A call to holy living

But God’s word remains forever

1 Peter 1:13-2:3 So think clearly and exercise self-control … For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy” [Leviticus 19:2]. Remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. … Show sincere love to each other. … “The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever[Isaiah 40:8].  And that word is the Good News that was preached to you. So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.

In the grocery store Tuesday with Caleb and Talita, I felt embarrassed when suddenly they broke away from me, chasing each other around the legs and grocery carts of other shoppers, yelling at the top of their lungs.

Why did I feel embarrassed? Because they represented me. Their behavior resulted in everyone nearby looking at me askance. They caused discomfort and could have caused harm to themselves and others. And they hindered my objective of getting out quickly so we would have more time to play, since we lost our place in line.

Thanks to Covid, Caleb and Talita have hardly ever been in grocery stores, I realized. They need to be taught proper behavior in that setting. I hadn’t explained to them what was appropriate. Once I did, they were contrite (at least, Caleb was).

Best of 26: a recent attempt to get all three of our cherubs sitting still, looking at the camera and smiling all at the same time!

We’re our Father’s “kids.” What we do and what comes out of our mouths reflects positively or badly on him just as surely as my beloved grandchildren’s behavior and speech impacted others at the store in their view of me. Fortunately, God does tell us what he expects of us.

True, holiness in speech and behavior—according to Peter, actions and words which show and promote love—is out of vogue in our society among adults who should know better. Damaging and deceitful actions and words are flung about publicly (and, I suspect, privately) as if adults believe they bear no responsibility for the harm they cause.

Peter says, NOOOO!!!! No more of this!! Don’t shame the name of God, claiming him as your Lord, yet “slipping back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires” (verse 14).

God has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him (verse 17) and love each other deeply, from the heart (verse 22).

Our Father paid an enormous price to save us from empty living: “And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (verse 19). When we hurt each other, we betray his sacrifice.

So how can we learn to speak and behave differently? Moses (1500 BC), Isaiah (700 BC), and Peter all remind us of the eternal, indestructible Word God has given to teach and guide us. Peter calls it spiritual milk, whose nourishment we babies need in order to thrive. “Cry out for it,” he tells us.

Shutterstock: LittleDogKorat

Lord, thank you that your word doesn’t pull any punches. Show me today my need to repent and be cleansed, so I can regard even my “enemies” with your kind of love. Make me hungry as a baby for your life-giving word, to strengthen me for holy, counter-cultural living and speaking that honors rather than shames you, and makes your heart happy.

But God’s judgment is discipline

1 Corinthians 11:31-32 If we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world.

Hebrews 12:5-6 Have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves.”

Ephesians 5:1-2 Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.

Happy Mother’s Day, all you moms!

Since today is Mother’s Day, I’m skipping chapter 10 and will come back to it in the next post.  The tension between judgment and discipline, and the way each is handled, seems to me an important theme for parents—dads too!

Those of us who grew up not feeling loved by our parents may have an especially hard time figuring out the judgment/discipline dynamic. I love the practical counsel offered by Cloud and Townsend in their book Boundaries with Kids: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Children because it focuses on love as the context for discipline. It showed me that my own choices as a mom were more important than my children’s behavior. I wish I had understood this when my children were young.

Judgment is the evaluation we make of behavior against a standard. It alerts us to the need for shaping, training, and instruction, the definition of the word paideuo used by both Paul and the writer to the Hebrews. How different that is from being told to perform a task—with little or no instruction or opportunity to practice—and then being punished for not doing it well. That was a frequent pattern in my home growing up. It does lead to self-judgment, but not in a positive sense of developing healthy internal boundaries based on knowing one can do what is expected. It makes one want to give up, because the parent is impossible to please.

Our Father/Mother* God isn’t like that. Jesus shows us what he is like. I’m enchanted with the way Jesus is depicted for us in the wonderful series “The Chosen”. Watching that may be the best Mother’s Day gift you can give yourself!

*See, for example, Psalm 27:10, Isaiah 66:13, Hosea 11:3-4, Matthew 23:37.