Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: 2 Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16; Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from a skin disease. Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his skin disease.” So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. And the king of Aram said, “Go, then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.”

He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his skin disease.” When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his skin disease? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God and would wave his hand over the spot and cure the skin disease! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage. But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

2 Kings 5:1-14

A Psalm. A Song at the dedication of the temple. Of David.

I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up
and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
LORD my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
LORD, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.

Sing praises to the LORD, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment;
his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O LORD,
you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.

To you, O LORD, I cried,
and to the LORD I made supplication:
“What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me!
LORD, be my helper!”

You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

Psalm 30

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh, but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all and especially for those of the family of faith.

See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything, but a new creation is everything! As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

Galatians 6:7-16

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way; I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if a person of peace is there, your peace will rest on that person, but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’

“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. Indeed, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Revised Common Lectionary

one of the nightmares of our time

Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure during the last days. Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have nourished your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.

James 5:1-6

I would like all of us to wake up to what the Bible clearly holds as a priority time and time again, but the theology so many hold won’t allow that. So all we can do is pray and speak and try to encourage and participate in change. Just one of the nightmares here in the United States, the land of “the American dream” is the failure of whatever that dream is supposed to be to take hold for all. We white Christians by and large might think we’re insulated from this, that while we can help this or that person in need, that it’s really not our trouble or business. But that supposition is a failure to understand the repeated witness of Scripture. Also it’s a failure to understand how what harms one group ends up harming all.

Here in the United States we have way more than enough to fund college education for all, childcare and healthcare for all, which would pay itself off in spades. There’s no need or in my case want to get into the details of all of that. Except to say that the rich of the land have been living off the backs of the poor and it is only getting worse as time goes on. There is no good reason why everyone in service and low paying jobs shouldn’t be getting paid double the amount and more right now, along with full health care. None except greed along with a complete failure to understand the point of Scripture about this, and reality.

But we need to get America back to its greatness again, so we’re told. Back to what? A time when segregation was the norm along with laws limiting the rights and privileges of minorities which white Americans could take for granted? And let’s not go back too far: the time when the economy of the south was built on the backs of slaves, and because it was so beneficial for those in the north, nothing much was said. Although a rising tide of dissenting voices led to the Civil War. Like all nations, US history is messy, but we need to face every part of it. Don’t ignore things like the 1619 Project. You’ll learn a lot. We need to face the past squarely, and work at understanding the ramifications for the present time, and work to bring about full reparation in an immediate as well as full way over time.

All of this matters if the witness of Scripture matters. But if it’s just about us and Jesus, then I guess the witness of Scripture is secondary or that we have no responsibility except to get people “saved” and wait for Jesus to come back and take care of the rest. If there wasn’t such compliance with the advantages we live in and ignorance of the disadvantages of others, and if we would actually work at helping those in need, not only with mere handouts, but seeking to overhaul systems of wrong and greed, then such people could be taken seriously. God knows everyone’s hearts of course, and God is a God of grace. But God is not anyone’s fool as some of the wicked in the psalms seem to imagine. And we as followers of Christ do well only when our hearts are aligned where God’s heart is aligned.

Yes, God will judge with good judgment and the salvation to follow. But we as followers of Christ must bear witness to that now, and advocate and be part of needed change in the present, just as we pray that God’s kingdom would come, God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Or else we’re not in step with Jesus whose new way is a fulfillment of the passion of the prophets. The way of love for God and for neighbor in all times and places. In and through Jesus.

(Some of the most important points and a significant part of the impulse to do this comes from a thoughtful woman friend on Facebook who posted a far better critique of the present than I raise here.)

one of the toxins in the air we breathe

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

1 Corinthians 12:27

One of the sacred tenants of our identity as Americans, inherited from tradition, and where we all usually more than less live is the idea that we are autonomous, that we live as separate individuals, each an entity to themselves. At best this is a failure to understand reality. At worst it ends up amounting to pure idolatry. People think that as long as they have the Bible, the church, can pray, then they can make it on their own. A distorted understanding of reality. Or that it’s up to us. God might be present, but we sink or swim ourselves. Along with that the false idea that everyone has to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Now I’m getting into the “political” though actually following Christ is not just some personal and not at all a private affair but ends up being political through and through in that others are linked, and in a sense everything else.

