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 says, Go

Acts 21:27-22:23 After Roman officers arrested Paul in Jerusalem to save him from a crowd beating him and calling for his death, Paul asked the commander to let him talk to the crowd. The people listened until he told them in 22:21, But the Lord said to me, “Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.”

I heard my parents tell about arriving at the top of a mountain in Guatemala in 1953 and looking down on the Mayan village which would be their new home. They had already come through near-death experiences in Mexico (my mom had actually been pronounced dead), but they were convinced God had sent them to this village, to learn the Ixil language in order to translate the Scriptures for these particular people.

A view of the Nebaj valley in 2008, when our extended family joined Dad for the dedication of the Ixil New Testament.
Nebaj is now a small city!

As they gazed into the Nebaj valley, holding their three young children, God brought Joshua 1:9 to their minds: Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. On the strength of this encouragement, with no idea what awaited them, Mom, Dad and my older siblings continued their journey down the rough road into Nebaj, into both hardships and joys they couldn’t anticipate.

When Paul spoke to the angry crowd in Jerusalem in Acts 22, he recounted his experience of God saying “Go” after his conversion on the road to Damascus. But the larger context was his conviction that God had sent him to Jerusalem to be threatened and arrested (I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem … jail and suffering lie ahead, 20:22-23).

Through that arrest, God would now send him to Rome, to tell people there about Jesus. God reaffirmed this through a dream in 23:11, Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well. Paul will live under guard in Rome until he is executed.

How different all this is from the “health and wealth” version of the Gospel! Jesus never offered or modeled a life of comfort and prosperity. He stated flat out, Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows (John 16:33). What he does promise is to be with us, to walk with us through whatever we encounter along the way—the sorrows and the joys.

So whenever we hear God say “Go,” we can know he goes with us. And nothing can ever separate us from his love.