If you had to guess, what do you think would be the number one reason that people who don’t go to church give for not going? Would it be work? Would it be that they are busy? Maybe they just don’t believe the same things we believe any more? All of these are reasons, and all of them are probably true to some extent, but I don’t think any of them are the main reason that people, at least in my part of the world, don’t go to church. Now let me preface all of this by saying that I don’t have any hard evidence or statistics to back this up, however, once I tell you what I think the number one reason is, you just might agree with me. I feel that the number one reason that people don’t go to church is the people who do.
A lot of unchurched people, especially in the south, see church-goers as mean-spirited, judgemental hypocrites. And let’s be honest, there is a lot of truth to that. It’s time that churches wake up to the fact that the way we treat people matters, and for some it matters eternally. That’s why Peter spends a large portion of 1 Peter instructing believers how they should treat each other, as well as those outside the Church. We are going to look at one of these sections today (1:22-2:12).
In the first part of this section we are going to cover, Peter is going to urge his readers, who have already repented of their sins and put their trust in Jesus, to simply love each other. This sounds really easy to us at first, but if you’ve been in a church any amount of time, you know that sometimes people who call themselves Christians can be the hardest to love. In v.22, Peter point-blank tells believers to love one another. Not just in some, “I love you but don’t really like you right now kind of love.” Peter says we are to “fervently” love each other “from the heart.” Now if you’re like me, you don’t use the word fervently very often. The idea is that we deeply love one another. It is something that we work towards and strive to give our energy to. Next in v.23, Peter says that the reason for this deep, intentional love is that we have been born again, or given a new birth. This is important because it reminds us that as followers of Jesus, we are all apart of the same family, and as part of this family, God’s family, we have been given a new source of power to love with. Peter then goes on to tell us this new source of power. It is the Word of God. Specifically the Spirit of God applying the Word of God in our lives. There is power in God’s Word that can change your life. You may not understand it, I know that sometimes I don’t fully understand it, but I know that there is power in God’s Word that can and does change people. That’s the reason that in the first few verses of chapter two Peter can bluntly tell us to “put aside” things like malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander, because we now have the power to change these things. This power is not some kind of power that originates from deep within us, but from the Word of God applied to our lives by the Spirit of God. The bottom line is loving each other is hard, and it takes effort. Sometimes you may think that you can never love or forgive someone, but if you are a part of God’s family you can.
Peter then shifts gears and focuses on what God is doing through our relationships with one another. He tells us that God is using our relationships, both good and bad, to form us into a new people for His glory. First, he says that we are, “as living stones” being built together into “a spiritual house”. This can be a very painful process. Sometimes God gives us people to encourage and polish us. Sometimes God gives us people who rub us the wrong way, maybe just to sand off our rough corners. You will not find perfect people in the church. (If they were perfect they wouldn’t need Jesus.) In fact you will probably find people who are a lot like you, and that bothers a lot of us more than we would like to admit. Still some people use this as an excuse not to be a part of a church, or maybe to hold of in their level of involvement. They just don’t want to get hurt, or ruin any relationships. But Peter says the real reason they stumble over this is not other people, but their own disobedience (2:8). That is why not going to church because of others is always an excuse.
Finally, Peter says that it’s not enough that we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ well, but we must also live well in front of unbelievers. By the way, this is going to be more and more important as we go farther into a post-Christian world. People will never be saved simply by watching how you live your life. However, people can either be drawn to or pushed away from the saving message of Jesus based on how you live your life. Don’t let your sin be their excuse for walking away from Jesus.
The way that we treat people, both inside and outside of the church, matters. And for some people it will matter eternally. Now listen, I totally understand that for most people, using people inside the church as a reason not to come is just an excuse. I get that. But are we so stubborn that we are unwilling to change how we treat people if it draws them closer to Jesus? Live your life and treat others in such a way that your actions won’t be their excuse.