Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Peter 4:8-12, NIV)
Happy Sunday! This week’s Sunday Night Starter is from 1 Peter. The recipients of this letter were facing suffering and persecution, and Peter writes as an encouragement to stand firm in the faith and trust God*. As I was researching the background of this letter, it struck me that Peter is instructing his readers to love each other extravagantly in the midst of personal and corporate suffering and persecution. This was not an exhortation to love in times of prosperity, ease, and comfort. Quite the opposite, as we see in verse 12, which reads, “ Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” Peter is saying that even so, they are to:
Speak truths over one another
Serve each other
And why? Not so they may be lifted up and praised, but so that God may be glorified. All of these things point to Jesus and perhaps even more so in times of hardship. I recently read a book titled “Captive in Iran” that tells the story of two women who are imprisoned in one of Iran’s most notorious jails after being accused of spreading the Gospel. They knew that the sentence handed down to them could easily be death, yet they sacrificially loved and served their fellow prisoners in the midst of horrific conditions, illnesses, and deep personal sadness. They prayed for, purchased food for, and comforted these women. The result? Many, many people came to faith in Christ. He indeed was glorified and the faith of the two friends was strengthened enormously. They also experienced joy unspeakable as they saw God moving in the lives of these women who had become their friends. They chose to love, serve, speak truth, and show hospitality even in the midst of personal hardship.
Their story was incredible to me because honestly, my natural inclination when life gets tough is to turn my gaze inward. But what if instead of focussing on myself, I made a decision to actively seek out how to love and serve those around me? It seems like a crazy paradox, especially in a world filled with messages of “look out for number one”, but the wonderful thing is that it works. Jesus knew this. He tells us that to find our lives we must lose them for his sake. We live fully when we live for His glory. On the contrary, when we live for ourselves, we become aimless wanderers searching for that which cannot be found apart from Christ.
Oh friends, I know it’s not easy to turn our gaze outward when life is difficult, but what if we gave it a try this week, together? What if we looked for at least one way to purposely serve and love a neighbor, friend, coworker, or family member? Is it possible that our own burden might be lifted a little in the process? We cannot do this in our own strength, but we can do it with the strength that God provides. He is with us, always. May He be glorified in and may people see Jesus through our lives this week!
*You can read more of the background on 1 Peter here.
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