For many of us, our first real investigation of religion begins when we reach adolescence. Whether we come from a church-going family or not, as a young teen, many awaken to the realization that there is something out there, beyond what we see in the mirror.
Tragically, some folks never experience that epiphany, but that rant is for another day . . .
Those of us who spent a chunk of our lives as youth pastors, often faced that burning eschatological question that gets right to the heart of the matter: “Why does the Bible have so many rules?” It appears that, to most folks, the Bible is mostly concerned with telling us to “cut this off, or grow that out, or not to drink, or smoke, or chew, or dance with girls that do . . .”
As one who has dedicated my life to the intense and exhaustive study of every nook and cranny, jot and tiddle of scripture, and who has looked behind every last dust bunny in the book, I have reached a significant finding of deep theological significance:
They’s a whole bunch more “Thou-Shalts” than they’s “Thou-Shalt-Nots”.
For example, Peter not only give’s us a good synopsis of all the “Thou Shalts” in the Bible, he also quotes from the Old Testament. Yes, there are a couple of “Thou-Shalt-not-ish” sounding phrases, but the others significantly outweigh them:
Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing. “Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, Here’s what you do: Say nothing evil or hurtful; Snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you’re worth. God looks on all this with approval, listening and responding well to what he’s asked; But he turns his back on those who do evil things.” (Peter is quoting from Psalm 34:12-16) 1 Peter 3:8-12 The Message
So, basically, Peter’s summary of how to live the Christian life is to do your best to be a good guy and not to be a bully. He makes it pretty simple and clear: “Bless – that’s your job.” Even junior highers can understand this! You’d have to twist this pretty good to make it into a harsh set of rules that were impossible to follow. So, what’s the problem? Why can’t we figure it out?
I think it’s because folks want to make it too hard. If this Christianity stuff were easy, then we’d have no excuse not to live it. If we can make it really hard to not only do but to understand, then we can let ourselves off the hook.
See it’s easier to be disagreeable, unsympathetic, unloving, uncompassionate, and arrogant. It’s easier to just retaliate against and criticize people. It’s easier to curse than to bless. It’s easier to be a bully. But, you get back exactly what you give.
You see, Peter reminds us of one of the greatest two-fers we can ever get in life: “You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing.” Not only do you give one to someone, you get one for yourself! How great is that!
See, your mom was right: Sharing is a good thing . . .
Pressing on toward the goal . . .