READ 1 PETER 4:8-11 -
Peter is an important resource for us to look to if we are asking how we can live our lives according to gospel rhythms & practices while living in a culture that lives according to different rhythms – some of which are opposite to the rhythms we’re trying to establish in our lives.
Peter wrote his letter to help encourage his readers to live a life that reflected God’s holiness especially where it was different or difficult. 1 Pet. 4:8-11 tell us what the apostle Peter thought was the “above all” rhythm of life for Christians – The rhythm of opening our lives to community and hospitality.
WHY WE NEED TO OPEN OUR LIVES
By introducing this section with the words “above all”, Peter is saying that every Christian should have the same thing at the top of their daily to-do list: “Above all, keep loving people earnestly”. Peter is in sync with the apostle Paul, Jesus and the whole Bible here – for the Christian, love is the highest virtue and always the top priority. In order for us to love, we have to open our lives to other people. The challenge with this is that sin works not only to separate us from God, it also separates us and closes us off from other people. As someone has said, “sin is antisocial”. Sin is putting, “I come first”, at the top of our daily to-do list.
But Peter says opening our lives to love others earnestly can counteract the antisocial dynamics of sin. He tells us the reason we should love one another is that “love covers a multitude of sins”. This is an allusion to Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all wrongs” Peter is saying that the forgiving love of a gospel community is like a blanket/lid that keeps sin from stirring up and wreaking more havoc in our lives & the lives others. Though we close our lives to hide our wounds and scars; though we fear opening our lives because of our flaws, failures and faults, Peter says only when we open up our lives can we experience the “covering” of our sin through the forgiving love of a gospel community.
WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE TO OPEN OUR LIVES
In verse 9, Peter shows us what it looks like to open up our lives. He says, “show hospitality to one another”. The word used here for hospitality could be literally translated “love of strangers”. Hospitality is how strangers become family. Here’s a definition of biblical hospitality: Hospitality is 1) generously and regularly sharing your schedule, space and stuff 2) with an open heart and attitude 3) seeking to turn strangers into brothers and sisters and friends 4) out of gratitude and joy for Jesus' radical welcome to us.
Opening up our schedule, space and stuff to others is not easy! That’s why Peter said we should learn to do this “without complaining”. Hospitality is inconvenient & messy because people (we are) messy and broken! The early church put such an emphasis on hospitality because this was Jesus’ main strategy for ministry – so much so that Jesus said in Luke 7:34 “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Jesus modeled this radically open and welcoming hospitality to show us what it looks like to create and sustain a community of grace. The early church took a cue from Jesus – it was their goal to become the most open and hospitable community in their cities. It should be the same for us today.
HOW TO OPEN UP OUR LIVES TO COMMUNITY AND HOSPITALITY
In verses 10-11, Peter helps us take steps toward opening up our lives. He does this by helping us move from disillusionment to stewardship. In our search for a loving, hospitable community, disillusionment is inevitable because there is no perfect community/church - we will always be let down. In his book, Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, “only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight… the sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and a community the better for both…” The disillusionment forces us to ask, “Do I love my dream of community more than the actual people/community God has given me?”
Only when we see what we have been given - 1) the community God has placed us in and 2) the gifts He’s give us to pour into this community – will we find the community we are looking for. This is stewardship. When each person gratefully pours their unique gifts into others – a powerful community of grace is formed. The first step toward opening our lives is not finding the perfect community/church; it’s using our gifts to faithfully serve the people already in our lives.
1. What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?
2. Why is it so difficult to put “Above all, keep loving people earnestly” at the top of our daily to-do lists? What might look different about your life if you did keep it at the top?
3. Peter mentions the “covering” power of love in community. This covering happens when we say to someone, “I don’t see you as a sinner (wounded, flawed, failing). I see you as God sees you in Christ. I see you covered in the righteousness of Christ. even when you wrong me/hurt me”. How have you experienced this? Given this kind of love? How might this kind of forgiving love
4. What about the definition of hospitality above is most difficult for you? Most appealing to you? What is most challenging for you in opening up our schedule, space and stuff to others?
5. Have you experienced disillusionment with community? How have you moved past it to stewardship?
6. How does Jesus’ love, hospitality and service to us motivate us and give us the strength to live more open lives of love hospitality and service?