prominent part of the history of blacks in America. It is impossible to discuss the African American experience without mentioning it. The legacy of slavery in America may be one of the best examples of the double-edged nature of the application of God’s word. Have you ever wondered why Christianity is so strongly embedded in the African American community? After all, it was not widely practiced among the West Africans from which most African Americans possibly descended. On top of that, Christianity was the predominant religion of the people that put those Africans in bondage. Why would they have adopted it as their religion, and why would it have remained so strong in the community after all these years? An article in Christian Today offers some insight:
The question that remains is why. Why did enslaved Africans embrace the religion of their captors, who used the Bible to justify the brutal trans-Atlantic slave trade?

Powery and Sadler’s simple answer is that “they fell in love with the God of Scripture.…In Christ they found salvation from their sins and reconciliation.” They conclude that though this was certainly enough, there was more to the answer. They write: In these texts they found not just an otherworldly God offering spiritual blessings, but a here-and-now God who cared principally for the oppressed, acting historically and eschatologically to deliver the downtrodden from their abusers. They also found Jesus, a suffering Savior whose life and struggles paralleled their own struggles.*
The slaves found hope in the Bible and Jesus in particular. The Word offered hope of salvation both for the spirit and from the trials of the world at that time. That hope is the Bible’s intended purpose. If that were the only way the Bible were used during America’s slave era, one could argue that God’s will was done. However, there was another side to the Bible’s use during that period in our history. Slave owners routinely used the Bible to justify slavery. A favorite passage of theirs was Ephesians 6:5-7.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
Paul was not promoting slavery here. He was acknowledging that it existed and instructing slaves to act in a manner befitting a child of God regardless of their situation. Some might disagree even with that sentiment. That is fine. Christians must learn to accept that everyone who hears God’s Word will not accept it. Christians must never accept others twisting God’s word to serve other purposes. The slave owners even went so far as to create a revised version of the Bible known now as the “Slave’s Bible” that contained everything that seemed friendly to the institution of slavery and removed everything against it including the whole saga of Moses taking the Children of Israel out of Egypt. The Christianity of the slave owners was so corrupt, it led Frederick Douglas to say:
Between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference—so wide that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slave-holding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason but the most deceitful one for calling the religion of this land Christianity…**
One could argue that same dichotomy exists today. We still see the Bible being used to justify hatred, cruelty, and even murder. There is only one Christ, so there should be only one Christianity. Let us make sure that we only promote and support the real Faith. And when we wield the Bible, let us make sure that it cuts only to save as God intended and never to destroy.
*https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2018/february/why-enslaved-african-americans-stayed-christian.html
**http://time.com/5171819/christianity-slavery-book-excerpt/

Chris Lawyer
Image Courtesy of homebrewedtheology.blogspot.com

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Christian Correspondence


When reading the Bible, you’ve likely noticed a number of differences between the Old and New Testaments. One in particular might have stood out to you. The Old Testament books are largely narrative in nature. Most of them tell stories or series of stories about God, the trials of the Israelites, great prophets, and several other topics. The New Testament starts off similarly as the Gospels tell the story of Jesus and the Book of Acts recounts the events following the death of Jesus. However, immediately after that the nature of the books changes. Instead, of narratives, we get letters from several prominent figures from the era when Christianity first came to be.

