7-11 priorties of people with a short and finite amount of time to live out our Christian lives.
– Be alert and sober (even on Saturday nights?) So you can pray. Implies an active focused non complacent approach to Christianity, but not one that mistakes busyness for spiritual work.
– Above all love each other deeply, it covers a multitude of sins. Amen to that! The end of the world (and/or our time on it) is nigh, and the top church priorities are prayer and love. Not, say, get organised into teams and spend every day telling people about God before it’s too late. Not as a first step.
These reflect the greatest two commandments of Jesus: love God, love each other. It’s also a strong theme of the psalms… “The enemy is at the gate, everyone is in a panic and disaster looms, therefore I will go to god’s sanctuary and wait on him” sort of thing. Takes a lot of faith to respond to urgency with patient faith. But here it is placed “above all”. Without love I am nothing, saith St Paul.
So in a church we are never to sacrifice love for the progress of some greater task, because we are still sinners, things will fall apart very fast if sin has a chance.
– Offer hospitality without grumbling. I think this literally means what it says without need for further explanation.
Though a subtle choice presents itself: is it enough to do hospitality that comes more easily, ie: that you can offer without grumbling, or is it important to offer hospitality that needs to be offered, even the sort that would normally make you grumble, and simply will yourself not to, as an act of spiritual discipline? The latter seems more worthy, but the former is still good stuff. Perhaps either would do.
– our gifts are examples of gods grace in its various forms. I wonder if all this talk of gifts could best be thought of as the bibles positive spin on things that bug us about each other. It’s a practical example of love covering sin.
So you are tempted to think “X person is a bit of a fusspot, busybody, showoff, know-it-all, sanctimonious,” etc etc… Often you may not hate them particularly… At least not yet, it’s just that the differences bug you a bit. And the bible is saying “think of them as having a special responsibility from God to exercise a different gift to you”. A wonderfully positive flip to get you through the daily/weekly annoyance of having to socialise and work with someone you would not normally like.
The last section evokes the servant song “let me be as Christ to you”. In summary, the urgency of a short time on earth makes how you do things much more important than what you do. If you keep love and prayer at the forefront, you will be God to each other.
Teach me the importance of love, prayer and hospitality…. They are the prime strategies in the urgent task of living a Christian witness.
The last section is about suffering. I’ve learned to zone out of suffering passages. Wary of associating first century suffering with my modern “first world problems”.
The thrust of the passage is to bear suffering because it is for a worthy cause, Christ, and its better to be in the lord’s side in the long run. Impeccable Greek logic.
In the middle of difficulty, when I am feeling vulnerable for being a Christian or summoning up courage to let my faith be known, is important to keep that perspective in mind. The people who don’t know Christ are far worse off than me. I should be feeling sorry for them, not sorry for myself.