Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Following the example of Jesus. 1 Peter 3:8-12

When did you last wash your brother's feet? In Biblical days you wouldn't have been complaining that the Council hasn't gritted the roads or put enough salt down, you would have been more likely to complain about the mule droppings, excrement, urine, vomit, mud and other ordure that contaminated them. If you were a trainee slave you would be given the task of washing the feet of the guests, who were not well-booted against the muck, but used to walk about with open sandals (if they were not bare-footed).

You certainly would not have expected your host to take off his outer garments, wrap a towel around his waist and take a bowl of soapy water and wash your feet. Yet that is just what Jesus did at the Last Supper. It may have looked like humility then, but when you consider that this was the Maker of the Mountains, the Overseer of the Oceans, the Creator Himself; how much more does his humility seem?

Earlier in 1 Peter we had this command: "To this you were called because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps."

Being submissive is one of the lessons that we have to learn, and I more than most. My last intemperate post, for example, shows that I still have a long way to go. But living in constant rebellion, being against most things, being a critic, part of his infernal majesty's opposition, can be a wearing and destructive lifestyle. Listen to what Peter has to say about it:

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 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. For, "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."

Do you remember the song from "White Christmas" sung by Rosmary Clooney, "Sisters, there were never such devoted sisters"? It contained the line, "Lord help the mister who comes between me and my sister." This is how we must 'love as brothers'. It's not, 'my country right or wrong' but our love for other Christians must take precedence over other loves - love of country, love of local football team, even love on non-Christian members of our own family.

We have to be both sympathetic and compassionate. Although both these words come from the same root, they have slightly different meanings. Sympathy implies sharing in the sufferings, weeping with those who weep. Compassion is more that gut-wrenching ache when you see a brother suffering. The difference is not great and we are to do both. When we see our brother suffering we suffer with him and have pity on him - both should be a spur to action. Remember the Good Samaritan! Don't walk by on the other side.

Finally, be in harmony and show humility. There are many things to fall out about in churches - it is usually the flowers or the music. But prefer you brother's view to your own. Those who are truly humble don't fall out with anybody.

It is easy enough to be nice to like minded people. Here comes the difficult part. "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing".

Revenge is forbidden to Christians. Here's a heath tip. Giving up revenge does wonders for your blood pressure. Has someone cut you up at a roundabout? Don't honk your horn and make rude gestures. Just wish him a happy accident at his next encounter and let it pass. I remember remonstrating with a pedestrian who had just jumped out in front of me, nearly getting himself killed. He was high on drugs and was in no mood to listen. he just punched me on the nose and walked off.

This life is terribly unfair and if you spend your time chuntering after justice, you will find yourself in an early grave. Far better to leave vengeance to the Lord and regard this life as training for heaven. Develop that contrite and humble spirit. Blessed are the peacemakers, said Jesus, for they will be called the sons of God.

I have been challenged over my assertion that God will not listen to the prayers of husbands who treat their wives badly, but here it is again. '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.'

I know that if once you are saved, you are always saved, and I know that our righteousness is as filthy rags and once we have been covered with the righteousness of Christ we can't improve on it, but once we have been converted, the Holy Spirit gets to work on us to train us in following the example of Christ. If we rebel and sin the more so that grace may more abound, then the Lord is telling us here that he won't listen to our prayers.

We were called so that we might inherit a blessing. What were we called to? Repentance and faith. Repentance means a change in our thinking. We no longer put ourselves first. It is not merely an assent to a particular doctrine, but a change in our way of life. We live by faith - content that the Lord is in control, ready to leave the consequences to him and to spend our lives as imitators of Christ.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Hamblin,
I just posted my comment to your previous post and saw your new one. You have to completely take your words from that previous post back for this post to be valid. Not just one sentence (My last intemperate post, for example, shows that I still have a long way to go.).. take your words back completely. Or put it under the lable 'politics'.. not 'religion'.
What would it be if not hypocrisy? Indeed "live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 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."
As you yourself said, "Revenge is forbidden to Christians"
I am sorry to write these words because I have great respect for you as a doctor and a person of faith. Sorry if it is too harsh.

Terry Hamblin said...

Yes, well you will have seen what I wrote in response to your previous comment. Do I take them back? Yes, I am sorry I was so rude to the Maldives, I could have phrased my criticism in a more temperate way. Do I cease to criticise the Maldives? No, I don't. This passage tells me to love the Brethren, so I will stand up for my Christian brothers in the Maldives who have been viciously persecuted by the Moslem government there. They have been denied citizenship there because they are not Moslems - suppose that Britain or the US were to deny citizenship to Moslems...
They have forbidden churches to be built. Now, I guess that that is their right, but it is hypocritical to then take money from Christian tourists and Christian charities.

As for my jibe about burning carbon, that was irony since I don't buy into the idea of anthropogenic global warming and rising sea levels.

The injunction to live in harmony is with other Christians, not with people of other religions. Islam is, I'm sorry to say, a misguided faith and among its members are some very wicked people. Christians have a responsibility to say so.

I will be writing further about the Christian's responsibility to right wrongs in the world, but the idea of a milksop Jesus who curls up in a ball when confronted with evil, is not one that is found in the New Testament.

Anonymous said...

We cannot stand up for our Christian brothers there if the whole place (Hell, as you call it) drowns.
Christian tourists go there to have FUN and PAY for it. Nobody makes them go there.
I agree with you on Islam as a misguided faith and I cannot understand why Christian charities give money to a Moslem nation.
I do not envision Jesus who 'curls up in a ball when confronted with evil'. But I see the Christ who throws crumbs from his table to a woman that is not of his religion, the one who tells us about the lost sheep and the lost coin, who talks to an adulteress. He calls us to share the good news with the whole world.. and I do not remember him promoting an exclussive club of self-righteous people who are nice only to each other. Of course, we should not forget the pearls and swine situation.

Terry Hamblin said...

I am working on a piece on how Christians should react to tyranny. I actually find it very difficult to be submissive. So I am studying Romans 13 with great attention to detail. Meanwhile I am today publishing a list of atrocities against Christians (mostly by Muslims) that took place over this Christmas and the New Year.

You shouldn't take the global warming stuff too seriously. The Maldives are not going to sink below the sea; that is just propaganda by unscrupulous scientists seeking after research funds and businessmen hoping to make a fast buck out of cap and trade. The climate has always changed due to natural forces.

What I wrote was meant to persuade Christian tourists to have their fun somewhere else. As you say, no-one makes them go there, but if they knew what their money was being spent on they might vary their destination.

Hell is a place where God is excluded. That seems to me what the rulers of the Maldives are aiming to do; hence Hell is an apt description.

Of course, you are right that we must evangelise the unbelievers. This is very difficult to do when the unbelievers are militant Muslims or militant atheists. The particular passage I was expounding was written to the church, pleading for harmony within it. It does not address what to do about outsiders; other passages of Scripture do.

Jesus himself cast out the moneychangers, was offensive to both Herod and the Pharisees, and when he 'throws crumbs from his table to a woman that is not of his religion' he commended her for her great faith - she was not of a different religion, merely a different race.

It seems to me that Christians need to stand up for what is right (as Paul did at Philippi) and not be cowed before Moslems on a premise that we must be nice to them. However, I was wrong to be rude and I apologise to any Maldivians out there.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I will have no truck with a cosy little club. And self-righteousness is one of the greatest of sins.