Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Recipe for Christian Living - 2 Peter 1:5-9

2 Peter 1:5-9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual[a] affection, and mutual[b] affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For anyone who lacks these things is short-sighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.

I found a great bread recipe that I’ve been using lately.  The thing I like about it is that it is simple.  Just whole wheat flour, honey, oil, water, yeast and just a hint of salt.  No sugar added.  And it only takes two hours!  I love that recipe.  I think my wife does as well.

There was a time when I cooked all sorts of complex recipes, but today I want to keep everything simple.  The simpler the better.

Peter gives us a recipe for living Christ like life. 

There are only seven ingredients he lists. 

mutual affection

One of the things I have learned about cooking is that there are many recipes in which you have to add ingredients in a certain order.  With this bread, you start with warm water, then add the yeast, then add the honey, and then you let that set for a while so that the yeast proofs.  Which means it starts to bubble a bit.  Don’t add anything until then. 

In Christianity, you look at Peter’s list and your eye may go immediately to the ingredient of love.  You know that is the most important ingredient, so you may think to work on that first.

But that is not what Peter’s recipe says.  He says to start with the simpler parts of the recipe.

Look, you and I both know that you don’t love people as you should.  None of us do.  Love is hard.

We can love our children and grandchildren – but as Christians we are called to love all people.

Do you really love that neighbor down the street who plays loud music or who walks his dog in your yard without cleaning up?

Do you really love that co worker who gossips about you or spreads slander about you?

Do you really love your boss? 

Or the strangers in the parking lot who frightens you when they come out of nowhere to ask for money?

Do you love your enemy?

Sometimes you have a hard time loving your own family.

Love is hard. 

Peter says, start with goodness.  Emotion is hard to control, so start with behavior which you can control.  And on that you add the ingredient of knowledge – get to know God, Jesus, the people around you.  Then you add the ingredient of self-control.  Then endurance, and on down the list until you finally have built a foundation of character so that you are able to love for even your enemy. 

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for them.”  Matthew 5:”44. 

He makes it sound easy, but we know, and Jesus knows, it is not easy.  Start with mutual love.  Build up that skill.
Peter starts his recipe for being a Christian with the ingredient of goodness.

Just be good to people.

Smile at people.  Call the waiter by name.  Treat everyone the way you want to be treated. 

The people you encounter may deal with a dozen people every hour, and you may be the only one who treats them with goodness.  Be that person.

A while back I had the opportunity to speak to someone who was celebrating her 100th birthday.  She told me about what it was like growing up.  She and her family lived on a forty-acre farm with no phones, no lights, no motor car, not a single luxury. 
With all the changes she had seen, I asked her what she thought was the single most significant change she had seen in her lifetime.
Smart phones?  Space travel?  Medical breakthroughs? Having 1000 channels on television and still having nothing to watch?
Her answer? 
“The most significant change I’ve seen in the world is people. They just don’t care like they used to.”
She went on to describe how her family, even though they lived on 40 acres, knew their neighbors. When one neighbor was in need the other neighbors pitched in to help.
When one of the Fathers were sick and couldn’t do the chores around their farm, the other neighbors would all get together and make sure everything was done until that Dad could recover and return to his duties.
The whole world has changed.  And we are the ones who have changed it.
Everything we deal with in this world is due to goodness – or the lack of it.
When we boil down fights, arguments, wars, terror, tragedies, (like the Pulse shooting a few years ago) we always come to the same conclusion — humanity has lost its sense of goodness.
Which means that ultimately, if we want the world to improve, we have to become the change we desire to see.
We have to practice goodness to others.
Peter lists seven ingredients in his recipe for living the Christian live. 
Ultimately, what we are cooking up is a life of love.  Loving our neighbor, stranger and even our enemies.  But he starts off this recipe with goodness.

First ingredient – goodness. 
Start there. 
Start there and become the change you want to see take place.
Immanuel Kant is one of the central figures of modern philosophy.  He wrote a book on ethics and moral behavior that he titled, appropriately enough, Groundwork.  In the very first sentence of the book he says, “the only thing that is unconditionally good is a good will.” Kant argues that anything one might think of as good, might not be good at all.  These THINGS, like  health, wealth, beauty, intelligence, etc. could, in certain situations, be bad.
Wealth is good, if a person uses it wisely. Another person can be corrupted by their wealth. The robust health of a bully makes it easier for him to abuse his victims. A person’s beauty may lead them to become vain and fail to develop their talents. Even happiness is not good if it is the happiness of a sadist torturing his victims.
The only good in us is what he called “goodwill.”  But what, exactly, does he mean by a good will? The answer is fairly simple. A person acts from a good will when they do what they do because they think it is their duty: when they act from a sense of moral obligation.
That is what Peter is trying to get at.  The first ingredient to the recipe of the Christian life is to have this goodness, this good will that comes from a sense of duty to Christ.  It is a behavior we show to others.
Kant also said that the way we act, changes the world around us.  If we act mean – that permeates the community and others become mean.  If we act good, our good actions infects the others with goodness.
In other words, we become the change we want to see take place.
We become to others what we wish others would be to us.
Life isn’t fair, and people aren’t nice, but in spite of the odds, seemingly stacked against us, we can still win. How?
Not by changing the world – but by changing ourselves.

