Wisdom for the Church Community (1 Peter 5:5-7)

The idea of submission to others is not a very popular American idea or contemporary concept. Asserting oneself and one’s rights is the wisdom of the age. We see it on college campuses where outrage exists almost for the sake of existing, rather than for some substantive injustice.

Bible passages with the word “submission” in them don’t tend to play well in the modern era, such as those that speak about husband/wife relationships. And there is no way to go to the original Greek and make the word mean something less than it sounds like it does. Peter writes…

5:5 –  In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”  [from Proverbs 3:34]

5:6 – Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

But God gives to us in these passages an order of doing things and living life, an order that places primary responsibility vertically. The greater and more difficult challenge is to be the one with the lead responsibility, rather than the one to extend honor and follow someone else.

Here we see a sort of juxtaposition of older/younger. Without doubt there is an assumption that generally the elders are going to be more toward the older age. What is old and young is a bit subjective and might look different in one context versus another. But in other passages about the qualifications of elders, those traits are generally those that develop over time and life experiences and extension of service.

And just as Paul does in the aforementioned passage about marriage, Peter here moves quickly to an even larger and more encompassing idea … that of everyone exercising humility in service toward one another. He says to “clothe yourselves” in this way, as if there is a uniform that is worn in all church family relationships — the humility of service uniform. You simply cannot find yourself in conflict with anyone who simply loves you so much that he wants to serve you and help you in any way possible. Get everyone doing that and you’ve got a system where it is no big deal who are the elders and who are not.

Peter quotes a well-known verse from the Old Testament that speaks of the over-arching truth that God blesses those who are servants, essentially those who model the servant life of the Great Shepherd. And so he says to do that as a general pattern of life … to make it a personal initiative.

What ALWAYS follows service is that the one doing it finds that his needs are surprisingly met in abundance when troubled times or circumstances rise to the surface.

I gave the illustration on Sunday about a man in my New Jersey church named Don. He was a little bit different in some ways, somewhat socially awkward and odd. But there was no doubt that he was exceedingly kind and that he genuinely loved everyone in the church. Don was interested in learning all about you and praying for any needs you had. When people were hospitalized, he visited all of them to cheer them up and pray for them.

One day, Don had an emergency appendectomy. The word got around the church that Don was the patient in the hospital this time. People rushed to see him. And before long I got a call from the Chaplain’s Office at the hospital asking me to get the word out somehow to the church that their visits to Don were simply overwhelming the system and creating havoc.

When you serve others, others are likely to serve you in return when your time comes. And if that is not true, as in verse seven, you can always put your own cares into God’s hands. He knows it all, he keeps score really well, and he is faithful for whatever care you may have.

Now go love and serve somebody else in the church today. And then do it again tomorrow, and so on …

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About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed 3-4 hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and am the editor of a Baltimore/Maryland sports blog called "The Baltimore Wire." My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with a Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

One thought on “Wisdom for the Church Community (1 Peter 5:5-7)

  1. Your post made me think of the following verse.
    “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”. (John 13:35 NIV)

    To look up that phrase I entered three words into the search box:
    1 Love
    2 One
    3 Another

    A variety of other important related/ redundant/ synonomous commands came up too.
    Since most of us don’t keep these commands in mind nearly enough – it will be good to review them.

    A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (Jn. 13:34 NIV)

    Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Rom. 12:10 NIV)

    Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. … (Rom. 13:8ff NIV)

    Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Cor. 13:11 NIV) (A take away for our modern culture is to think of expressions of kindness … however that displays itself.)

    You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. (Gal. 5:13 NIV)

    Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Eph. 4:2 NIV)

    9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.
    10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more,
    11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you,
    12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. (1 Thess. 4:9-12 NIV) (I quoted an extended portion here, just to show how love and service is even reflected by living a responsible life.)

    3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. (2 Thess. 1:3 NIV)

    24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,
    25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another– and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Heb. 10:24-25 NIV) (Love for others can be expressed even in regularly meeting together.) (While “quality time” is important we should not neglect quantity of “time.” What if a baseball player decides to skip playing his defensive position in the outfield? It could conceivably lead to defensive problems for the team.

