First Peter 1:17-23 – Belief Should Inspire Behavior

Rome - Saint Peter Basilica - Detail

Image by Pluca via Flickr

[Reflections on the Lectionary Reading for May 8, 2011]

In this passage from Peter‘s first letter, he makes a connection between faith and action. He says, “Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22, NRSV). Peter expects that people who accept the truth of who Jesus really was will begin to live their lives differently. Peter expects them to love one another deeply.

This connection is not always present in Christians, it seems. Even a cursory review of Paul’s letters to early Christian communities reveals that there were bickering and strife among believers. Anyone who has spent much time in one congregation or another is likely to encounter the same. Today we see Christian groups become more involved in politics and protests, and oftentimes their behavior doesn’t seem to reflect a deep love of others.

Why aren’t Christians more loving?  Was Peter wrong in making a connection between right beliefs (orthodoxy) and right actions (orthopraxis)? Jesus certainly taught that we should love one another deeply. Does belief in Jesus as the Messiah lead to allowing Jesus to shape and change one’s life?  Shouldn’t a disciple of a teacher learn from and behave according to that teacher?

Much is made by Protestants that salvation is not earned through works. I fear this leads many to focus so much energy on their right beliefs that they spend precious little energy worrying about whether their behavior reflects the teachings of Jesus. Many claim to have accepted Jesus as a personal savior, but they don’t seem to see themselves as either disciples or servants of their savior.

If I see Jesus just as my savior, then my relationship fits into the worldly mode of focusing on, “what’s in it for me?” As my savior, Jesus rescues me from death. If I see Jesus as my Lord, then suddenly it’s not about what Jesus is going to do for me, but it is about what I’m going to do for Jesus.

Jesus didn’t ask for much.  Jesus asks us to love each other. Christians need to be constantly monitoring their behavior for signs that they have veered from the path of love. By remaining in prayer and keeping the attitude of a servant, the Holy Spirit will help us to see how we should be living and loving.

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