The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. | 1 Peter 4:7-9
One of the things that pops up whenever anything bad happens is a quote from Fred Rogers (more affectionately known as Mr.) that reads:
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’
I like this quote; it is true and it helps us to focus on the many helpers over the few destroyers. It also supports a false dichotomy that many believe: that people are either unifiers or dividers (good or bad). The reason I think this a false breakdown is that the more I get to know people, the more I realize that every person is both. Every person contains traits that push people away and others that draw them in. Once you realize this is does two things:
- It helps you realize that many people that you could easily dismiss actually have something to offer you. If your relationship meter hits up against the divide trait of another person, than you will not put any time or energy figuring out what is below the surface. You will deem this person unworthy of your time and you will miss out on unifiers that exist. This dual nature makes you more persistent in how you pursue people.
- It helps you to recognize that you have some parts of you that simply push others away; you may not be as easily lovable as you assume. This makes you patient with those who seem to have a hard time connecting with you. They may not be rejecting you outright, but simply struggling with the dividing parts of your personality/beliefs.
One of the things that I mentioned in my sermon Sunday is that we often become frustrated and discontent in our relationships because we measure them against a perfect ideal. We have an idea (based on our unifiers/dividers) of what people should be and what our friends should look like. When we get into relationships with actual people, they fail to reach this. Many people jump from relationship to relationship, trying to find this person who exhibits unifying traits, and puts up with their dividing characteristics, all with a smile on their face. Real friendships are hard. They require us to live with the reality of both unity/dividing.
The only way to do this is to commit yourself to something beyond the other person, because people will always give you a reason to reject them. In the verse above, Peter calls us to three things:
Be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers
The prayers he refers to are the prayers for unity in the church. He is calling us to set aside our reasons not to, in order to fulfill the purpose of our calling: to be the body of Christ. Our relationships in the church are not just for our own personal benefit, but for bringing glory to God.
Keep loving one another earnestly
He then tells us to point our passion toward others; to set aside our self-focused pursuit of relationship, in order to simply love earnestly. This steadfastness will both overcome the hesitations of others toward us, but also stir us to see the unifying (rather than the dividing) aspects of others. We will value what we love.
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling
The love we show to one another is not just a feeling, but an action. We not only commit to a people, but we commit to investing in them. Once again, this forces us to set aside our ideals, in order to serve what is right in front of us. In the end, you find what you need in places you wouldn’t expect.
Committing to people in this way means that you will have lots of relationships, of all differing shapes and sizes. There will be people you feel safe confiding in, and others you don’t. There will be those you call to watch the game, others you never do. Some who you can’t see for many years (due to life circumstances) and some you see every week. Once you loosen relationship from the box you have put it in, people are free to be who they are, and you are free to unify yourself to people who in the past you would have divided from.
The reason why this is important is because the way we love on another is meant to be a revelation of how God’s love is different. If we preach a gospel that says: He loves us in spite of ourselves, we must also love others in spite of their dividing traits. We must make the effort to do better than the affinity-based groupings that make up sub-cultures and squads. We must live out the love we have been shown: a love that invites rather than rejects; a love that is not based on our earning, but on the heart of the person loving. We will never do this naturally, luckily, we have the Spirit of God to help!