You would think that the easiest place to walk as a child of light is with other light-dwellers. Yes. In a place where minds are encouraged by Christ’s love, and spirits are alive by the same Spirit of God, and hearts are tender and compassionate because of His work within…yes, in this situation the Church-planter Paul affirms that our joyful response should be “…agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.” (Philippians 2:2) From his perspective, the Family of God should be an everyday illustration of God’s love and grace, reaching out to the people of the world– a living temple for God’s presence. It sounds like the ideal family, doesn’t it?
And yet Paul takes the time to instruct the early church at length in how to make that happen, over the course of many different letters, and even scolding those who are behaving poorly with one another. Clearly relationships within the Family of God are a good bit more work than we might expect. In Peter’s letter we find him echoing the same thoughts, and this time it is in the middle of all his examples of living an everyday life of excellence: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:7-10) Both Paul and Peter aren’t afraid to get into the practical nuts and bolts of how to live as children of the light, nor do they hide the fact that it is liable to be difficult at times. Whether we are talking about work relationships, marriage, respecting government, or getting along with fellow believers, our behavior should be above reproach so that we will bring glory to the God who called us into His kingdom. At the same time, we will be shining God’s light into the darkness the way Jesus did when He walked here Himself.
Peter describes a community of genuine friendship, brotherly love for one another. The kind of friends who truly care when you are going through difficulties, and come alongside to help. People of compassion and humility– not looking out for their own interests, but looking to serve others. An adopted family of peacemakers, focusing on the eternal bond we share in Christ instead of on the earthly differences that can pull us apart. He fully expects the early believers to voluntarily hold the same values, not because they are culturally homogeneous, but because they have all turned away from earthly perspectives and are devoted to the same cause of building the Kingdom of Light.
Paul affirms that this is expected and normal for Christ-followers who share life together: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” (Colossians 3:15) After all, in God’s eyes every one of us is a sinner saved by His own gracious consent into the Kingdom of Light, regardless of where we have come from, or our situation in life. All the earthly distinctions that we pride ourselves on are as temporary as this world– the person we are becoming on the inside is what we get to take into eternity. Beloved author Madeleine L’Engle rightly observed that “We draw people to Christ…by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.“
And we can see this theme of beautiful light running through Peter’s letter, and the Christ-followers shining into the darkness to draw others to God. Day by day they look more and more like Jesus.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning…. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.John 1:1-2, 4-5
What I share with other believers is not just a mutual interest, as if we were all members of a global fan club. We are members of His global family, with the same Father, the same Spirit, the same hope. Blood might be thicker than water, but Jesus’s blood is thicker still.Bronwyn Lea