Re:Verse passage – 1 Peter 2:11-17 (day three)
“Abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles.”
Peter does not say this in order to unleash the behavior police. He tells us these things because fleshly lusts will degrade your ability to draw near to people with compassion and empathy. When your body’s appetites become your workaround for your own fear and pain, another person will become a means to an end for you. Like everyone else, your life harbors places of deep agony. The shortest of shortcuts to alleviate that distress is your body and the bodies of others. When you instead begin learning from Christ to address anguish through the pursuit of holy living, your life starts to heal, and you gain the energy to love people. The behavior police live by rules. The church lives by love.
Re:Verse passage – 1 Peter 2:1-10 (day three)
“You may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.”
It’s not uncommon to think of God as irritable, impatient, and perfectionist, yet willing to present a pleasant demeanor to you unless you trip the hair trigger of his anger. How can you know that’s not true? Consider this: If you’re to become like Christ, then the character of irritability, impatience, and perfectionism is the kind of character you would need to cultivate in yourself as well. The Bible reveals that the Lord is kind, patient, forgiving. He seeks not to be rid of you, but to live with you. Paul says the kindness of the Lord leads us to repentance. And here, Peter reveals that your openness to God’s kindness gives increasing assurance that you are safe with him.
Re:Verse passage – 1 Peter 1:18-25 (day three)
“You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood…”
When the power goes out, you’ll surely catch yourself trying to flip the light switch on; you’re so accustomed to lighting up a room in this way that it’s become second nature. But then you realize: the thing you’ve counted on has failed you. When something that has always before seemed to meet the need with precision and immediacy suddenly doesn’t, that’s distressing. At the scale of the human soul, Peter says, possessions, power, and plans have always been overrated. For now, the lights will eventually come back. But one day, all remedies will fail, save one. Only Christ can do what you thought those things could do. And they don’t love you, either. Christ does.
Re:Verse passage – 1 Peter 1:10-17 (day three)
“If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay.”
The Bible has much to say about fearing God. The Bible says these things not because God intends to frighten you, but because your every instance of wanting power or preference over fellow human beings leads you to ignore God, and when that happens, the world is a very dangerous place indeed. The earth and the heavens are a complex system that conform only to the limits that God has set. They won’t be pushed beyond those limits without disastrous consequences. You need God’s wisdom in order to live in harmony with God’s creation. The same is true with fellow human beings. The fear of God will lead you to live in harmony with people.
Re:Verse passage – 1 Peter 1:1-9 (day three)
“…to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away…”
What’s the difference between Peter’s words and pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by? I mean, when life sucker-punches you, will it really help in the moment to say to yourself that, well, a better life awaits me after I die? No. But that’s not what Peter’s getting at. He’s not dispensing trite platitudes for life’s misfortunes. That’s what Facebook is for. What Peter is doing here is cultivating a certain kind of life in you. That takes a while. It’s a life that involves mourning and grieving and a revelation, gradually, that your pain is familiar to Christ – a life that will lead you to discover, as Christ himself found after his own darkness, that joy has not in fact died, but will wait for you for as long as it takes.
Re:Verse passage – Matthew 18:15-35 (day three)
“Whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven.”
How much weight do the decisions and actions of the community of Jesus’s disciples carry? Jesus says that these decisions and actions invite heaven’s presence and power into circumstances, or they close off the channels of heaven’s presence and power into circumstances. Jesus once told the Pharisees that they shut the door of the kingdom in people’s faces – that “you yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” This is of a piece with what Jesus says here. The stumbling blocks, the barricades, the willful blindness to heaven’s activity in the lives of people – these indicate a hellish conspiracy and collusion to prevent lost people from finding life. A church can represent the kingdom of God on earth. A church can also bolt the door.
Re:Verse passage – Matthew 18:5-14 (day three)
“Does he not leave the ninety-nine?”
God’s been seeking people the whole Bible long. From “Where is your brother Abel?” to “The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth” to “The Son of man came to seek and to save the lost,” God has called, searched for, pursued, wooed. This is what the universe’s Creator does. Scripture shows us a God cut to the heart for those who have gone missing. The word of God which declares that the Lord is among the gathering of even two or three is the same word of God that admonishes us against contentedness to remain just two or three. See people, notice them, hear them, welcome them, sit with them. The Savior will reveal himself in these moments of tender conversation to those who’ve lost their way. Some of them will come home.
Re:Verse passage – Matthew 18:1-4 (day three)
“Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
The scientific advances in physics which have led to manipulation of electromagnetism to encode information digitally and convey it over vast networks of interconnected devices have all been brought to bear to create this message: “Your call is important to us.” Does anyone alive believe that’s true? We have harnessed the power of the cosmos and we’ve used it to lie to ourselves. Is it any wonder you might think, “Do I matter to another person, even to God?” That’s the haunting thought at the bottom of the old “Who’s the greatest?” query. It turns out that God loves just you – the you absent the meticulously crafted image, behind your defenses, without your escape hatches, like you used to be when you were a child, before the world taught you to hide.
Re:Verse passage – Luke 19:1-10 (day three)
“Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor.”
We’re not privy to their conversation, but it sure seems likely that Jesus gave Zacchaeus a picture of what life on earth could look like as Zacchaeus would leverage his financial acumen to address poverty. Jesus issues a high, holy calling to Zacchaeus to rise up and become an architect of a righteous and just society where the powerful advocate for the poor. That is a compelling invitation for someone of Zacchaeus’s particular skill set. There is no doubt whatsoever that Zacchaeus believed in Jesus for his salvation. But he believed by acting on the beautiful possibilities that Jesus held out before him. Evangelism like this gives people a glimpse of the beautiful world that’s coming, and lets them know that they can be a vital part of that beautiful world.