But to the main point: We don’t exist as human beings, relational in our core apart from other human beings. God’s will in Christ is meant to bring the entire world together as one body in Christ. Yes, we’re individuals, but we’re individuals in the one body, as members and metaphorically as parts of that body. The pervasive idea in our part of the world that we’re not in this together, but that everyone has to take care of themselves fails to understand God’s intention for humanity in creation, to be realized in the new creation in the rule of God in Christ. And present today in church, although not “church” as it’s often practiced, or oftentimes not much in that way. We end up being responsible not only for ourselves, but for each other, others being responsible to help us.

None of us are autonomous. We all have history and genetics which go with that, experiences and dispositions inherited, and we all are connected, even if such connection in our case is thoroughly broken in the lie in which we live.

We need to take a stand against this in no uncertain terms. First in our own lives before we can hope for societal change. Both at the same time, but with priority on ourselves. I breathe and have imbibed this falsity myself. But I am not my real self apart from others. That includes everyone, but especially those who like me are seeking to be followers of Christ, and are thus in Christ, in that one body, the body of Christ, metaphorically speaking, of course Christ the head, the Spirit from God in all of this. We’re all in this together, each and every single one of us. A reality not meant only for us, but for everyone. Someday to be fully realized. In and through Jesus.

(Many of my thoughts, and probably the main point picked up from a particular podcast- not sure which one right now- and from reading, as more or less is always the case.)

living the faith not through doctrine, but through the body of Christ

I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace: there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:1-6

Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears.

Philippians 4:17-18

Having lived in an evangelical world for decades as a Christian, I have lived in the air that doctrine above all else is what mattered. If we had our squares right about Christ and the gospel, and we believed, then we were all set to go, born again and assured of eternal life. Add to that the necessity of believing in an inerrant Bible, every jot and tittle without error at least in the point being made or what was said. And with all of that, the necessity of witnessing so that people would be saved from eternal hell fire in torment forever. No one or very few lived up to all of that, and those who took it seriously the most seemed to put a lot of nuance on most everything.

I live and will always live with some respect for evangelicalism, even though I have long been adrift from it, and now no longer identify as such. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t take Scripture seriously as sacred or see the gospel as something other than central in my life and the life of the world, active in the church. I believe all of that and more, and don’t see doctrine as something that is unimportant.

But I believe what makes all the difference, and actually the only thing that does make the difference is Christ’s presence. Is Christ present? is the question. Because of that presence, yes we will come to accept and believe certain things. And together we will read and discern from Scripture with reference to God’s will on earth now, not just for our individual lives, but also for the church, and for the life of the world, in all the complexities of that. The richness and tapestry of Scripture certainly gives us much to pause and reflect on as we consider everything.

The main point I want to make briefly is that we live the faith not through doctrine, but through Christ’s body the church. Each of us contribute to the whole, living as we really are in our real struggles, in all the struggle, but with the light and life of Christ present in each. And from that reflection from Christ, we are light to each other, indeed even called “light in the Lord.” We are real, we struggle, we are not perfect, but we also love and seek to love, and to be entirely true to the full will of God. But we do this in relationship, especially as church. This is so central, but I’m afraid is all but lost today.

Because of this, through the Spirit I can live as a follower of Christ in each situation, in the challenges faced, even in what might seem threatening. We in Christ are in this together. Somehow Christ’s light on others seems channeled as it were to ourselves and inexplicitly way beyond our understanding the light of Christ might even help others in the same way through us.

All in a normal day, in the normal life in and through Jesus.

get ready to suffer

Since, therefore, Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your time in the flesh no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the gentiles like to do, living in debauchery, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.

