The underlying requirement to be effective witnesses as a body of Christ
Call to worship
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O LORD, You preserve both man and beast. How priceless is Your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of Your wings. (Psalm 36:6-7)
The Lord’s Prayer (we sing it – remaining seated)
Grace to you from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord
Hymn: “We will give thanks” (Screen)
Scripture Reading Psalm 34:1-16
Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Declaration of pardoning
Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7)
Hymn “I love my Lord” (Screen)
Offering and Dedication
On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income. (1 Corinthians 16:2)
Prayer for others
Hymn no 496: “In my hour of grief or need”
We journeyed through the letter of Peter to those scattered in Pontus, Cappadocia, Asia and Bythinia. They were addressed as God’ chosen people. They are, like us, people with a past, people with a glorious hope in Christ – but they addressed as people who need to live in the present. They need to love as holy people, because they are purchased in the blood of Christ. They are urged to see that things are up to standard among themselves as people of God. They are reminded of the fact that they are a people, called out of darkness into the light, to be God’s holy people. They are God’s spiritual temple and their task is to proclaim the glories of Him who called them out of darkness.
The apostle reminded of the fact that they, I their task of living towards the glorious goal of being with God into all eternity, are just sojourners on earth. They are foreigners who should guard against living like those who do not know God. He addressed these, the elect – the holy body of Christ – as workers, wives and husbands, to submit to all authority instituted by God. This is because it pleases God. They had to remember this high calling: Live amongst the heathen so that your Father may be glorified.
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:12)
Now he sums it up, “Finally, all of you”. All the people addressed in the preceding paragraphs are now addressed. And once again it speaks about that special way of living that separates Christians from the rest of the world.
Underlying requirement to be effective witnesses as a body of Christ
Love one another
When Christ was on earth, He commanded his disciples to love one another. He said:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)
Just a bit further up in that same chapter, the Lord gave them a visual example of what He meant by this. He washed their feet. And then He said:
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:14-17)
The uniqueness of the Church of Christ lies in its relationship with Christ. The effectiveness of its message lies in its ability to live as the Lord commanded. The underlying prerequisite to be effective in its witness as body of Christ, lies in its ability to stand together. Point is, if Christians cannot under and in amongst themselves live in harmony, displaying the unity of love in the Lord Jesus Christ, it destroys all possibilities to be attractive to the world.
In this sense, Peter urges the church to be like-minded. The idea is “being of the same mind or having the same thoughts as someone else”. Share the same thoughts. Basic to this of course is to all revere and respect the authority of God’s Word. The Word provides the basis for our thinking. As we study the Word, we know the mind of God. And as we know the mind of God, we will know how others think, or how they are supposed to think. We will share the same ethic and ethos based on the Word of God. Many churches suffer from “unlike-mindedness”. Everyone has it own ideas. There is strife and disunity. And while the infighting is going on, Satan goes on holiday. In such a church nothing happens to the positive as far as the Gospel is concerned.
“live in harmony”. The word is “feeling sympathy for someone or something”. It is perhaps better to understand the word if we describe the opposite: “apathy”. A church where there is apathy, is a church made up of individual members. Every looks after himself, and does what brings personal gain. If there is no personal gain, people drop out.
But this is not God’s plan for his church. We cannot exist without one another. We need to understand and sympathies with one another. That way we will be aware of and able of the shortcomings of the other.
Love as brothers
The word is philadelphos. That is to love one another as if we are blood family. As if we have the same mother and father. Our family is the family of Christ. Remember, all of us were once lost, living in darkness. We were not even considered to be a people. But God rescued us from the present evil age, He called us out of darkness and made us a people with special privileges. We are his people, saved by Christ. That bonds us together.
Every year the diggers get together on ANZAC day. It is important. The bond between them is their experience on the battlefield. They are brothers. It actually goes further: their spirit and bond is passed on to next generations. Grandchildren stick the medals and badges of their grandfathers onto their chests and march. There is this brotherhood. This is the idea between Christians. We share the bond of being saved out of darkness. We share the saving love of Christ. We know the same Father. That should bring us together in brotherly love.
Be compassionate and humble
Be affectionate. Affection is to display a loyal fondness, care and warmth. It has the idea of tender-heartedness and forgiveness. Together with this there is the virtue of humility. The apostle Paul says
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)
Do not repay evil with evil
If Christians cannot forgive one another, how will they be attractive to the lost? If Christians live by the rule “an eye for an eye”, why would the rest of the world be interested in worshipping the Lord? Our Lord Jesus Christ said:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42)
Add to this the phrase “repay insult with insult”. “Slander with slander”. Tit for tat. He said this about me, so I will say that about him. I’ve got a case. I’ve got rights. I will sue. They have to come good. Listen to words of the Lord:
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,
leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)
The apostle Paul thought it was a disgrace for the church that Christians would take one another to court.
Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers! (1 Corinthians 6:4-6)
Repay evil and insult with blessing
Blessing here has in mind praise; to speak of someone in favorable terms. It is quite the opposite of slander. The implication: if there is a slander about you, look for something good to say about the one who slanders.
To this you are called
This is your calling. When Christ called his disciples, in the very first lesson recorded in the Bible, He taught them this truth:
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12)
This whole idea of blessing instead of returning insult with insult, is the calling of the Christian. This is the attitude that should set us apart from the world. People of the world do such things, not Christians.
Let’s go through this again: harmony, be sympathetic, be compassionate (or like-minded), be humble. Return evil with a blessing. This is actually another way of just summing up the law of God, isn’t it?
Christ called us to be different. Because, “by their love for one another they will know that your are my disciples.”
Question: by what attitudes are you known – and not only by the world outside, but by those who worship with you here at St Andrews? Let’s draw it even closer: do you know them? Do they know you? If not, what example is this to the world? If we cannot and do not care for one another as brothers, why would any outsider become part of it?
Hymn No 485: “O Children, Come, give ear”
The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)