Look outside for just a moment. If you are reading this on Thursday, April 16, 2020, it is nice and sunny. The flow of life is a little slower for most of us right now, but life is still moving forward. True, most of us have had to adjust and adapt in rapid fashion as our world has learned new terms like “shelter in place” and “social distancing”. These were not the innovations of 2020 that we expected.
But, looking outside gives you a clue to some very important things about the world that God made. I am sure that many of you are appreciating your circle of friends and family even more now that you can’t be with them. The old adage “absence makes the heart grow fonder” rings loud and true. As you look outside, I want to ask you to consider what today is…not the name on the calendar, but the opportunity it brings. Today is a new day to love our neighbor.
Think with me for just a moment. You may be in your living room or on your front porch enjoying the beauty of the day. You might be working from home or, unfortunately, out of work for a season. It may have been 3 weeks since you have seen anyone that wasn’t on a TV, computer, or phone screen. However, our drive as followers of Christ has not ceased. We have some wonderful opportunities that we can take even today to love our neighbors right where we are!
Over the next three weeks, we are going to look at 1 Peter 3.8-12 together for this very reason. So, go ahead and find your bible or click here to see it online. Peter is writing to encourage believers who are being persecuted. While we aren’t under persecution, life is not exactly as we expected it would be right now. He gives specific direction to the Christians that are scattered across Asia Minor. Let’s look at verse 8 today and understand the directions we are given. Next week, we will consider the affect it has and then in two weeks, we will look at the result of righteousness:
- As Christians, we are to live in harmony with others. How is the shelter in place going? Is harmony the first word that comes to mind with your new role as a full time employee and homeschooler? Trust me, I have to apply this to myself! Even more so as a Christian, many of us have an online presence that opens our lives to the public view of others. Living in harmony would then mean that we watch the tone, tenor, and truth of what we post and share online. Negativity towards the government, reposting of conspiracy theories, and blatant disregard for how we have been asked to protect one another demonstrate that we might not value living in harmony with others. Yes, we can have opinions, but we must subject those opinions to the harmony that the Gospel creates in us.
- As Christians, we are to be understanding of others. The NASB uses the term “sympathetic”. In order to be sympathetic to someone, we would first have to seek to understand them. Many times we come across as unsympathetic to the needs of others, not because we are hard hearted, but because we are hard headed. The Gospel calls us to consider others, take note of their plight in life, and to respond accordingly. This does not mean that we have to be in agreement, but that we should seek the best in them in love. We have to seek to understand them. In a day where we have many who are isolated, we can show a great amount of love for our neighbor by connecting to them personally. This is because we are sympathetic to their isolation.
- As Christians, affection must be our primary demonstration towards others. Peter says to exhibit brotherly love. This kind of affection is not just a person to person, face to face demonstration. It is because we love our neighbors that we have decided as a church to strictly limit how we gather on Sunday morning. It is because we love our neighbor that we have decided to keep our food pantry operational in a very different way. It is because we love our neighbor that we haven’t stopped ministry, but have become innovative in what we do. There are so many ways that you can show love to your neighbor right where you are. Phone calls, text messages, post cards, or even socially distanced connections are ways that we love others in tangible ways.
- As Christians, we must hold genuine compassion for one another. I love that the NASB translates this word “kindhearted”. It is the Greek equivalent to the Old Testament term you will see rendered as “lovingkindness”. It speaks to the compassion that God took in seeing us without hope and offering us hope. It is a demonstration of His great love for us in spite of our sin. Likened to affection, compassion overlooks wrongs. Maybe today you can find someone against whom you have held a grudge because of a past offense. How would the compassion of God direct you to respond today? I know…this one is big. But, if today is a new day to love your neighbor, compassion is a new way to let go of the wrong.
- Finally, as Christians our focus must be about others. The Gospel is not about me or you, it is about Jesus. Jesus was not focused on Himself, but on the glory of God. God was focused on offering us righteousness that we could not obtain or attain for ourselves. When Peter says for us to be “humble in spirit” he is echoing Paul’s words in Romans 12 to give preference to one another. The Gospel calls us to be selfless while the world demands selfishness. This is a countercultural move that we must adopt. I have seen so many in our church demonstrate the Gospel oriented selflessness in the past month and it is beautiful. What can you do today to love your neighbor first?
I know we have so much ahead of us and I am encouraged by how our church is responding to the state of affairs in our world. I see God’s hand moving us forward, when everything we witness in the world says we should be moving backwards. I believe that we will be stronger together as we move forward. We will be strengthened by the Lord our God as we love each other, love Fairburn, and love our neighbors together!