Yet again I have found myself reading a lot of Bible passages today. I’m usually content to just read one chapter.
The one that seems to be gripping me the most is this, ‘Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.’ (1 Peter 4:7b-11 NIV)
This is a particularly difficult passage to follow on the best days; much tougher when one is going through a hard time. Even the best of us are not immune to hardship or tough times. Storms batter and can be destructive to even the sturdiest ship. On most days, I struggle to behave and relate in ways which are good enough. Although, I’m making some progress and trying my best.
Why are you talking about hardship? I hear you ask. Well, this passage lists some really positive ways of living out our discipleship, as followers of Jesus. But, just because they are good things to do, doesn’t make them easy, does it? If anything they’re really tough, even on our best days when things are going well for us – spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Let’s look at each aspect in turn.
‘Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.’
This seems almost impossible to me at the moment. My mental health symptoms mean that, currently, holding onto a clear mind is somewhat challenging. Even without mental health issues, I imagine that clear mindedness is rather difficult. Also, self control is one of the toughest things to achieve, let alone maintain. But, I highly doubt that one can , or should, only pray when one is clear minded and has self-control. Rather it is perhaps more helpful and beneficial to approach prayer in that good state of mind. But, we can pray anyway even when we haven’t got it all together.
One thing that I have realised, or at least rediscovered, is that Jesus prays for us too. He prays on our behalf much better than we ever could, for ourselves or each other. I painted this yesterday as a visual reminder of that concept:
‘Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.’
For anyone who is interested, the type of love described is agape. (For more information on this, please visit my previous post on Love).
It says to love deeply, or fervently in the Greek. I am particularly interested in the words “because love covers over a multitude of sins”. I accept it as true, but really struggle with the giving and receiving of that love. It seems to me as though the practice is really difficult. Relationally, it has to be worth it and something rather wonderful happens when it is practiced, but it doesn’t make it any easier, does it?
I have seen, and felt (reaped) the benefits of both loving and being loved with agape. But, it’s still new and difficult and feels almost impossible to maintain.
‘Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.’
Another challenge. To some, hospitality comes naturally. This used to be the case for me, until my mental health took a turn for the worse. The challenge is more in doing so without grumbling. Whether offering hospitality comes easily or not, there are bound to be days when we just don’t feel like it, or it’s burdensome. Sometimes we might feel resentful or put out. Sometimes it might be too much like hard work to offer hospitality.
Is it better to not offer hospitality, rather than do so but grumble before, during, or after? I’m not sure of the answer to that!
Either way, it’s difficult to do and difficult to maintain. But, as I’ve said before, I believe that we’re not called to do what is easy but what is right.
‘Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.’
I seem to have been through several different seasons of service. I started off with ‘children’s work’, then leading Bible study, helping at church events, and helping with church publicity. More recently I seem to be mainly serving using art and writing. This was not planned! It was the most remote idea that I ever would have considered for myself! By the grace of God my dyslexia has been healed and He seems to have gifted me with a God-given ability to be creative, which sometimes presents itself as a form prophetic art.
The challenge being that we are to do it in the LORDS strength. I know that whenever I try to use my gift for myself my ‘art’ is rubbish. It would seem that I can only create what God commissions. The same is true for my writing. If I’m not inspired it doesn’t happen! Therefore, one might conclude that if it’s not working, maybe ones gifting has changed or a time of rest, reflection, and prayer is needed. Also, if one is trying to serve according to what they want to do or in their own strength then it will likely fail, or at least be very difficult.
So, that is my attempt at reflection on some rather big topics, presented in this short passage of Scripture.