Posted: 17 May 2011 12:00 AM PDT
1 PETER 4 CONTINUES THE THEME of Christian conduct, including unjust suffering. This theme is now increasingly tied to identification with Christ (e.g., 1 Pet. 4:14), to final judgment (1 Pet. 4:5–6, 7, 17), and above all to the will of God: "So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good" (1 Pet. 4:19, italics added).
But what does it mean to "do good"? This is spelled out in part in 1 Peter 4:7–11:
(a) We must be "clear minded and self-controlled so that [we] can pray" (1 Pet. 4:7). Self-control is an element of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23). Minds clouded by the heated pursuit of hedonism are not minds that can pray.
(b) We must "love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins" (1 Pet. 4:8). Peter assumes, realistically, that various breaches will occur in the Christian assembly—just as they occur in a family. But in a mature family, the love of each family member for the others covers over the breaches. So also in the church. This does not mean that there are no sins to expose and discipline; the whole New Testament stands against such reductionism. On the other hand, we must face the fact that sins will be committed—and be prepared to cover them over with love. For there is no way back to the innocence of Eden—certainly not by probing each blemish and letting it all hang out, going over the same sins and failures again and again. There is no way back; there is only a way forward—through the cross, to forgiveness and forbearance. Christians must love each other deeply, "because love covers over a multitude of sins." Mature Christians know their own hearts well enough to realize that they need such love and need to display it.
(c) We must "[o]ffer hospitality to one another without grumbling" (1 Pet. 4:9). Loving has more to it than forbearing with another's faults; it has more to it than positive activity such as showing hospitality: it includes how we show such hospitality—not in a grumbling or resentful fashion, but eagerly, graciously, generously.
(d) We must use whatever gifts we have received to serve others (1 Pet. 4:10–11). Peter gives some examples, but his list is not exhaustive. If one is called to speak in the church (for example), it is not a time for showing off or for amusing the goats, but for feeding the sheep, and that means speaking "as one speaking the very words of God" (1 Pet. 4:11). Meditate on Romans 12:6–8.
Everything is to be done in such a way "that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 4:11).
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