Thursday, June 04, 2009
Current Study: First Peter
Today’s Topic: Freedom and Respect
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 2:16-17 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.
As we close out this week, there are two items I wish to address from today’s Scripture reading in First Peter. First, the freedom we have in Christ because of grace can never become a cover-up for evil. The Apostle Paul said it this way – What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?
By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2) Freedom is the result of the removal of restraints. It is not, however, the disregard for discipline. Far too many people think that freedom releases them from responsibility, when in fact it carries the highest regard for responsibility.
Missionary author Elisabeth Elliot said it this way: Freedom and discipline have come to be regarded as mutually exclusive, when in fact freedom is not at all the opposite, but the final reward, of discipline. It is to be bought with a high price, not merely claimed …. The [professional] skater and [race] horse are free to perform as they do only because they have been subjected to countless hours of grueling work, rigidly prescribed, faithfully carried out. Men are free to soar into space because they have willingly confined themselves in a tiny capsule designed and produced by highly trained scientists and craftsmen, have meticulously followed instructions and submitted themselves to rules which others defined.
So, point number one is this – don’t use freedom as a means of accomplishing your own objectives and fulfilling your own desires. Use your freedom to responsibly serve the One who gave it to you.
Second, there is a huge need for a return to respect for others in our culture and in our churches. Walls of disrespect have been built between races, genders, and socio-economic groups. Here’s a story that touches on one aspect of respect from our everyday lives as employees and employers. It’s told by Raleigh Washington in a 1993 article in Moody Magazine entitled Breaking Down Walls. You will discover from reading the first line of the story that Mr. Washington is a black man.
As a young teen, I worked summers for a white grocer. Albert Soud made me his unofficial butcher. One day a girl who lived with her single mom and four other kids in the apartment above us came into the store and asked for 25 cents-worth of baloney. The family was very poor, so I sliced about three times that much, wrapped it up, and wrote 25 cents on the package. When the girl took it to the cash register, Mr. Soud looked at the package and threw it on his own scale. He rolled his eyes at me, but said to the girl, “Twenty-five cents, please.”
After we closed, Mr. Soud said, “Raleigh, I work hard to try to make ends meet, and you defrauded me. I believe you were trying to help that young lady, but you helped her at my expense. Next time you want to help somebody, ask me, and I’ll respond. But don’t steal from me.”
Albert Soud was sensitive to the reason for my action, and unwilling to embarrass me in front of the girl. He’d talked to me with respect, like a father to his son. I developed a real love for that man.
So point number two is this – good intentions don’t excuse disrespect for authority. It is in that context that Peter says Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. Freedom and respect are inter-connected. Our freedoms are not our right to disrespect others. When freedom and respect are combined, they produce a servant, and according to God’s social system, being a servant is the greatest expression of freedom.