1 Peterby David Burge
If my children are struggling with a task, they like to know that the end is in sight. Marathon runners push through pain when the finish line comes into view. Sporting teams tend to score a disproportionate number of points when there are only a few minutes left on the clock. So too, Christians are at their best when they sense that God's delivery on His promises is not far away. It's only a matter of time!
Today's passage begins with: ″The end of all things is near″ (1 Peter 4:7). Peter is not insisting that Christ would return in his lifetime, or even in the first century. Rather, he is repeating Jesus' teaching that Christians be ever-ready for His return (see Matthew 24:44; Luke 12:35-48).
Much of God's salvation plan in Christ has already been accomplished through Israel's history and the Messiah's life, death, and resurrection. We live in the last privileged days between Jesus' first and second coming. From God's point of view, we're almost there!
In light of that, we can draw strength to finish our race well. So how can we do that? In 1 Peter 4:7, Peter once again urges sober-mindedness and behaviour which stimulates prayer. For example, as we saw in 3:7, a husband's treatment of his wife is to be such that his prayers are not hindered. A Christian's mind is to be sharply focused on the promises of God, for the sake of our prayers. It seems very important that we live in a way that generates prayer.
As Peter returns to sober-mindedness and prayer, so also he returns to love (see 1:22; 2:17; 3:8). Peter does not want us to miss the most important things. ″Above all, love each other deeply″ (4:8).
I have heard Christians say: ″God tells me to love people at church, but I don't have to like them!″ But this seems a convenient excuse to not fully embrace those we find difficult to love. At times, a Christian or church elder will need to humbly confront sinful behaviour, as Jesus and Paul teach. Some behaviour needs to be confronted and repentance may be needed for restored fellowship (see Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5). Yet, usually in church life, love allows Christians to show grace to one another instead of holding grudges or breaking fellowship, as ″love covers over a multitude of sins″ (1 Peter 4:8).
We might then ask: ″But how are we to love people deeply?″ Peter directs us to focus on serving one another. Those with housing and food willingly share that form of God's kindness (v. 9); those who teach and preach pass on truths they themselves undeservedly received (v. 10); and all who serve carry out their service with the strength God provides (v. 11).
Peter's point is that we love others by serving. And we can serve only because God has first been gracious to us. This kind of loving, humble service glorifies God-″so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen″ (v. 11).
How strong is your sense of the nearness to the glorious end that God has promised?
How might this sense of nearness help you to gratefully love and to actively serve your church family in the coming days?