Wednesday, March 19, 2014

No Woman is an Island

AgrihanNASANo man is an island.  That's what John Donne said in his famous poem.  Each person is so connected to the whole that the death of anyone diminishes us all.  While I might not go as far as the poet, I certainly agree that our actions have ripples far beyond what we may ever know.  Long before Donne asked for whom the bell tolls, Peter gave the early Christians a reminder about how much our lives can affect others. 

1 Peter 4 starts out with a reminder to Christians that we are to live for God, not for our own pleasures.  Unfortunately, we still live surrounded by people of the world who do not follow Christ and cannot understand why we don't join in their behaviors.  Despite the fact that these worldly people will insult and revile us, Peter doesn't say, "you just keep away from them."  In fact, he doesn't tell us what to do about them at all.  Instead, he reminds us that they will face judgment just like the rest of us.

but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God. The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer (1 Peter 4:5-7).

We can't follow the world into their sin, and we certainly need to pray that we will stay out of that trap.   Although it isn't explicit, Peter seems to indicate that we can share the gospel with these worldly people and pray that they may repent so that their eternal condition can change.  The confusing wording about preaching "to those who are dead" simply means that the Word was shared with these individuals before they died so that they could choose to live in the spirit. (For a great explanation of this phrase, see  Rather than letting our old non-believing friends drag us into sin again, we can affect their lives for the better by praying for them and telling them about Jesus and his love.

Peter is much more clear on how and why we should love our fellow Christians.

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:8-11).
When someone says "above all," it's time to pay attention.  We live in a sinful world, and that really stinks.  Even those of us who are saved sin every day no matter how hard we struggle against it.  We hurt one another without even meaning to.  That's why we need to love one another.  Because if we don't have the same kind of love that Jesus has, forgiving sins over and over, then our positive influence is diminished.  I want to affect people for the good, and it is easier to do that if I love them in spite of their sins.
Finally, Peter reminds us that when we love and serve others, it brings glory to God.  John Donne may have thought everyone's lives affected everyone else's, but we know that God can change more people than we ever dreamed of.  When a non-believer sees us serving each other without complaint, she may ask us why.  Then we can tell them that we love because God loved us first.  We can introduce them to the God who can change them (1 Peter 3:15).

No man is an island.  What we say, what we do, how we live affects the people around us one way or another.  For those who don't know Christ, we may be able to bring them to God through our words or our prayers.   For those who are walking in the Spirit along with us, we can serve them to bring glory to the Father.  When the bell tolls for me, I hope the people I love can say I made a positive difference.


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission

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