December 19, 2010

To Live is Christ — in harmony

The first line in today’s devotional reading says, “God wants you to get along with grumpy people.” My first thought was, what if I’m the grumpy one? But of course the verses for this reading cover that . . . 
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8–9)
Before these verses, Peter gave specific direction to women who are married to disobedient husbands. He also tells husbands to honor their wives and live in such a way that their prayers are not hindered. Then he gives these instructions to everyone who believes in Jesus Christ.

Being of one mind does not mean cookie-cutter Christians. These verses are about larger attitudes rather than thinking the same way about everything. The rest of passage describes people who have compassion for one another. Their love is like the love in a family where spats sometimes occur but where brothers and sisters have a deeper loyalty, one that disagreements cannot change.

It means having a soft heart that forgives easily. It also means being polite, not rude. It tells me that if another Christian does something that hurts me, I do not get even. Instead, I do what I can to bless them.

For some who grew up in a loving family like I did, these commands should be easier to obey than for those who did not. However, our sinful human nature makes this a challenge for me and for everyone. Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, my flesh wants to be right, to get even when hurt, to resist authority, and to do the opposite of all these things. I cannot obey these commands without the work of God and the new nature that Christ gives His people. When push comes to shove, I will shove back unless I am abiding in Christ and relying on Him.

One other important thought comes to mind. This is not mere surface behavior. There are “nice” people who are kind and loving as part of their persona, but when confronted or pressured by “grumpy” people, they usually turn away and avoid them. God asks more of His children than our normal temperament. He asks us to be like Jesus regardless of what our nature is, and that is the challenge. 

Today I will be with those brothers and sisters. This reminds me that the Lord wants unity and love as these verses describe. Will it be easy? Or a challenge? Either way, I can do it only by His grace.

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