Be Holy for I am Holy

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Written by John Moore – Field Strategy Coordinator, Australia/New Zealand and District Superintendent, Australia Northern Pacific District Church of the Nazarene, Australia

I Peter 1:13-2:1

ILL My wife and I walked into a famous designer’s clothing store in San Francisco.  I was wearing an old comfortable surfer shirt, In my opinion, it was stylishly decorated, with blue ocean water, sea shells, fish and coral – a pretty stylin’ motif – I thought.  We were surprised that their was a young college student at the door collecting $5 per person just for the privilege of gaining entrance.  “Wow, we have to pay $5 bucks each just for the pleasure of seeing your fine clothing? They must be very special.  Do you think I’d find something in there that would suit me?”  She looked me over, slowly gazing from my shirt to my jeans to my shoes – then back up at my surfer shirt. Lifting an eyebrow, she delivered her verdict quite emphatically, “Sir, it’s not you”.  I sheepishly turned and wandered back toward Macy’s.

Peter writes to first century followers of Christ that there are certain kinds of clothing that simply “aren’t you”.  He writes encouraging them to “rid themselves” of that kind of clothing.  They have been persecuted simply for being Christians and have been scattered from their homes, but he wants them to remember who they are and who they are to be like.

There are certain characteristics, shirts that do not belong to the Jesus lifestyle.  He names 5.  They are in chapter 2 verse 1.

« Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.”  (I Peter 2:1)

1. The first characteristic that Jesus’s disciples should not be wearing – the first shirt they should not be caught dead wearing, Peter says is MALICE.  It’s just “not like Jesus”.

Malice is a deep desire to see bad things happen to others who have hurt us. It is active ill-will.  “I wish that person would get what’s coming to them”. Malice describes the person who willfully plans harm to others. “I’m going to settle the score.” “I’m going to get even.”

It is a strong emotion oozing with intent to do damage to someone who, in some way, has offended or harmed us.

It is returning evil for evil.
…Resentment has built to the point of scheming to get even.

Peter says get rid of the shirt of malice – it’s not you.  It is not characteristic of Jesus or his followers.

2. There is a second shirt that apprentices of Jesus should take out of their closet and stop It’s the shirt of deceit or pretense. The original word literally means “to catch game with bait”. ILL  A fisherman puts bait on a hook so the fish is tricked into thinking the hook is something it is not, a juicy tidbit or a meal. –Truth is concealed.  Something or someone is misrepresented. –Perhaps you have been tempted to impress others with your character or spirituality, accomplishments, skills or qualifications. Deceit is trying to make others and perhaps even ourselves think differently about us than we really are.

…It is pretending to be something we are not.
…It is a mental exercise we use to try to manipulate someone into believing one thing when the truth is something else.

ILL.  Adam and Eve were the first humans to practice deceit before an all-knowing God.

ILL.  Ananias and Sapphire, led the Early Church to believe they had brought the full amount of the sale of their property for others less fortunate, but in reality had kept a portion for themselves.  They tried to make the impression that they were sacrificial and generous when in reality their hearts were stingy and selfish. They gave so they could gain.  They pretended to give with pure motives. Joseph and others had brought a full offering to the church to share with others without any attempt to deceive.

3. Peter names a third unbecoming shirt – “hypocrisy”. No doubt one of the reasons people do not participate in churches is because they notice too many of us practice a lifestyle that is off-kilter from what we preach.  We lack consistency.  Everyone lacks consistency, but this is not Peter’s concern. The original word is found in the plural tense, so it is a lifestyle of inconsistency that Peter is saying does not belong on or in us.

On Sunday we advocate a life that demonstrates the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  But Monday through Saturday we are impatient with our family members or unkind to the driver in front of us. We spout off at the smallest inconvenience to our schedule or comfort, or we struggle to control our anger.

Peter is adamant: a character, a lifestyle of hypocrisy is the wrong shirt for followers of Jesus to be wearing.

4. Another forbidden shirt is envy. Envy is wanting what another person has – perhaps a position, a possession or a quality.

