June 2011 Newsletter

Dear Friends in Christ,

The apostle Peter offers these words of challenge to the early Christian community.

"Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called - that you might inherit a blessing."
1 Peter 3:8-9

The values and virtues that Peter promotes in these simple words are generally counter to our culture. They are quite different from the processes and priorities we observe in the world around us. Peter calls the early Christians to seek unity of spirit. Often in our society, people are so committed to their own positions that they are unwilling to consider alternative perspectives. Sometimes folks are so determined to defend their own particular point of view, (and their right to think what they choose) that they are unwilling to listen to others, to negotiate with others, to seek understanding, to cooperate with others, or embrace mediation, in the search for unity. In such an atmosphere, seeking God's truth in the midst of so many individual, independent "truths" becomes a daunting task. One of the challenges we face in seeking unity is the necessity of embracing God's word and will, and acknowledging that God's truth may differ from and will certainly trump our own.

Peter also exhorts the early Christians to have sympathy and love for one another, to possess a tender heart. Too often in this world we are so wrapped up in our own "issues" and struggles that we can't see the suffering of others or put ourselves in their shoes. We are unwilling or unable to generate true compassion for those who are in anguish or trouble. On the night before his death, Jesus gave to his disciples a new commandment. He instructed them to love one another "as I have loved you." Such love calls for a willingness to bear one another's burdens, to live sacrificially. A superficial sympathy misses the mark. A compassion that is based on merit or deserving fails to reach a Christlike standard. Christian love is meant to be qualitatively distinct from all other forms of love. Christian love demands that we see one another in all our glory (after all, we are made in God's image) and in all our frailty (after all, we are all sinner's in need of God's grace) and go the extra mile for one another any way.

Finally, Peter turns the ways of this world upside down when he declares "Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but on the contrary repay with a blessing." We live in a society that seems more comfortable with sayings like, "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." and "Do unto others before they do unto you." than with the attitude of Peter.

Jesus, however, teaches a way both in word and in deed that is the embodiment of Peter's message.

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile."
Matthew 5:38-41

Jesus suffers humiliation, pain, and death on a criminal's cross to bring salvation to the world and forgiveness even to those who persecuted him. Peter and the other apostles, learned from Jesus to lay down their lives in order to bring hope and new life to others, to bear witness to the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding; so that the world might be drawn to Jesus, their Lord and Savior, and seek his way of love.

Living as a Christian in this world is tough. Clinging to Christ's word and way in the face of constant pressures to do otherwise is an immense challenge. Heeding Peter's words is demanding. Obeying Christ's commands and walking in his path is a struggle. This is not a superficial servitude. It is not a life for the fainthearted or the worldly. May you and I pray and study and strive for unity, for love, for lives that bless others, so that we may be true both to Peter's challenge and to Christ's call on our lives.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Peggy Ann Sauerhoff