Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
John 7:45-53; 2 Peter 1:1-9; Song of Solomon 4; Jeremiah 51:1-32
The opening passage of 2 Peter reminds us of the interdependence of the central aspects of the Christian faith. Being transformed, living ethically and brotherly love are interwoven with knowledge of God and Jesus. In both the Old and New Testament, knowing is a very personal activity. This is not just knowing the right doctrine, but includes the personal knowing of a relationship. Knowledge about the person, who they are and what they have done, is an aspect, but it goes much deeper.
Peter begins by reminding his audience that knowledge of God and Jesus is the source of grace and peace. God has already given us everything we need for life and godliness. This word means to live a life pleasing to God. God has given us everything we need to live ethically. He has given us amazing promises, including complete forgiveness of our sins (v. 9). These allow us to participate in the divine nature. We cannot take on God’s nature completely, but we can share in some aspects of his character. These are the virtues we can acquire as we walk with God and walk away from the corruption caused by evil desires. We can become good according to his goodness.
Although we receive all these things from God, the Christian life is not one of passivity. We are to make ‘every effort’ in our walks with God. Developing godly character is something we must commit to and work diligently at. Peter lists seven virtues that should be developing within us. These start with faith and end with love. Debate has occurred over whether the order is important. Does self-control need to develop before perseverance or love? The consensus is that the order here reflects the literary style of the time, not sequential steps in developing Christian character. Lists of virtues or vices were common in literature of Peter’s time, and their order was not signification. All these virtues are interwoven in the tapestry of life lived with God.
Peter then reminds us that our characters do not change instantly. The various attributes should be increasing, implying our engagement in on-going transformation. As we deepen our relationship with God and work hard at letting him change us, we will both become better people and serve others more effectively. A personal relationship with God should have an impact beyond ourselves. As we deepen our appreciation for his blessings and gifts, we should love others and share our blessings with them. Otherwise, we will become blind to the way we are.
The incident in John 7 exemplifies how this blindness develops with the evil desires mentioned in 2 Peter 1:4. The chief priests and Pharisees were so filled with evil desires that they could not see their irrationality. The temple guards comment on the impact of Jesus’ teaching, but the authorities can only conclude that the guards are deceived. Rather than examine Jesus’ message, they reject him because of where he is from. Ironically, by reminding people that the Christ will come fromBethlehem, they authenticate Jesus. But their hatred of him has blinded their ability to even consider his message.
Living ethically in a biblical context cannot be separated from our relationship with God. Our knowledge of him should impact how we live. Christian ethics involves both the power of God working in our lives and our on-going effort to be transformed. These must be held in balance, not over-emphasising one to the neglect of the other. Likewise, transformation is needed in various aspects of our characters. Hence it is something that requires our complete commitment.