Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Edifier du Jour-2 Peter 1:5-8
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is interesting how Peter nests these various traits, with agape ranking as the end result of the line of virtues. Peter ranks moral excellence at the bottom of the list. Not that it isn't good, but it can be misapplied by zealots and turned into legalism. Add some knowledge to that morality and you can better apply moral standards. However, you can be moral and knowledgeable but still go off half-cocked, so adding some self-control to a learned morality will help. Now that we have things tamed, he wants us to add spiritual and emotional stamina, for sticking through the tough times is needed. That's about where I'm at now in areas other than food, where I'm back at self-control; being married is showing the need for stick-to-it-iveness. Perseverance is needed for me to get through the 1AM tears and fears of a wife in transition on multiple levels. It's needed for those times when you'd really rather not be doing the right thing. Peter puts godliness next on the list; you'd think it'd be the last on the list, but I think there's a reason why it's here. You can act "godly" in doing all the right things without having a warm spirit. Pharisees were godly in that they strived to obey the letter of the law, but Jesus was after them to obey the spirit of the law as well. There are two types of love Peter lists; John 21 has Peter as the subject of a lesson between philios and agape. Philios is what's translated "brotherly love" (hence Philadelphia being the "City of Brotherly Love"-{Not!}), while agape is unconditional love; to borrow from Clint Wright, "'I love you and there ain't nothin' you can do about it." Jesus asked Peter if he agaped him the first two go-rounds and Peter replied that he philiosed Him. On the third go-round, Jesus asked Peter if he philiosed Him; Peter, getting the message, stated that he agaped him. I still like my comment from last July 4th
Very often, our love of God is rather lukewarm, like the Laodiceans. That kind of love that's more of a like, a mild preference, makes God want to barf; the word "spit" in Revelation 3:16 would be better translated vomit. The exchange between Jesus and Peter reminds me of how often I have pitched my tent in Laodicea and how often I fail to truly love God. Unlike Sally Field, God's not going to get excited over the fact that we like him. We're supposed to all-out agape Him, but we only get there by drawing close to him and allowing the Holy Spirit to show us the agape flowing from Him.
However, it takes perseverance, self control, morality, knowledge and godliness (not necessarily in that order) just to get to philios. Agape is unnatural for us, for even our "unconditional" love has conditions. Agape is truly a gift of the Holy Spirit; not that all the other traits don't flow throw the Spirit, but you can see secular approximations of the other traits Peter mentions. You don't see much, if any, secular agape. To be honest, you don't see much agape in the Church either, but it's what we're shooting for and occasionally find.

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