Paul is one of the most notable characters in the New Testament. While his story is told in the Book of Acts, his real prominence in the New Testament comes from the inclusion of so many of his letters. Romans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1st and 2nd Thessalonians were all letters that Paul wrote to churches in the corresponding cities, while 1st and 2nd Timothy, Titus, and Philemon were letters he wrote to friends that he had brought into the Faith. Paul did much through his letters including: teaching about who Jesus was, explaining how Believers should conduct themselves, and advising the churches on how they should handle internal conflict among other things. Much of what Christians believe to be true for life in the Faith comes from what Paul laid out in his letters. Though the letters all had different purposes and touched on the different issues that concerned the specific churches being addressed, Paul was always sure to express thanks, love, and encouragement for his fellow Christians. For example:
I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way - with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge - God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. - 1 Corinthians 1:1-7
Peter is another well known figure from the New Testament. We see him go from a weak faithed and impulsive student of Jesus in the Gospels to being one of the primary leaders of the Faith. The end result of his transition is made clear through his letters. Whereas Paul wrote to specific churches and people he knew. Peter’s letters were directed at Believers throughout the known world at the time. As a result, his letters weren’t so much geared at addressing particular problems or concerns of any group in particular. His letters were instead concerned with providing a fundamental understanding of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ. As the saying goes “the student became the master.” He made his purpose for writing most clear in his second letter.
Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. - 2 Peter 3:1-2
Notice that he considers the letters to be correspondence with friends, and he is using the letters to encourage those friends. John’s letters take this even further. Whereas Peter wrote to those for which he had affection due to their common status as Believers. John wrote to people with whom he had true friendly relationships. His second letter is particularly interesting because he writes to a woman that he considers to be great in the Faith. Sometimes Christianity seems to be centered on the ways and actions of men, but John’s letter is good proof that even back then, women played an important role in the Faith. We see exactly how he feels about her and her role from how he first addresses her:
To the lady chosen by God and her children, who I love in the truth - and not I only, but also all who know the truth - because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever. - 2 John 1:1-2
It may seem strange that a Holy Text like the Bible gives such prominence to letters of this kind, and one might wonder what we can truly take from them. It is true that each letter contains important instruction on living according to God’s will. So they are certainly useful for gaining knowledge about God, what he wants from us, and what he expects of us. However, something else we should see is the importance of correspondence between Christians. If the Bible is our guide and it puts such importance on Believers reaching out to their brothers and sisters in Christ, we must conclude that such correspondence is supposed to be an important part of the Christian experience.

In today’s world, we are more capable of communication within the Body of Christ than ever before. We’re not limited to mailed letters. We have email, text messages, and social media among other things. We should be using all of these things to spread word about Jesus and encourage each other in the Faith. In a world where we can speak to anyone in the world instantly using phones, some might say that writing is an all but archaic form of communication. What good does it do to write to someone when you can just call them to offer instant encouragement?

Consider this. Messages over phones are gone as soon as the call is over. Written messages stick around. You may have a set intention for your words, but you never know what God intends for them. After all, Paul, Peter, and John were just writing to their fellow Believers, they didn’t know that those letters would eventually become books in the Bible that would be used to instruct Believers for centuries after they were written. God knew and that all went according to His will. He can use us in ways we’d never expect. So, whether your words are meant for a friend, some people you helped into the Faith, or the world at large, if God moves you to reach out for whatever reason, make sure you do. You never know what kind of impact your words might have.


                                                                                                                                          Chris Lawyer

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Order of Operation: Love



Love is the last of the things Peter stated needs to be added to our Faith. In the previous entry, we discussed mutual affection and how it is essentially the most basic way that humans understand love. Mutual affection isn’t the same as God’s love, but if we learn how to extend the affection that we feel for family and friends to our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are in effect learning how to reduce the conditions required for our affection. However, God’s love is unconditional, so to truly fulfill the order Peter laid out, we have to learn to love like God, without condition. Paul explains how such a love should look.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Perhaps we all show glimpses of such love, but we need to be consistent. We need to demonstrate that pure love for family and friends, not just when things are good between us but also when things are not. We need to show that love for our spiritual family, not just when we are at church but also in our everyday lives. However, those are relatively easy to accomplish. To truly display love as the Bible instructs, we have to show it not just for people with which we have relationships but also for those that we do not even know. Perhaps even more difficult, we must love those who are against us and mean us harm.
But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. – Luke 6:27-28
Love is more than lip service. While loving words are important and can uplift those around us. Love in its truest form is action. We have to want the best and do the best for those around us. We have to want to do good for those that we encounter, even if bad is all they want for us.
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. – 1 John 3:18

It is sometimes said that being a Christian is hard, and it can be. Most would think that’s because of all the things from which Christians must abstain. However, that’s not really the truth. Being a Christian can be hard because of how committed we must be to love. John makes an interesting point.
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. – 1 John 3:14
Love is so closely tied to our salvation that John argues that its presence is the sign that a person has been saved.

In a previous message (2 vs 10), we discussed how Jesus condensed God’s commandments down to loving God above all and loving your fellow man as you love self. Based on that order, one would be led to believe that loving God is the most important commandment, and it is. However, the Bible also tells us that it is impossible to truly obey the first commandment without first obeying the second. A couple reasons are given for that.
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. – 1 John 4:20
First, John makes the argument that we have never seen God. Our knowledge of his existence is based on faith. John is saying that it is doubtful that we can truly love someone that we’ve never encountered physically when we can’t even love those that we have.Christ
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. - James 3:9
Second, James points out how contradictory it is of us to use our words to exalt God while simultaneously using them to debase our fellow people who are made in his likeness. By extension, is it not also contradictory to say we love God while also not loving our fellow people who are made in his likeness? Loving God is paramount, and clearly, so is loving our fellow human beings.

