“For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8
That’s quite a list! Peter was writing to a church that had been scattered across due to persecution for their faith. It was no easy matter to be a Christian in those times. To complicate matters, as the church scattered further and further from each other and from the church leadership, false leaders arose. Peter’s tone in this letter makes it clear that there were those within the community of Christ who had deviated from the truth of church and were actively leading others to follow. So the attacks to one’s faith came from both without and within the church.
It really is no different today. Sure, we can call ourselves Christians and live out our faith without fear of persecution, but danger still lurks close at hand. The dangers we face comes mainly from the affluence we enjoy and come to expect as our right. It is so easy to bow down to the gods of wealth, prestige, looks, and all those other idols, that we often do so without even realizing we are doing it. It takes real self-awareness to keep ourselves on the right path.
Inside the family of God, we, too, find the false prophets who promise us “blessings” if we only practice our faith in the manner they prescribe. So we are promised the blessing of healing, or the blessing of success and so on, all the while downplaying the importance of suffering, cross bearing and discipleship.
Discipleship, writes Peter, takes effort—much effort. We support our faith in Jesus Christ by being good (usually defined in the Bible as helping those less fortunate than ourselves). But that goodness needs to be supported by knowledge (study of God’s Word, communion with the saints, sharing the sacraments) and that knowledge needs to be supported by self-control (taking a determined stand against sin and temptation). And because the temptations to sin will continually bombard us, and we will fall time and again, we need endurance (life’s a marathon not a sprint), and we do this through godliness (making a conscious decision to choose to follow God’s way of living, speaking, deciding…). And we need the support of others that comes in mutual affection (we gather together within the family of God not only for worship but to support each other in our trials, play and celebrate with each other). That will lead to love, the word for love here being agape, or God’s love (sacrificial; not arrogant, rude, or boastful; not insistent upon our own way; bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring all things; never ending).
As we work through that list, not only does our faith grow, but so does the community within which it is practiced. In our individualistic way of looking at things, this practice is often lost. I wonder if that is why the church is in such a sad state of disrepair.