Read 1 Peter 1:1-2.
"Grace and peace be yours in abundance." NIV
Peter, like James, is addressing the Christians from Pentecost that have scattered throughout Asia Minor. How this letter was passed, I don't know, but it traveled to several provinces.
Peter refers to these Christians as "God's elect, strangers in the world." Interestingly, that title has not changed. We are still God's chosen people, set apart for His purposes and work. And we are still strangers in the world. Maybe we are even becoming stranger.
The question is, are we strangers because we are different from the world, set apart or because we are not acting as the church should act? Are we living in "obedience to Jesus Christ?" Are we living out the "grace and peace" that is ours "in abundance?"
I was at an MLK celebration last night. What a wonderful time of worshipping with The Body of Christ. The speaker, Dr. Cynthia James, brought up the point of are we ready to set aside our materialism, envy, doctrinal differences, and bigotry and take up our sword and spear and cross over to the enemy camp together? Is the Church being the Church or are we individual social clubs doing our own little thing? Is the life we are living as individuals and as individual bodies appealing to the world, or are we repelling them because we're just not doing it right? Do they see us as judgmental or grace-filled? Do they think of us as Bible thumpers or compassionate problem solvers? Are we the hope of the world or a hopeless group of weaklings? Do we live out the joy we have through Jesus Christ or are we just a mirror of the anger and frustrations of everyone else around us? And if the latter, how does that happen if we are the benefactors of the most amazing grace ever given and a peace that passes all understanding?
I'm asking all of these questions of myself. As I've studied Ephesians, Matthew, and now James, I'm challenged to look at the role of the Church in the 21st century and it seems to me that it's the same role as in the first.
When Peter sent this letter to the believers in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, he didn't specify which group of believers he was sending it to. There weren't Baptists, Wesleyans, Assemblies, and Non-denoms to separate them. They were all saved by grace and sanctified by the Holy Spirit to do the work of obedience to Jesus Christ. Maybe we have become too comfortable in our individual structures and programs and have forgotten how to be the Church united to those living right around us. Now not all have. Many churches are reaching out to the lost, helping the widows, orphans and oppressed. I'm not oblivious to the good being done. But is it enough and can it be better?
I believe it can be better, but transformation must begin in our individual hearts before our churches can change. We must gain a new love for people. Hearts must seek to reach out to those around us everyday in our jobs, neighborhoods and communities. Making a difference while living the victorious life.
How is this all accomplished? I can't come up with all the answers:) But as for me, I will start finding ways to reach out more in my community to make an impact for Christ right where I live.
Lord, guide me in my choices for my involvement in my community while I continue to work on my relationship with You. Help me to meet the people I need to share Your love and grace with.
- Look on a map for where this letter was being sent. A map of Paul's journeys will show it. Besides Asia, the provinces are just north of his missionary trips.
- What were some of the things the New Church of Acts was reaching out to people with the love of Christ?
- Brainstorm a list of ways you can make a difference in your community. Pray for God's direction, then actively take a step toward accomplishing at least one of them this year.
- Do others know you are a believer? How might they know? Do you show yourself as a person of hope and a future or one who is depressed and frustrated most of the time? If the latter, do a study of "grace" and "peace."