Love is crucial in our walk as Christians. The Bible makes that point over and over. Peter, in particular, believed it to be so important that he held it as the final step in the order he presented. Goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love - those are the steps in Peter’s order, but we must be careful. The order is not a simple checklist. You can’t just exhibit one quality and then move on as if your mission is complete. Exhibiting love consistently requires a constant exhibition of all the other qualities. Love itself isn’t something that you can demonstrate once and be finished. You have to be able to demonstrate it and the other qualities day in and day out for the rest of your life. Finally, when that life is over, if you have adhered to the order as Peter instructed, you will be able to meet God and reflect over a life lived righteously.

Chris Lawyer
Image courtesy of www.arsonline.com

Monday, January 28, 2019

Order of Operation: Mutual Affection






The previous message focused on Jesus and several of his traits. His defining characteristic, however, was purposely saved for later discussion.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. - 1 John 4:7-9
God is love and Jesus is God who came in human form, so he too, is love. If we’ve truly added godliness to our Faith, then the end result should be the display of godly love. That is what Peter said in the order of operation he provided. However, when we look at Peter’s order, we see that he gave us a step in between godliness and love that he referred to as mutual affection.

To understand mutual affection and why Peter mentioned it, we have to acknowledge that love as God displays it and how he wants us to display it differs from how we typically display it. God’s love is unconditional. If we’re honest, in most cases, ours isn’t. Going from love with a multitude of conditions to love with no condition is undoubtedly a difficult thing to do. One condition, in particular, seems to be more prominent than others. By and large, we tend to love those that share the feeling for us. That is what mutual affection is, and though it is an imperfect form of love, Peter was telling us that it can be used as a stepping stone to the truest form of love.

Almost all of us understand mutual affection. We have parents, siblings, aunts/uncles, cousins, and, at some point, many of us grow and have our own children. The dynamics differ from person to person, but almost all of us have people in our lives that we love and that love us. With family, we don’t even have to do anything. That love is almost a biological imperative. Even those without traditional families can understand mutual affection. Over the course of our lives, we meet people that we connect with and that become our friends. The love we have for our friends is different from what we experience with our families. It tends to have to be developed and cultivated. Still, like with familial love, the love we share with our friends exists largely because its mutually held.

The Bible acknowledges these relationships and provides guidance on how we should behave in those relationships. The Bible instructs parents on how they should treat their children (Ephesians 6:4), on how children should act towards their parents (Ephesians 6:1-3), and how we should treat our siblings (Matthew 5:23-24). Jesus even comments on the greatest act of friendship (John 15:13). Mutual affection, though not the perfect form of love is important. It’s something we as humans, whether Believer or non-believer, can understand. If it’s something we already do, why would Peter mention it as something we should add to our Faith?

The reason is that mutual affection can be expanded in a way that opens the door for our understanding of true love. Jesus opened the path for that expansion. If our relationships within our families are our best examples of mutual affection, then one way to expand how we display mutual affection is to expand who we consider to be family. Jesus already provided the example for that.
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”  He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” - Matthew 12:46-50
The Body of Christ isn’t supposed to be some loose knit collection of people with similar beliefs. God expects us all to look at each other as members of the same family. He wants us to have the same love for our brothers and sisters in Christ that we have for our biological brothers and sisters. That is not an easy or automatic thing, but loving our Christian family is something we must do. When instructing the early Christians, Peter gave them the following charges:
Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king. - 1 Peter 2:17
The difficulty involved with learning to love everyone within the Body of Christ is the reason we have to start to exhibit a state of godliness before we can truly take on the challenge. We are expected to hold affection for our fellow Believers even without a blood bond like we have with our biological family members. We are expected to hold affection for our fellow Believers even if we don’t share common interests and desires like we do with our friends. If we can learn to love our fellow Believers like brothers and sisters, then we will have learned how to condense love from something that typically has to fulfill numerous conditions down to something that only requires meeting one - belief in God. God’s love is unconditional. When we add mutual affection to our Faith, it means that our love only requires meeting that one condition.  It's not the goal, but if we can accomplish that task, we will be closer to understanding love as God does. At that point, we will only be one step from achieving our end goal and fulfilling Peter’s order.


Chris Lawyer
Image Courtesy of www.pinterest.com