Peter and Paul

Do you ever read verses in the Scripture when you feel like it’s beating a dead horse? It’s funny to me how whoever chooses the Bible Verse of the Day at Biblegateway.com kind of seems to choose a topic and then finds verses to support it. But it’s also funny to me that the topics the Verse of the Day often repeats and repeats and repeats are the same topics people have a hard time remembering. So maybe that horse isn’t dead yet after all . . .

Today’s passage is Philippians 2:1-2.

1 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

Unity. Be of one mind. Work with one purpose. Agree wholeheartedly with each other. Love each other. Sound familiar? A lot like yesterday’s post. But different. Because it was written by a different person.

Yesterday’s verse (1 Peter 3:8) was written by Peter.

Today’s verse (Philippians 2:1-2) was written by Paul.

Yet they wrote the same thing, almost word for word.

And let’s just say this, folks, if Peter and Paul could find a way to be of one mind a purpose, anyone can. 

Peter was a fisherman, loud mouthed, abrasive, impulsive and uneducated.

Paul was a scholar, a high-ranking Jewish leader with more education than he probably knew what to do with.

Peter was flamboyant, an intense, emotional person.

From what I can tell, Paul was more reserved, more of a thinker.

Peter was one of the original twelve disciples Jesus chose, who lived with Him for three years.

Paul was chosen after Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension (still chosen by Christ, but Paul didn’t follow Him while He was alive on Earth).

Peter was older.

Paul was younger.

And let’s not forget the most obvious disparity in their relationship. Peter led many to the Lord following Jesus’ ascension. . . . . And, at first, Paul killed them.

That was Paul’s job. Persecuting Christians. I believe He was present at the stoning of Stephen, another Christ follower mentioned in Scripture. It’s likely he held the coats of the men who threw the rocks.

Of course, when God got a hold of Paul, his life changed (and so did his name, as previously he was named Saul). But even if God forgets our sins, it’s hard for the people around us to do the same. Imagine the Disciples’ shock when Paul, who had murdered scores of their freinds and colleagues, walked into their midst claiming to be a follower of God. I can imagine the look on Peter’s face, as the impulsive one of the group. And I’m sure a great number of disagreements broke out. And I’m sure Peter and Paul may not have been the best of friends, but they were willing to put their differences aside and work together because they could agree on what mattered.

Is there a Christian you know who’s solid theologically but that you have a hard time getting along with?

Compare your relationship with that person to the relationship of Peter and Paul. And if you don’t know what to do with that person follow their example. Put aside the things that you don’t like and put aside the picky little details you can’t agree on and focus on the big picture.

Do you have to be best friends? No. When it comes to close friendships, you need to be with someone who encourages you or enriches you, and even though other Christians may mean well, they don’t always speak your language.

But you do need to agree. And you do need to support each other. And you do need to be of one mind and one purpose.

And if God could help two people as different from each other as Peter and Paul work together for the same goal, He can do the same for us. We just have to let Him.

 

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A note to all Christians from the disciple who broke every rule in the book (except the one that mattered)

Why is it so hard for Christians to be of one mind? Anyone have any theories on that? It’s amazing to me that in a room of 10 Christians, you can have 18 different opinions on how to do something . . . and really you’re supposed to agree on one. Think about that.

Not that it’s any easier for non-Christians to agree, but it just seems to me that people who say they are Christ followers automatically sign up to be contrary. It’s like we all can agree that Jesus died for us, but we can’t agree on how much He loves us.

So what is the image Christians project to others? A super secret club of people who backbite and gossip and can’t get along.

Sorry, folks, but I don’t think that’s right.

The verse for today is 1 Peter 3:8.

 8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters.[a] Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.

The first thing I noticed about this verse is that it’s addressed to “all Christians.” It’s not just new Christians or Christians who’ve believed for a long time or Christians who’ve been long-time members of the same religious establishment. It’s all Christians.

Be of one mind. The Amplified Version says it, “united in spirit.” If we’re Christians, we need to agree on the things that really matter. We need to agree on what’s written in the Bible. I’ve heard it said that we need to keep the main thing the main thing. What is that? I’m a sinner. You’re a sinner. Christ died for sinners. Nobody’s perfect. Believing in Christ–and Christ alone–is the only way to be saved, to have a one-on-one relationship with God, and to have an eternal future in heaven. The basics of true, biblical Christianity. Believing in Christ — not trusting in works or in a religion or in a man or in a symbol — is the only way to be saved.

If we can’t agree on that, there’s something wrong with someone’s basic doctrine. And that means we need to do some Bible study because the Bible is the standard.

Beyond agreeing with each other, though, we need to sympathize with each other. I tell you what, Christians are the meanest people I know. Sometimes they’re also the most selfish people I know. And I know this . . . because I’m one of them. I get so focused on myself and what I’m doing that I steamroll over people around me who need attention and who need to know I care.

Notice, the verse doesn’t say that we need to fix their problems. Most of the time we can’t do anything anyway. But sympathizing with someone is different than trying to fix them. Dictionary.com defines sympathizing as “sharing a feeling with someone, to feel compassionate sympathy.” And many times that’s all people need. They just need you to take the time out of your busy day to try to share their sorrow or their loneliness or their anger or their frustration, and as a believer in Christ, you need to do this for your brothers and sisters. Don’t try to fix them. Just listen. And pray.

It’s part of loving each other as brothers and sisters. I know most siblings don’t act like they love each other, which is a shame. My brother is my best friend. I’m not being sarcastic. I will tell Andy things I won’t tell anyone else, even my best friend and even my parents (who are also my best friends). We are supposed to love each other as Christians, as fellow followers of Christ who are trying to live the way Jesus did. But Christians fail at this immensely.

If you ask a non-believer if Christians love each other, how many times are they going to say yes? How many instances have Christians given the world that we actually care about each other? In my experience, those instances have been few and far between. I can tell you that the deepest wounds in my heart have come from Bible-believing Christians . . . because Christians know how to hurt each other. We’re family, after all. And family always knows how to hurt each other efficiently. But it shouldn’t be that way. We need to build each other up, not tear each other down.

We need to think about the things we say before we say them. Weigh your words. Words have impact. They have meaning. Be tenderhearted. Let your heard feel what your words will do to someone else before you say them.

And be humble about it. Nobody’s a superstar down here. We’re all made of out mud. We all make mistakes. And we all have learned painful lessons about what pride has done to our lives, but the worst choice in the world is to hide the lessons you’ve learned. We need to help each other. We need to learn from each other.

We are so good at putting people on pedastals. And then our faith is shaken because our hero does something wrong.

What I love about this verse is that Peter wrote it. Peter. The disciple who was loud and impulsive and rough around the edges. And even after he decided to follow Christ, I’m pretty sure he didn’t embody very many of these things. But when he let God change him, God did something awesome with him. Not saying he was perfect then. I’m pretty sure he was still rude and abrasive at times.

But Peter speaks from experience here. He knew what worked and what didn’t. And He knew (because God told him) that if Christians were going to survive this crazy, broken, messed up world, we needed to trust God, yes; but we also needed each other.