Sunday, April 22, 2012
Scripture Sunday: 2nd Peter
In this letter, Peter addresses a lot of problems that are arising or will arise in the church (not the building "the church" but the church, meaning the worldwide group of Christian believers).
First, he talks about building yourself up and practicing all the virtues that befit a Christian: "add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity." (1:5-7) We must always be moving toward the next virtue. If we pursue these good things we'll definitely see results in our private lives, and we'll also benefit the cause of Christ. One of the key words in 2nd Peter seems to be diligence. These are the sort of things we have to stick to and pursue with as much dedication as we can muster.
Peter is writing with such earnestness because he knows he will die soon: "Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me." (1:14) Peter has a little time remaining to him, and he's going to use his time to advise the body of believers and warn them about people who will try to tear the church apart with false teachings and selfish attitudes.
The false teachers are characterized by lust (ungodly types of sexual desire), covetousness (basically "envy") and vanity (pride and self-will). How these sorts of people could ever rise to prominence within the Christian faith seems impossible, but then I recall the atrocities done in the name of Christ in times long past--things like the crusades, and smaller evils like the church selling "indulgences" or receiving payment for supposedly forgiving sins. It has happened before and can happen again, so we must be diligent and be on our guard against these sorts of people and their destructive teachings which have nothing to do with the saving power of Jesus Christ.
For those who wonder when the end of the world is coming, Peter says that the Lord isn't slow about ending the world or "slack concerning his promise," but that God measures time differently than we do: "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (3:8). This verse actually makes me think of the character Aslan, the Christ-figure lion in The Chronicles of Narnia. In one book, he tells Lucy he'll do something soon, and she asks, "Please, Aslan...what do you call "soon"?" He replies, "I call all times "soon"." :-)