Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 1 Peter 3:8-9
Peter offers these words as a brief summary of his “submit to the authorities in your life” lesson he gave to the persecuted Jews who comprised his audience. Being submissive to the authorities in our lives is no small challenge for most of us. The essence, I believe, of his counsel is that we must work hard to preserve our testimony with all the various authorities in our lives so that they may see God’s glory in us and be changed by it.
The question is, what does this mean for the church? What does the local body of believers take from this counsel?
Maybe it is because of two centuries of the “separation of church and state” in America (the interplay between two critical religious freedom clauses in our First Amendment)…or maybe it is because the American culture has become much more concerned about our “rights” than about our “responsibilities”…or maybe it is because the American church has deluded itself into believing that, somehow, we are a part of the “persecuted church” because our culture doesn’t seem to like us much…or maybe it is because we just don’t really trust God to preserve his church, that maybe He needs us to save the church by political power instead…or maybe it is because we tend to forget how much damage the accumulation of political power has done historically to the church…
Whatever the cause(s), the American church seems to me to have developed a sense of “entitlement” much more than …
He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him. Judges 16:20
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18
It’s an awesome thing, being used by God to further His work in this world. I am sure you would agree that the empowerment by God to accomplish things bigger and greater than anything we could do on our own is a true blessing. That is true for individuals and it is true for churches as well. The problem, of course, with being gifted and blessed is that it can start to go to our heads and we can lose site of any sense of humility. We can grow so accustomed to the giftedness and blessing, we can forget where it comes from and whose bidding it is for. That, it seems to me, was Samson’s problem.
By pretty much anyone’s standards, Samson “had it going on”. Having taken the Nazarite vows and having committed himself to God’s service, he was empowered with almost super-hero-like abilities. He became a powerful leader among God’s people and actually served as one of Israel’s more famous leaders (one of the “judges”) for some twenty years. What was his “super power”? Uncommon strength. That giftedness propelled him to great acclaim among the people.
But Samson had a lifelong struggle with self-control and instant gratification. He had, it seems, a virtually unquenchable appetite for pleasing himself, even if it meant being disobedient to God or to his Nazarite vows. He worshiped God. He loved God. He had great faith in God. He was remembered by the writer of Hebrews as one of the heroes of the faith in God’s story (Hebrews 11). …