At a recent event I was asked what super power I would like if I was a superhero. After chatting for a couple of minutes over the question I decided that although I’d quite like to be able to fly, I did not want to be a superhero. With great power, as Spiderman will tell you, comes great responsibility. I do not want all that responsibility. You wouldn’t be able to just get on with your life, there’d always be someone who needed rescuing or some bad guy that needed busting. How tiresome!
And part of that same reaction comes out in me when I read verse 3 of today’s passage. ‘His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness’. Seriously?! Today I have lost my daily battle with the washing up. I have shouted at the cutest little boy in the world. I have stressed out about what Christmas presents to buy people. I have been grumpy with my husband. I have eaten too many chocolates. I’m pretty sure that this isn’t the ‘glory and excellence’ that God has called me into. This description of what God intends for us as Christians firstly sounds like a lot of responsibility- if that’s available to me I surely have a responsibility to walk in it and that sounds hard! And it also sounds like a life for a shiny, amazing fantasy person who can actually fly and does not have troubles or stresses or washing up to do! How do I get from here to there?!
By knowing God. Verse 3 says that it is all ‘through the knowledge of Him’. Not like the knowledge that you gain when you need to pass an exam that has no bearing on anything in your life beyond getting a certificate. This is transforming knowledge. Really knowing God, knowing that He has ‘called us to His own glory and excellence’. Wow!This is knowledge worth spending time building up, worth sacrificing for, worth getting rid of distractions for. In fact verses 3-6 are all about God giving and us getting. ‘His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness’ (v3). He has ‘ called us to[c] his own glory and excellence’ (v3). ‘He has granted to us his precious and very great promises’ (v4) ‘you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption’ (v4). This is sounding less like a weighty responsibility and more like a gift we can’t refuse!
But it is a responsibility and something to be taken seriously. Otherwise the free gift is wasted (v8). You can see Peter stressing that throughout this passage- he says in verse 12 that he intends to keep reminding the church of the qualities he expects to see in them, he is desperate for them to understand that this is what being an ordinary Christian looks like. In the following verses (16-21) he goes as far as needing to remind them that this is real- what he is asking them to live for isn’t just a made up ideology- it is real!
According to the Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary, at the time the church was influenced by Epicurean thought, which based on the belief that there was no life after death encouraged people to live for pleasure. Not hedonistically but living ‘according to the “golden mean,” that level of self-indulgence that maximised pleasure without leading to negative consequences’. I think this sounds pretty familiar. I’d say this way of life that would be applauded by many in the culture we live in, and that it has probably crept into our thinking as Christians too, especially in this individualistic western world. Is this how we live, is this our goal? Or is it to live life in the glory and excellence of our divine nature granted by God, free from corruption, full of faith and virtue and knowledge and self-control and steadfastness and godliness and brotherly affection and love? Whether this results in pleasure or trouble in the present. We need to remind ourselves and each other as Peter reminded the church, of the truth that we do not see in the culture around us. This is not going to happen naturally, we need to be intentional about it. We are also exhorted to supplement our faith with a whole list of qualities in verses 5-7. These are not things we are expected to achieve of our own strength- we have God’s Holy Spirit to grow these fruits and characteristics in us. But we do have to choose them-time and time again, in the big things and the little.
This is a challenge to me, and hopefully to us. To stop fearing the responsibility of what we should be achieving as an ‘ordinary’ Christian- it is God’s work that will make that happen. But to get serious and get excited about really knowing God so that He can fulfil everything He intends to through us. EVERYTHING that pertains to life and godliness- let’s grab it!