It is interesting this week during the traditional worship the focus that the lectionary gives is the second half to the passage that I am going to use for the Gathering this week. In 1 Peter 3:13-22, it basically states that life is hard, but we are with God, and though the seas may get choppy and life may be difficult, through our baptism we are brought beyond this life so we need not worry about our temporary afflictions. Now if you want to hear more about that, come in the morning!
When I was reading that, what I thought was far more interesting was 1 Peter 3:8-12. Much in the same vein as Micah 6:8, this passage has that reflexive point of view that has one finger pointing at others with four pointing back at yourself. In other words, this passage is setting forward the paradigm which questions how you are living.
We have talked a lot over the last few months about what it means to be a Christian. But there are also times where the better question may not be what it means, but why it is important. I remember a dialog I had with a humanist chaplain at a large university a couple years ago. He cited everything our group was doing and then he listed everything his group was doing and asked, so what is different?
Of course I was backed into a corner and I knew the line “Because we are doing it for Christ” was not going to work in this argument. So I thought pretty hard and the first thing that popped into my mind was Micah 6:8 and the second was this passage because it helps us to remember that the reason we do good and care for others is not about ourselves, or even our desire to feel good; it is a celebration of the blessings which God has given us and continues to give us.
He called me out on that line, so I turned back and asked what does it mean for your life if everything is about you? That did seem to throw him, which surprised me a bit. But it is understandable, since one of the great aspects of faith is knowing that we do not live exclusively to ourselves.
That makes 1 Peter 3:8-12 even more interesting since the behaviors that it highlights are the most corrosive, divisive issues that come up in communities. As the Message translates “Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm.” Though the NRSV translates the same section as “Evil for Evil.” I think about how often we begin to see people as less than worthy when we let retaliation and criticism overtake care and compassion, or as the scripture writes, blessing.
It is good for us to think about the Why, and to struggle with what that means. When we find the answer, we also find that we are more whole and we can begin to understand what it truly means to be blessed.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen