At least a decade has passed since a sharp rebuke by Paul. By this time the ex-fisherman from 1stcentury Palestine has been on the road a lot. On non-fishing boats a lot as well. In his life he had had moments of walking completely according to his calling and some moments of not so much. Peter has had a life of stepping forward and backward. He had preached fully and also been beaten for his faith.
But what stays constant? In his first papal encyclical he starts off with what works as a north star for those who call themselves believers in Jesus. He names three north stars so to speak.
1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, 7 so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Living hope—Is a loaded term from what we know from biology and what it means to Peter. From biology we are taught to ask of something suspected to be life three things: is it growing? Is it eating? Is it reproducing? When one understands that the Christian life is rooted and filled with continual meaning through the gospel we see the effects to be all three. With continual meaning be carried in our hearts as a living hope, the life grows in us from Him because was partake of Him and then our fruit is of the fragrance of Him.
But there is a difference about Christ living from mere nature living. We can tame nature or at least imprison it. You can’t take the person of Jesus and tame him or control him. He is the most objective force in the universe as well as a person. He is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Think otherwise and the influence of Satan in your life can be sharply addressed. Peter had a Ph.d in that. “Get thee behind me Satan” came right after Peter said “Your are the Christ, the Son of the living God”.
an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
Inherit more fruit than you can consume before it rots? Flawed.
Inherit a house where a murder took place? Creepy.
Inherit a bright color jacket with colors that easily run? That was a nice five minutes.
But what was have as children of God is something that is above the fray of what corrupts, defiles or diminishes. We have standing with God in a home that is ours in Him but we have not set foot in according to our understanding. But the mystery is “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 1:3). This may be why I have been calling myself a student for over a year in the faith. Scratch that. Beginner. To know the blessings of God for our hearts is a deep wellspring.
salvation ready to be revealed in the last time
for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Is this a contradiction? Not at all when you realize that being made whole by God is something that we can only apprehend in this life but comprehend in the next. I apprehend enough about my car to drive it. If I stepped into a new realm with mechanic trainings I would understand it with full comprehension.
In the meantime, we continue to engage in divine life, if we choose, and see that engrafted message of God’s love grow in us life one plant being spliced into another.
In the mindset of God, He does not want to be just a fireman that pulls you out of a fire. He wants to be your doctor and administer love with holiness by His life. It is a new one for all who will receive it. Sozo is a Greek word that means whole and not fireman salvation as we limit it. In the most true sense we cannot be whole in this life. But in how it was used in a day to day context, it was for when someone repented and when someone was healed.
Going on a year now as a Catholic, I take from the scriptures and the mass, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. But only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Now is a good time to ask. What have we got to lose?
Fourteen years ago I heard about a set of conflicts people have over their lifetime according to a set of clockwork stages you could predict by ages. I heard about one, generativity, when I was thirty. According to some theorists that are beholden to Erickson, the conflict is with stagnation and stagnation tends to win unless there is intervention.
The bad news and the unspecified intervention was my cliffhanger. Here I was, thirty years old, and wondering what I was going to do with my life as a recently divorced, non-custodial father of three young kids. Where was my generativity? Or was I bound to go the way of stagnation? The Erickson theorists pose the existential question, “Can I Make My Life Count?” Due to some complications in my life at the time, I could not go to school to get the rest of this line of thinking that the instructor said I would learn.
But that question about making a life count can be explored through more than existentialism but through the prism of knowing and being known by Jesus. He wants us to bear fruit in Him. This is not easy but possible. Being real and trusting Him to complete the work he began in us is an important center for those on the journey (Phillipians 1:6).
“Is it OK to Have Been Me?”
That is the next question for the next conflict of the next, and last, stage to Erickson’s stages theory. Many of us may know the verse of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:6-7 “As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
No shock here to those who have been reading my blogs for a while, but now I bring it back to the an ex-fisherman named Shemon Bar-Yonah also known as Simon Peter. In the coming weeks we will see him answering the same questions in his epistles that he writes also in his old age albeit sometimes between the lines. But Peter really gets the answers for sure on the other side of this life just as we do.
Did I make my life count?
Was it okay to have been me in the way my heart, words and actions were?
Or if we want to really flip things as we appropriate the scripture in our ongoing conversions to Jesus:
Am I okay now being His workmanship yet open to change?
Do I make my life count now? And where does it count beyond my own self-interests?
The Scriptures say now is the day of salvation. Wherever you are, whatever your doing, seeking means asking and asking is receiving. No better time than the present.
“Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee.” —St. Augustine
PS I nearly have a Masters in Social Work and that cliffhanger has still not been answered completely.
There is an almost heroic story of standing up for justice when the pressure is tough. When we know the right thing to do, and do not do it, only discomfort will shake us out of complacency. Otherwise we will be lethargic while we describe standing as a point of light instead of being it.
In the 1940’s there was a civil suit brought by a black family against a white family over farming rights in Alabama. The courage of the black plaintiffs must have been huge due to how things were in that era and state.
A crucial thing happened that is praiseworthy. The head white defendants referred to the other side as “Those people” and “Jim” or “Kathy”. The judge corrected him and ordered his side to address the other side respectfully and by their proper surnames. He also ruled on the side of the plaintiffs.
But where is the bad part? The judge was standing for justice, right?
We know that same judge by the name Governor George Wallace. He was a major proponent of segregation in Alabama in the civil rights era. Only much later in life after being humbled by the bullet by a would-be assassin would he repent. The basic sadness is that he bended his knee to the tide of his peers in living out of his life though he had ruled justly before.
Today we will look at someone who acted like Governor George Wallace for a moment and was rebuked for it: Peter.
Galations 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; 12 for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. 13 And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
I opposed him to his face
Okay, aaaaawkward! Sometimes we just need a hint on our blind spots, but when we are willfully taking the cowards way out of following the love and acceptance of Jesus while calling ourselves standard-bearers, black coffee is needed with no cream or sugar.
because he stood self-condemned
As we have seen in past blogs, Peter the rock chosen by The Rock was instrumental in bringing the news of God’s love in Christ to the gentiles. He had the Holy Spirit and the revelation that Christ would be a light to the gentiles. He had infallible truth but was living far from impeccably. “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Luke 12:48).
But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction.
We fear the law when we are speeding and we should. But the chief reason why we diminish our role of being a light in the social arenas, is fear of man. We can choose to not be afraid if we instead invite love in our lives through the gospel and keep inviting that love, in Jesus every day.
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.
Peter was on a journey on that experience like I hope I am. Like I hope you are. That day he was afraid of the punishment of not being at peace with those who wanted extra weight on the Others.
But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel
This gets to the heart of the matter if disciples are to change the world. The gospel is not a nice idea. It is not winning a debate. It is not at its summit based on who wins an election.
The gospel is the power of God to wholeness (Romans 1:17) in every way to the Jew and then to the Gentile. To live according to it, is to bring that out by word and deed to everyone we have contact with just like the Good Samaritan (Acts 10).
This is my last blog of Peter that is centered on the directly biographical passages but I want to end today on a high note.
2 Peter 3:14 “Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.”
He swallowed his pride and saw Paul as an instrument of God’s rebuke and speaking in his second papal encyclical he puts Paul’s letters as scriptures. In some way, Peter turned this rebuke into his own turning point based on this incident and as we know, he lived in Rome for two major periods of his life after that. The second time he was even martyred there.
Whatever it is that is looking like a rupture in your life between God and unjust social pressure, turn your face into the wind. Only by being grounded in love as the truth in Jesus can we be all we are called to be.