Jesus, taught his followers that they should respond to people who hurt them after this manner:
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
That’s hard – and in Peter that kind of love is the last ingredient.  How do you love your enemy?
Simple steps – start with goodness.
And not just Jesus, but all throughout history countless of other people have given their lives for causes greater than their own in hopes that one day the world, your world, our world, would change.

Lau Tzu (Loud Cha) the Chinese philosopher taught “Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself.” 

Goodness – it is among the most ancient wisdoms.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto to you.  Those are the words of Jesus Christ that we often refer to as “the Golden Rule.”  It is the best definition of kindness.

Are you fed up with Congress?  Are you fed up with the way we have devolved into tribalism of Republicans and Democrats and how nothing gets done because the two parties are so divided.

You can change that – and I’m not just talking about voting.  There is something else that is more fundamental that you can do every day.

I have heard people in this church say the most hurtful and unkind things about people of the opposite political party.  I have seen posts about people of the other party that are not true – not true, as in violating the Ten Commandments and its prohibition against bearing false-witness. 

Whenever a person says the Republicans are evil, or the Democrats are evil, you perpetuate the very thing that you hate about Congress.  You make this division in our country possible.

We are all Americans – and we need to return civility to politics and that will start with us and how we talk about each other.

Don’t like it when someone talks smack about you? Don’t talk smack about someone else.
Don’t like it when someone cuts you off on the freeway or jacks your parking spot? Don’t do it to someone else.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto to you.  It is the best definition of kindness.
You may not love the people of the other political party, you may not love the person who cuts you off in traffic, but at least you can treat them with goodness – and that is the first step in the journey of loving them.

Love is hard – and that is why Peter starts with goodness. 
Love is an emotion.  Goodness Love is the ONLY cure; the way to heal our world. Love is the ONLY way to heal our schools. Love is the ONLY way to heal our families. Love is the ONLY way to begin getting this giant blue planet spinning in a different direction.
And the power to do that, friend, is in each and every one of us.

Each day we are either a part of the problem or the solution. I challenge you, and myself, to be a part of the solution.

Love is hard – and demanding and challenging, and perhaps it is also demanding and challenging for us to be good to others.  Let me share an observation from my niece.

My niece decided a year ago that she was going to get in top physical shape.  She got on the floor to see how many pushups she could do.  Push ups are, after all, a basic form of exercise, and cheap – no gym membership no equipment required.  She started off wondering how close she could get to 100.


Just one.  That is all she could do.  Within a week she was doing ten.  Within a month, 20. 

A year later she is still not able to do 100 pushups, but she is up in the 70s. 

It takes time to build skills. 

Love is a skill and it is hard.

Start with goodness.  All of us can be kind to others.  Can’t be good to all of the irritable people in your life?  Start with one.  Just one. Build up to two, then 20, then everyone.

I like to cook, but I occasionally have a fantasy. 

You know those food replicators that are on the television show Star Trek?  Someone goes to the wall and says, “computer, tea, Earl Grey, hot.”  And out of the wall comes a cup of hot tea, brewed to perfection.

Or they say, “chicken soup.”  And immediately, there it is.

But I don’t have a food replicator.  And add to that I have problems with my liver and I’m told I need to eat more things from scratch.  And so, these things take time.

So it is with the Christian life.  You can’t just go up to the Alter and say, “Make me an instant Christian, saintly and true.”

No, these things take time, and every ingredient has to be added and perfected.  It takes time.  It takes practice.

Don’t yet love your enemy?  Start with the ingredient of goodness.  One person at a time.  One moment at a time.

You can be the change the world needs.

Copyright 2018. 
Dr. W. Maynard Pittendreigh
All rights reserved

Ministers may feel free to use some or all of this sermon in their own ministries as long as they do not publish in print or on the Internet without ascribing credit to the author.