Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ ~2 Peter 1:5-8~
We all know the importance of growing in our faith. Only through personal growth can we become a stronger disciple and more like the example of Christ. But, there is a continuation of that process that we sometimes don’t think about. It’s the process of pollination. Through pollination, if you don’t mind me continuing the metaphor, the growth of one plant is necessary in order to produce the right materials to allow other plants to grow and reproduce as well. If there were only one plant, it would only be singularly productive, then wither and die.
So, let me share my thoughts on Peter’s writing, not in terms of individual grownth, but that of “pollination” and growing the Kingdom.
- This one seems self-explanatory, but we sometimes forget that we are each a representative of the kingdom. Too many people like to make generalizations about Christians based on the actions of a few. Take for example Pat Robertson’s recent comments about the earthquake in Haiti. No matter my opinion, many people heard this and immediately gained fuel for their fire of believing that Christians are all “religious biggots,” as I believe one comment put it. It’s sad, really, but nonetheless important to remember that we are setting the example of and for all Christians.
- Ever been asked a hard question about what or why you believe something in particular? Ever felt stupid just trying to formulate an answer that sounds half-way intelligent, while not setting yourself up for failure or even harder questions? Yeah…me too. So, for me, it’s essential to add knowledge to my faith. It’s not enough to just know that I believe, but to know what I believe, and why. I’m not necessarily advocating that we all go to seminary and get a degree in Theology, but it does mean that we each need a good understanding of the foundations of our faith and the truth behind the story in order to share it with those who haven’t heard (and they’re the ones with the toughest questions).
- The down-side to being knowledgeable is that sometimes we become arrogant and egotistical because of it. Know when to speak and what to say. Don’t just get diarrhea of the mouth because you think you know something. Take time to listen. In this sense, self-control also means humility. Don’t get arrogant about the moral excellence and the knowledge that we all strive to possess. We’re all still just sinners saved by grace.
- If we are to grow the kingdom, then we must seek out those who are lost. It’s also imperative that we endure persecution and prejudice to find those people. So, we must be patient and endure those hardships if we are to see the community of Christ grow. The other thing that is hard for me is to endure the questions and ignorance of new Christians. “Why don’t you just ‘get it’ like I do?” Patience. Endurance. Patient endurance.
- We are “fearfully and wonderfully” made in the image of God, the Creator. For me, this means that God has endowed us with one of his greatest powers: creativity. In order to grow the kingdom in a relevant way, we must be able to meet society’s demands head-on and use all of our creativity in order to make our 2000-year-old message of salvation relevant to the 21st century. This means leveraging popular culture, being “in” the world but not “of” it, and helping the most skeptical people see God’s glory shine in the most unexpected places.
- In a healthy sibling relationship, there is an unspoken communication that happens. An understanding, a sense, that allows one to know what the other is really thinking. My brother and I swear, these days, that we must share a brain. He’s the right half, and I’m the left. Put us together, and we’re a cerebral masterpiece! I say this in jest to get the point across…we must love one another in such a way that there is no barrier to entry. Respect, understanding, and unspoken communication abound! And, in addition, we stick up for one another. “This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.” (John 15:13 MSG)
- It all comes down to this. It’s all leading up to this. This is what it’s all about. Can you genuinely love another person, unconditionally? If you have Christ’s morality, if you understand what and why you believe, if you’re willing to set aside your arrogance for the sake of relating to one another as sinners, if you can patiently endure the questions of the weak and the prejudice of the ill-informed, if you can live in the image of the creator, and if you can think of each person as a brother or a sister, then I believe we can achieve the ultimate…sharing the unconditional love of Christ with every person on earth.
One of my favorite verses sums it up pretty well:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joys awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. ~Hebrews 12:1-4~
God bless you all as you grow!