1 Peter 4:1-6

Peter’s first letter was to a suffering church, to persecuted believers or those about to undergo persecution for their faith. We know the story well, Christians thrown to the lions, burned at the stake. And then centuries following. Although ever since Constantine changed the Roman empire into a so-called Christian one in which for example only professing Christians could serve in the Roman military, Christians and what is from that, Christendom has sought to take matters into its own hands and that in significant part in order to avoid persecution, and effectively nullify the way of the cross, the path of following Christ.

Today we have another rise of a new push for a Christendom which as someone has said involves Christo-fascist overlords. It is the push away from democracy to an authoritarian rule in which Christian appointed leaders call the shots. And that isn’t just metaphorical, because in all such so-called Christian rule, which is not really Christian at all in any way, shape or form, there will be force and violence. Instead of depending on the good news of Christ in which people choose to follow and living bodies of Christ are formed, you have a rule of the land which forces its view on everyone.

We can expect, just as Jesus experienced, to receive the most trouble from the religious over us, namely those who name the name of Christ. These are the most dangerous, because they are the most self-assured, and are steeped in a kind of Christendom which they feel and somehow think needs to be imposed on the world. It amounts to a white Christian nationalism which is cultic in the sense that it has people in its grip with the works of the flesh (Galatians 5) needed to ensure its existence as opposed to the true fruit of love for God and neighbor in the works of Christ along with the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5). And above all again, it nullifies the way of the cross, the true and only path of following Christ.

We are facing difficult times. So as followers of Christ, let’s seek to be wise as serpents while being harmless as doves. Let’s attempt to see clearly who our enemies are along with those who back them and thus amount to enemies as well. Let’s call what is wrong, wrong. And let us love all in the midst of this. And get ready to suffer as Peter instructs us in the passage above. In and through Jesus.

accept the struggle

You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the outcome that the Lord brought about, for the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

James 5:11b

I don’t know about you, but there have been not a few times in my life when I felt like I was simply doing nothing more than hanging in there, wanting to bail out, but remaining. And more than once during such times I’ve found the Lord’s help as I simply endured.

Life is full of struggles and just struggle in general. From big things to little nagging things which add up, to everything in between. We might as well settle on struggle, because as human beings that’s where we live, and in a true sense, all the more as followers of Christ. We are in this struggle together, so we need to keep praying for each other. And we need to accept the struggle for ourselves, just as Job did. Job found God faithful, in his case in even looking back through the struggle, but all of that because there was a release from it.

We learn a lot from the struggle and gain from it in ways which we can’t imagine. But only if we hang in there, and not bail out. God will help us through every part of it, with a good ending if we only endure and not let up. In and through Jesus.

building on the one foundation

According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Let each builder choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— the work of each builder will become visible, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If the work that someone has built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a wage. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.

1 Corinthians 3:10-15

Paul makes it clear that the one foundation is Jesus Christ. Paul’s presentation of the good news of Christ was given to him by God as the apostle to the gentiles, while Peter at that particular period of time was designated by God as the apostle to the Jews. Too many want to go to Paul’s writings and camp on them to understand this foundation.

Instead, I believe we really need to start at the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And we need to find key texts as well as read through all, considering our Lord Jesus’s life, teaching, works, suffering, death, and resurrection before we go to the ascension, the pouring out of the Spirit and all that follows. Instead of “the Romans road” we need to go to the gospel road found in the gospel accounts, which ends up being the way of the cross and we can call that the Way of the Cross, referring to Jesus who not only set that path in his purposefully taking it his full embrace of the death of the cross for the salvation of the world, but he also made that the path of salvation in which all who name his name are to follow. Mark’s account is a great place to start, though to read them in order is good as well.

Paul’s word in his first letter to the Corinthians are to a church which is not acting according to what they profess to live on, the foundation. They are not building well, whether it’s solely their church leaders, or a combination of leaders and the rest of them, on the foundation, Christ, not well at all overall. Their lives together are to be built on what Jesus taught, how Jesus lived, and in the faith of Jesus as well, a faith of hope and love which sees death as the necessary precursor to resurrection. And love at the heart and outworking of it all. Instead (see the entire chapter through link above) they were caught up in divisions, in worldly ways of thinking, not at all different than what we face today and any day except in its particular manifestations during that time.

