Are You Willing? : 1 Peter 4 – 5

Suffer and Lead.

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve.”
1 Peter 5:2 (NIV)

My sister had a high school boyfriend that I did not like. His name was Blake, and he was a Bible-thumping, manly-man with a solid build and pointed eyes. He reminded me of many of the older adolescent Christian men wading through my school and church. He was single-minded on religious issues and believed strongly in abstinence before marriage. I cannot speak for my sister (who is married to someone else now, by the way), but I think she was attracted equally to his spirituality and his charm. He doled out compliments in plentiful measure and related everything back to his spiritual journey. A perfect man’s man for God. What wasn’t there to like?

See, I thought it was all phony. Not his religious fervor – that seemed completely legit. No, it was the charm that bothered me the most. It seemed like Blake needed people to like him so that my sister would fall in love with him. We were all chips that needed to be acquired in order to gain the full affection of my sister. I felt it, and perhaps my parents did as well – thought I can’t be certain.

So one night while we all sat around the dinner table, my sister asked us what we thought about Blake. I spoke up first:

I said I didn’t like him.
She asked why?
I said he was fake, simple as that.
She went hmmmm.

And no one else chimed in.

A week later, Blake called the house, asking for me. I looked at my mother puzzled when she handed me the phone. She had no idea why he wanted to talk to me either. As it turned out, he wanted to get to know me better and wanted to take me to a movie. My pick, whatever I wanted. I reluctantly agreed, rolling my eyes all along. Ugh, I thought, he’s doing it again. He definitely doesn’t care about me!

I picked Ocean’s Eleven, and it was playing in this theater in Plymouth Meeting. There were two theaters in that town, so I gave him careful instructions on which one to go to.

He told me I was wrong, and drove to the other one. As it turned out, Ocean’s Eleven wasn’t playing there. The only movie available was a Chris Rock comedy called Down to Earth. I told him I had already seen it, and I hated it. He looked at me like… okay… I sighed and said it was fine. I suffered through it a second time, furious. At the end of it, he said he was so glad we got to hang out, and I should tell my sister all about it. I sighed again.

They broke up a little while later.

God tells us to be shepherds to others, not because we must, but because we are willing.

I like that. And I think that is important. So much of the Bible seems like “musts,” but we all know that people much more enjoys the “willings.”

And I promise that whatever I do, I will do it because I am willing, even if I do it also because I must.

Price of Admission: 1 Peter 1 – 3

God Is Great. Remain Holy. Yeah, You Were Predestined. Temptations in Pagan Culture. Undue Suffering.

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.
Peter 1:15 (NIV)

There are tons of people who say that they are Christian. That should come as a surprise to no one considering how large the Christian religion is. Almost a third of the world’s population identifies as a follower of one of the sects of Christianity, so, yeah, throw a stone down the street and try not to hit a believer. As I have said, I was secluded from non-Christians growing up, just by the fact that I went to a private Christian school, so needless to say, I felt most comfortable around people who believed in Jesus Christ.

Some seemed more Christian than others.

There was this kid in my middle school who cursed all the time and was generally a mean guy. But he prayed when told to and did all the Bible study stuff. Did he count?

Then, this couple used to babysit us when my parents went out with my aunts and uncles, but they read books by Bill Maher and Hillary Clinton. Certainly they weren’t actually Christian.

A girl at school said she was a “Messianic Jew,” and that didn’t sound right to me.

The notion I learned was that all a person has to do is accept Jesus into his or her heart. This could be done at age five or on a deathbed; it didn’t matter (although, I was warned not to put it off). So I believed that – all it took was a personal relationship with Jesus. But in practice, it seemed to be that a bunch of other things were thrown in as addendums to that sole requirement. We needed to believe that Jesus is God and that the Holy Spirit existed as part of a trinity. The Bible was the literal word of God, and we had to believe every word in it. When I sinned, I needed to ask for forgiveness immediately.

The list goes on.

So what is the price of admission into Christianity?

The Book of 1 Peter kicks off in a typical fashion for the latter New Testament entries. A declaration of who is speaking (Peter) and who is addressed (a bunch of provinces I promise you don’t care about). A mention of Jesus, and then… a list of advice about some common areas of need.

The section that caught my eye concerned wives and how they ought to act. Six verses are dedicated to the subject, asking them to submit to their husbands and avoid glitzy dress and hairstyle. They ought to grow their inner beauty, which is what really matters.

Husbands get one verse. Here it is:

“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” (3:7)

So according to Peter, wives are “the weaker partner.”

And so I have to wonder… is this a price of admission? Am I required to believe in Jesus and think that wives are inherently weaker in their unions? Can I think homosexuality is okay? Do I really have to believe [fill in the blank with every other controversial opinion in the Bible]?

The answer is that some think these are prices of admission and some don’t.

I don’t know which of those people I am.