    22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.
    23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
    (1 Pet. 1:22-23 NIV)

    Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. (1 Pet. 3:8 NIV)

    Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ. (1 Pet. 5:14 NIV) (Again whatever expression of kindness is appropriate in a culture.)

    For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. (1 Jn. 3:11 NIV)

    And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. (1 Jn. 3:23 NIV)

    Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 Jn. 4:7 NIV)

    11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
    12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 Jn. 4:11-12 NIV)

    And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. (2 Jn. 1:5 NIV)

    Sometimes we look at scripture that seem unclear and try to figure them out and tease meanings out of them.

    In some strands of Evangelicalism (and many other labels of different currents of Christianity) there is a tendency to talk about LOVE as “one of God’s attributes.”

    God has elevated the command to LOVE to such a high level, through repeated emphasis that all obscurity and doubt about the vital necessity of this command should be erased.

    These scriptures that talk about “love” are not the totallity of verses on the topic, consider that James isn’t among those who actually used that phrase “love one another” in his letter. Yet he talks about doing things for others, giving to a brother and sister in need. So though he didn’t use the phrase “love one another” he did say the following.

    8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.
    9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.
    (Jas. 2:8-9 NIV)

    I believe that most Christians don’t give this command to love another nearly the weight it deserves. Jesus warned that many people would say to him on the day of judgement “Lord, Lord did not we do great things in your name?” And Jesus response will be “I never knew you, depart from me you workers of iniquity.”

    What sickens me is that Evangelical Christians have an explanation for this. The big problem they say is what are people “trusting in.” In evangelicalism the main theological focus is on whether people are trusting in their works and deeds or are trusting in Christ. People are going to heaven or hell based on whether they are giving their attention to their deeds or to the advocate of their salvation — Jesus. Rarely do some consider that if we are truly “trusting in Jesus” we will follow his commands and scripture shows that this means we love our brothers and sister who we can “see.”

    Rarely do Christians even discuss the plethora of scriptures in Johns letters as pertains to our standing with God based on whether we love one another.

    James encourages good deeds and his epistle was attacked by the angry founder of Protestantism as an “epistle of straw.”

    Though Christians largely miss the importance of the theology of love in evangelicalism, some still walk in love. God can overlook a flawed theology if people are walking in love. However those that trust in their theology and don’t walk in love … their theology just like the theology of any flawed cult is a worthless theology. Whatever they preach, whatever they do – if they don’t do it in love, it will profit them nothing.

    Love is so shortchanged in evangelicalism, but fortunately God saw that the scripture was repeated often enough that those who read the scriptures and listen to the shepherds voice can’t really miss the command. We might miss the theological importance of walking in love, but we can’t miss the command itself. It is clear enough, repeated enough, and taught in different ways, that God leaves Christians virtually “without excuse” if we choose to ignore this.

    None of us are perfect. “We all stumble in many ways” the scripture says. It is God’s love that he sent Jesus as “the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 Jn. 2:2 NIV)

    That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. (1 Tim. 4:10 NIV)

    We love because God loves us first. The more we understand God’s love the more we should emulate it.

    And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Rom. 5:5 NIV)

    May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. (2 Thess. 3:5 NIV)

    keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude 1:21 NIV)

    And that was the point of what you wrote in your blog — “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (2 Thess. 3:5 NIV)

    Anyway that expressing God’s love in our lives can be expressed … it is amazing.

    My deepest apologies for putting in too many points, and too many words in this comment. It is easy to do when you’ve got a computer that find scriptures for you and the copy/paste function is so easy. But God’s word is so pure that I hate to neglect so much of the treasure that is in it, that he gave to us to build us up.

    God’s word is so pure, But in my presentation of his views, I probably struck out in how I presented it here. “The more words the less the meaning.” Or maybe I even had insufficient love in my writing here. So whether there is any beauty or melody in this comment, or it is just a clanging symbol … in humility I reaize that my comments are basically trash, even though I attempted to portray the platter of delicacies laid out in God’s word on this topic. Probably the only ones reading this are Christian dumpster divers who are so hungry for God’s truth they are looking for every scrap of it.

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