According to our Scripture passage, works will be burned, even as the worker themselves are saved. And other works will remain. Works that are of Christ, in accordance with all he taught, commanded (see Matthew 28:18-20) within the very life of Christ given to his followers by the Spirit (see especially John 14-16, etc.).

Paul was writing it to a specific situation (again the link for the immediate context, and good to read the entire letter), and after considering that, we need to look at our own context and situation today. If we keep prayerfully looking together, sooner than later I don’t think it will be hard to see what is of Christ and the rule and life of the good news he brought, and what is contrary to that. This critique of Paul has been needed by the church for at least much of its history especially during certain pivotal times and what followed, and certainly no less so today. The problems of white Christian nationalism along with the failure of discernment to see and acknowledge those who are partakers of the one Spirit, etc., etc. And none of us are exempt from necessary critique which comes from the light of this passage through the light given by God and the Holy Spirit: Christ himself. Together we need to hold on to that for ourselves and for each other. In and through Jesus.

Third Sunday after Pentecost: 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14; Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62

Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.

Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the LORD lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and the two of them crossed on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing, yet if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him and struck the water. He said, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah? Where is he?” He struck the water again, and the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha crossed over.

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14

I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, that he may hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.

I will call to mind the deeds of the LORD;
I will remember your wonders of old.
I will meditate on all your work
and muse on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is so great as our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have displayed your might among the peoples.
With your strong arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

When the waters saw you, O God,
when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
the very deep trembled.
The clouds poured out water;
the skies thundered;
your arrows flashed on every side.
The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lit up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
Your way was through the sea,
your path through the mighty waters,
yet your footprints were unseen.
You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Psalm 77:12, 11-20

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become enslaved to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

Galatians 5:1, 13-25

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to prepare for his arrival, but they did not receive him because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” And Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:51-62

Revised Common Lectionary

above all: love

Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4:8

Scripture, indeed Jesus tells us that there’s a good number of things we need to do, and not do. But both Scripture and Jesus in Scripture also tells us that love is to be paramount in it all. Love, love, and love some more.

This doesn’t mean we won’t have to take hard stands, and certainly doesn’t mean we’re called to make everyone happy. Love will do the difficult things, while hopefully being a kind of cushion for those who will be offended, if only they’re open to the truth inspired by such love.

Peter tells us to do this within the fellowship of believers, just as Jesus told his disciples to love one another, even as he had loved them, and that by such love the world would know that they are Jesus’s followers. We may not be very good at it. I don’t consider myself good at it. But we’re called to do it, just the same. We keep doing it, be it imperfect as it will be.

We’re to maintain such love as a constant. And that means we’ll have to look over quite a few things. Which of course includes people looking over things in ourselves as well. We should want to be held accountable, but it’s within a fellowship in which love is the measure, indeed the air we breathe. So we’ll be willing to look past many things we don’t like, and will pray about anything we might see as possibly more serious.

Love, love and more love. A love that never ends. That is what characterizes Christ, and what is to characterize the body of Christ, the church in this life. A love for all, and a family love for each other. In and through Jesus.

the need for self-discipline in prayer

The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers.

1 Peter 4:7

A life of prayer doesn’t just fall out of the sky nor is it automatic just because we’ve had faith for many years. It requires discipline on our part. We have to discipline ourselves to do it, to keep doing it, to make it an ongoing practice in our lives day after day.

We do so in light of the reality and anticipation that the end of all things along with Jesus’s revealing is close, and at the very least that this order of things is temporary and for us in our experience, life is short. We can see throughout Scripture that prayer is either something which is practiced, or isn’t, depending on whether one has a genuine, living faith in God. But we also find a difference between those who excel in such praying and those who don’t. That is why Peter here calls us to seriousness and discipline. Only then will we give prayer the important place it deserves which will make the needed difference as God helps us in all of our weakness to continue on in prayer, finding God’s answer for ourselves and for others. In and through Jesus.