Envy forms in us by lack of contentment.  Christ is not enough for us.  We need more. It is the recurring problem of volunteer organizations, including the church.   “I wish they would let me be the youth leader.” “I wish I was chairman of the board.”  “If I were pastor…” 

Envy seemed to keep creeping up within the circle of the original 12.  In Luke 22:24, at the last supper, the disciples were caught up in a discussion about which of them would have the seat of honor with Christ. In Matthew 20:20, again the disciples became envious as they vied and jostled for position in the kingdom.

5. Finally Peter comes to the end of his list – slander. Slander involves harsh, unkind words spoken about someone else – usually when they are not present to defend themselves.  It happens in too many churches.

Like the word “hypocrisies”, slander is plural.  Peter has in mind those Christians who talk too much and whose lives are characterized by a lifestyle of minding everyone else’s business.

Slander often stems from my own need to feel more important that you. Deep seated insecurity or perhaps resentment are the seeds that sprout slander.

Just because something is true doesn’t mean it is not slander. Worse yet is to say something about someone quietly in a way that smears their reputation before others.  To pass along tidbits of information that we received second or third hand and injures another is indeed slander, and is a garment not to be worn by those who follow Jesus.

Call it by lesser names, but it is indeed this sort of talk, this slander which has ruined far too many and caused the Kingdom much irreparable damage.

ILL Malice, deceit, pretense, hypocrisy, envy and slander are so typical of human relationships that it’s hard to imagine a world without them.  These evils create the “news” that newspapers are made of.  Without them much of the world’s poverty, abuse, starvation and injustice would cease to exist.

What would the world look like without envy?  What would the atmosphere of a home be where no one ever said anything unkind about anyone else?  What would be the impact of a group of people be who actually practiced what they preached?   It’s sometimes hard to imagine we see it so little.

Peter insists it is possible to come to a place in our own lives and therefore in our communities where these qualities do not control us or define our environments.

The dilemma we face is that it’s natural for us to wear this sort of clothing.  Peter carefully points out that these shirts are actually hand me downs.  They are “inherited from our forefathers” (1 Peter 1:18).  We dress ourselves in malice, pretense, hypocrisies, envy and slanders because we are born in them – a nature acting toward self-protection, self-promotion, status-seeking, self acquisition and standing – that is who we are.

In reality the problem is even deeper.  Peter says we cannot blame our parents because, “you in your ignorance” have dressed yourselves in these practices.  If I am honest about who I have been, I cannot point to those around me with accusation. I have worn these shirts.  I personally have brought about the ruin of others and community harmony.

What we discover is that malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander do not create the kind relationships and community we want to live in.  There are times we might even have felt comfortable in these clothes but they do not produce the good life we are looking for.

Jesus lived with others without ever experiencing or nursing malice. Peter writes that although he was assaulted and abused, he did not assault in return but entrusted himself to the One who called him (1 Peter 2:23).

Jesus never envied another person’s position or belongings.  Those who observed Jesus say that “even though he was God he did not regard his God nature something to cling to, but he gave that up becoming a servant among us and a faultless sacrifice for our sin on the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).

Jesus was holy in every sense of the word.  He lived a life without malice toward others and without deceit or hypocrisy, envy and slander.

Peter claims that Jesus has become the standard for experiencing community at its very best and now calls us to this same kind of living.  “So, just as he who has called you is holy, be holy in all you do.  It is written, Be holy for I am holy” (1Peter 1:15-16).  Jesus demonstrated fully what it means to be holy.  He lived differently than the world knew how to live.  His life is a statement on what it means to live whole and well in community.

This is where Peter tells us we must go if we are to experience community to its greatest capacity.  We must come to Jesus.  Through his sinless sacrifice we have the means of being redeemed and made holy (vs 18-21).

Peter describes a spiritual miracle.  In an obedient relationship with Christ our inner selves are purified.

Twice Peter mentions the role of obedience to Christ which implies listening to him.  Walking in this honest and obedient relationship with Jesus a cleansing purification bathes our inner spirit.  As Jesus learned obedience (Hebrews 5:8-9), so must we too. This relationship results in the miracle of Christlike love for others made possible by the Holy Spirit living and ruling within us.

‘So then”, Peter writes again in this passage (1:13; 2:1), we live in community without malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander by the work of Christ and the power of his Spirit.  May God make it so in our lives today.


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