I want to share with you a burden that has been on my heart since I was a teenager growing up in a church that I did not want to be a part of. In the Western church I have noticed some qualities that make the church so ugly. I have noticed that it is full of malice. People in the church seem to desire to do evil toward one another. This includes the tendency of the members to gossip, offer unjust criticism and even to bully other members. The church seems to be just like the world because when people do not get their way, they are so quick to tear someone else down. I have noticed deceit. People often twist the truth to get their own way. I have noticed hypocrisy. People in the church fail to practice what they preach. I have noticed jealousy and slander; and when I read scripture I realize that it points out the very same flaws. These flaws belong to humanity as a whole, not only the church. As Peter addresses the church, he notices these vices and literally challenges his audience to put these attitudes away.
So rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it for your salvation, since you have tasted that the Lord is good.
The downside of good knowledge
I remember at one point teaching an older family member of mine how to text. It was easy for me to become frustrated with their slowness and with the fact that they just didn’t get text messaging. I could imagine the same type of frustration when trying to teach someone how to use social media and the aggravation when someone uses too many hashtags. In fact, any time we are teaching someone to do something that is new to them, we might be easily aggravated with them. When we advance in learning about the Christian faith, the result can often be similar. We get frustrated with people for not having the same moral convictions that we do. We get aggravated when we think something ought to be done a way other than it is being done. When people are different, we assume that they are just not as close to Jesus as we are. Many times, that assumption turns into malice, deceit, jealousy, hypocrisy and slander. As our convictions in the faith grow, so does our danger of becoming hateful or ugly toward other people. We can imagine how this frustration might be multiplied as we try to engage with unbelievers and that might evolve into ugliness or hatred toward those who do not trust in Christ.
In this passage, Peter literally challenges the church to let go of all that frustration, malice, jealousy, slander and hypocrisy and to, like infants, return to the basics of the faith. In fact, his claim is that only by the basics can we truly continue to grow. This is all possible because of God’s goodness.
When I came to know Christ I felt like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders and nothing could keep me down. After that initial weight was lifted, I began to notice imperfections in my life and that drove me to pursue God. As God dealt with those imperfections and the weight was lifted, I noticed more. This process has continued even to the present day. After tasting God’s goodness, I naturally yearn to pursue godliness and maturity in the faith. Because God is good, He draws me to Himself.
Because of this, I can trust that others who taste God’s goodness will also pursue godliness and maturity in the faith and I realize that there is a very real and simple calling on my life to always return to the basics and to build my life upon those basics of the faith. Those basics are simple:
- Humankind is imperfect and separated from God
- Christ died and was raised to return people to God
- I must trust in Christ in order to have a place with God
When other “Christians” seem immature in the faith, I approach them with understanding; trusting the work that God is doing in their lives. If I take on the responsibility to make people more mature in the faith, I am implying that God is not good enough to draw people to Himself. As Christians, we should never be hateful or condescending toward other Christians. Instead, we should always strive to be understanding.
When people who do not know God act in a way that contradicts our faith, we also approach them with understanding. If I take on the responsibility to conform others to my way of thinking, I am implying that God is not good enough to draw people to himself. As Christians, we should never be hateful or condescending toward people who do not know God. Instead, we should always strive to be understanding.
Back to basics
The challenge here is that the people of God, in all of their growth and understanding, should never forget that it was Christ who died to offer salvation to the world. We should never get lost in our presumed spirituality or our rules of operation. In fact, Peter wrote to the church urging them to “let it go” so that there might be a return to the basics of the faith. Christ’s death and resurrection is worth more than our rules. It is worth more than our assumed spirituality. Because God is good, we don’t have to condemn others or take the responsibility upon ourselves to make others more mature or to force others into what we think is the right way of doing things. Because God is good, we can trust that He is always encouraging and drawing people to Himself; that includes us. The great call on my life, then, is to relax, pursue Christ and trust that God is working. I do not have to condemn others or the way others operate in order for God to work in this world. Thank God for His goodness.
 1 Peter 2:1-3