3 By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
5 In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
8 The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1: 3-8 NLT)
I have read these words from 2 Peter on many occasions, but they never cease to strike me as a clear roadmap to the kind of life that truly reflects a belief in Christ. Still, no matter how clear this roadmap is, it also involves steps that we can only survive if we take them knowing we need God every step of the way.
So, let’s begin by spelling out the steps on the road to “love for everyone” that should be the end goal of every Christian. As Peter makes clear, each step on the path to love leads to the next, as skills build upon skills to reach the greatest skill of all. Here, then, is the list of these skills:
- Moral Excellence
- Patient Endurance
- Brotherly Affection
- Love for everyone
I just completed a trip to Disney World that proved my secret plan to spend the last decade or so of my life as a missionary in some country where my paltry retirement might actually keep me just above poverty level went up in smoke about as quickly as you can sing the Mickey Mouse Club theme. Besides having no physical stamina, I ran out of patient endurance after the first three hours in an overcrowded theme park. Self-control drifted skyward as I sighted the first Mickey sandwich ice cream trolley. The only love I had for everyone was the kind where I would have loved for no one else to be in the park!
So, how do we achieve the seemingly unachievable? Peter tells us we are able because of God’s promises to us: These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires (2 Peter 1:4). Becoming a Christian is as easy as admitting to God that you are a sinner who needs redeemed. Becoming Christ-like is a daily, conscious practice of making one’s Christianity not a mantle to be put on and off, but the very act of being.
Because of faith, I seek moral excellence. I want to say only what is uplifting and/or holy. I strive to do what is right always. As I grow in my ability to be right more than I am wrong, I gain a kind of knowledge that can’t be found in a book, the knowledge of ways to act in belief and the knowledge of the superior path of righteousness over worldliness. As we realize that doing right feels better than doing wrong, we increase our ability to control the self. When we can control ourselves so that we do not give in to the human desires that lead us further from the ways of God, we are more likely to actively be patient with our circumstances and with others.
A Godly person reflects the daily practice of sowing seeds of righteousness in good soil. When we join like-minded people in our enthusiasm for living a Godly life, we approach the brotherly affection to which Peter refers. Our brothers include all those who believe in Christ like we do (including, of course, our sisters as well).
When we can love those who think as we think (which is the easiest way to love), we may just be ready to step out in faith to love even those who do not believe what we believe. Loving everyone else means turning the other cheek, as Christ instructs. The Golden Rule is Golden because, not only does it make this world more bearable, it stores up for us the treasures in heaven that Jesus says are our end goal instead of the treasures on this earth where moth and rust can and will destroy.
Like the Fruit of the Spirit of Galatians 5:22, the steps to love of everyone in 2 Peter is your roadmap to a healthier relationship with Jesus, our Lord. Remembering that our relationship with God must be on the right track for our relationship with other people to have a chance of growing is especially important.
As we enter the busiest time of our holiday season, I hope to bring to mind the lessons of 2 Peter as I wrangle through the increased traffic and crowds. I will begin by remembering why we have this holiday in the first place: because our loving Creator chose to sacrifice a piece of Himself for the sins of all of us so that we all have the opportunity to grasp with both hands the promise of eternal life.
Now, that’s a road to love that I will gladly travel. I look forward to seeing you on the journey.