Saturday, May 24, 2008

Peter's Checklist

"And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and the knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity." (2 Peter 1:5-7)

The apostle Peter gives us a handy little checklist here that is of no small importance, I assure you. Lest you doubt this, I would draw your attention to verse 8, where he warns that without these items, we will be "barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of God." And if that doesn't set your antennae twitching, then read verse 9, where he points out, if we neglect any of them, we will end up being decidedly short-sighted ("cannot see afar off"). In other words, unable to see the big picture, and, therefore, so blind to the things of God we begin to doubt our own salvation ("forgotten that he was purged from his old sin").

Peter goes so far as to say that if we fail to see any evidence of these qualities in our lives, we probably ought to make sure we are truly saved ("give diligence to make your calling and election sure"); because, he reasons, you will only "do these things" (v.10), "if these things be in you" (v.8) in the first place. Now do I have your attention?

Though the list begins with faith, where our Christian life begins, we need not assume they go in actual order of importance, since the last one (charity) is what 1 Corinthians 13 refers to as "the greatest of these." But presumably, faith is the foundation on which to build all the others. After faith comes virtue, a Divine characteristic, to be sure (Mk.5:30, etc.), but one that God calls us to emulate, in some measure. Could I just define it as "goodness?" Then comes knowledge, that which we sometimes like to skip over. But ignorance, especially to Spiritual things, does not endear one to anybody, least of all, God.

The next two can be real sticking points. Temperance is being able to responsibly handle the pleasures of life; while patience is the ability to handle the pressures of life—with grace and, what I like to call, "Spiritual poise." Godliness, next on the list, may mean different things to different people, but, it at least would include some of God's own attributes. For instance, love, mercy, grace, and faithfulness, etc.

The last two will go together nicely, as well. Brotherly kindness goes well beyond basic kindness to the sort that treats someone as you would your own flesh and blood. And, finally, as we've said, comes charity, the one characteristic God has said separates the true possessors of the grace of God from the mere "professors" (Jno.13:35).

So, there you have it: Peter's important little checklist. And, says the apostle, these should not just be in us; they should "abound" in us (v.8). If we are children of God, the Holy Spirit has already worked them into us; all that is left now is for us to work them out (Philip.2:12-13). And here is one more powerful nudge for those among us who may still remain lax or indifferent to their relevance:

"[F]or if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (2 Pet.1:10)

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