I find it interesting how difficult we Christians find it to live the simple instructions of how to live as believers. Now, I have been accused of coming across as if I have a handle on everything I write in my blog. I wish! I am simply a fellow sojourner who studies and teaches the Word of God. I too struggle with its application in my life because the same battle is taking place in me as it does in you. When I write that "I find it interesting" I am saying just what I wrote, not that I am standing on the outside looking in. It is interesting that, when we have been given such straightforward and simple direction, we continue to struggle with its application in our lives:
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8)
We are instructed here to live in harmony with one another. How? By being sympathetic with others. But in order to feel their pain and suffering we have to step out from behind our own. This is the real battle, to be willing to set aside what is occupying us, which is mainly us, and enter into the pain of other people. By understanding what they are facing we are better able to accept and love them, which allows us then to "love as brothers". This also leads to compassion and the ability to be humble enough to associate with everyone, regardless of standing. This should be easy because of Jesus Christ, but sometimes it is harder to submit to his love than at other times, especially when brothers and sisters in the Lord hurt us, often due to their own lack of maturity. I saw this in action, an act of love in the face of immature, hurtful words, and it took my breath away. I thought, "This is what it is suppose to look like". We find it hard to get there because we have not realized the cost of becoming mature.
When we begin to understand the power of the love of Jesus, not just know that love, we begin to realize just how special that love is and how special we are suppose to be as a result:
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9)
Those are stinging words to any of us who have failed to step into this maturity, "because to this you were called". It goes against the character of Jesus Christ to do evil for evil, insult for insult, hatred for hatred. Sometimes we disguise our words of hatred in religion and rights of self-expression. We can say what we want but the Word says in several places exactly what is being said here, we repay evil and insults with blessings. Sometimes we want the other person to know just how gracious we are being when or if we do this blessing for evil. We want to draw attention to our own righteousness in the face of such evil but that destroys the humbleness of this act of love. That was the real beauty of the example I say yesterday; the person did not even realize herself what she was doing, she just felt it was the right thing to do, in the face of hurtfulness. She showed greater maturity in that one instance than I have been able to muster in the last three years of my life and people consider her immature. How wrong we can get things just because we think from our own prejudices instead of with the mind of Jesus.
To make the point here the Spirit inspired Peter with Psalm 34:
"Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from deceitful speech.
He must turn from evil and do good;
he must seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."
Now, there is some very practical instruction: "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech." This is not possible without the Spirit of Jesus in us, and even then it takes effort to remain submitted to the Spirit. The instruction is simple but we complicate it by refusing to put others first, by our lack of compassion and love, by our lack of humility. It costs to be a follower of Jesus Christ and if we want to walk in the calling we have been given we need to start paying the price. It is time to deal with the immaturity in our lives, to put away our pain in the love of Jesus and walk in the light he has given to us. Try it on today, in the strength of Jesus Christ; be sympathetic, love, be compassionate and be humble. We would not have been instructed to do it if it was impossible. Remember, these things are not found in our natural selves, they must come from the Spirit of Jesus within, which means we must submit our will to his today.