Please read 1 Peter 1:13-25 in your favorite Bible.
Image by James Best, (C) 2020, https://www.behance.net/gallery/90621713/Sermon-Illustrations-2020.
The term “bromance” is modern slang for a close but non-sexual relationship between two men. It’s a combination of the words “brother” and “romance.” If you’re of a more seasoned generation, it may help you to think of Laurel and Hardy, Hope and Crosby, the Lone Ranger and Tonto.
I was surprised by an internet article that argued against bromance, calling it a “fad.” Writing for ABC News, Brian Pobjie’s 2017 op ed piece flatly stated, “bromance spells disaster for men.”
He explained, “After all, being emotionally unavailable has worked for us for centuries; we were able to get so much done because we didn’t waste time having feelings.
“We were also happy — insofar as any man is capable of happiness — because without the confusion and angst of outwardly-expressed emotions, we never had to worry about whether we were feeling good or bad or worse than we should be.
“In particular, we didn’t have to worry about other men’s feelings, because as far as we knew they didn’t have any.
“We all know that this leads to only one thing: telling another man how you feel. And that leads to that man knowing how you feel. And how can you possibly go on from there?
Once another man knows how you feel, you might as well just leave the country.”
Do you think he was joking?
For our purposes, we might use “bromance” as a contemporary take on “brotherly love,” a term Peter used repeatedly in this letter as one standard for the fellowship God’s people are supposed to enjoy in Church.
CONTEXT: Peter wrote to churches across Asia Minor. In this letter he had a lot to say about the quality of our life together in the local church. Our passage this morning is a sample of his teaching on the subject of church relations.
Church life must be Christ-like.
- The Church is marked by purity. (22)
Intellectual agreement with the Christian faith is necessary, but by itself, it is not enough. Being born again involves the whole person. Real faith produces real change in individuals and churches. One such change is purity, especially in contrast to the world.
We live pure lives because we want to obey God. We learn God’s standards and we want to please Him by keeping them.
Real purity is not just behaviors; it’s also an attitude, a world view. Titus 1:5 gives us an example of this aspect of human behavior; TO THE PURE, ALL THINGS ARE PURE. We betray our attitudes in our own words and deeds but also in the motives we attribute to others. People who practice purity reveal the purity of their mindset by positivity; seeing good in others.
Because ethical choices are the ones we make ourselves, Peter wrote NOW THAT YOU HAVE PURIFIED YOURSELVES. When we put this teaching together with other New Testament passages, we understand that purity is something we do in partnership with God. Purity is a state of grace God gives, one which we must defend against worldly temptations and our own sinful appetites. Purity is necessary for unity because it eliminates competition and a “win at all costs” attitude.
When we give into temptation and do not protect our purity by sinning, God offers us complete forgiveness if we repent. Our purity is thereby restored by His gracious hand.
- The Church is marked by love. (22)
The words SO THAT connect the virtue of purity to the virtue of love. Here we learn that purity is necessary for love to be sincere. Love can be sincere if one’s motives for loving are pure. Expressions of love that begin w/ evil or selfish motives are not sincere because the object is self, not the beloved.
Peter characterizes godly love in three ways.
It is SINCERE. Pretending to love someone does not meet God’s standards. Hypocrisy must never enter in. Scripture condemns as sin deliberate falsehood in all its forms. Acting in loving ways to deceive someone is a vice, not a virtue.
It is brotherly. The original language was actually gender neutral on this point, so modern translations who render it “brotherly and sisterly love” are not giving into “political correctness,” they are simply being more accurate. This word refers to our church; our brothers and sisters in faith. We tend to put a lot of attention on family at home, but in the Bible, our primary family is our church family. Our brothers and sisters in faith deserve our best love.
Love comes DEEPLY, FROM THE HEART. SINCERE LOVE is honest, which is a virtue. But deep love goes further, arising from emotions and values that are central to our character.
Small talk and superficial acts of kindness come pretty easily; especially of the object of our love is someone that’s easy for us to love. Surface-level love doesn’t require much of us and doesn’t risk much either. On the other hand, deep love can be difficult and carries the emotional risks of exposure and rejection. No wonder it doesn’t come naturally and is infrequent (especially between men).
- The Church is marked by eternality. (23-25)
One vice typical to human nature is impatience. We prefer a quick fix to problems, immediate gratification, and instant everything.
What Peter makes clear in vs. 23-25 is that those who are BORN AGAIN are to be characterized by a view of eternity that determines our daily decisions. Peter expresses this point in two ways.
First, those born again are NOT OF PERISHABLE SEED, BUT IMPERISHABLE. Our life as believers must be dominated by God’s perspective, His big picture, eternal point of view. When we were born into this world, we were given a PERISHABLE body, a life of limits. When we are BORN AGAIN, we are given the promise of a new body, an eternal life. Spiritual maturity is having our thinking and behaving more and more determined by a heavenly, eternal, perspective and less by an earthly, temporary one.
Second, this change from earthly to eternal is a life-long one. It is only possible THROUGH THE LIVING AND ETERNAL WORD OF GOD. The Bible is our most specific and accessible source of information about God. We would not know what to believe or how to be saved apart from what the word tells us. Jesus is also referred to as the Word, so Peter may be making a reference to Jesus in this verse. Both possibilities are equally true, for we need the Bible’s witness in order to know Jesus. Following his teaching in v. 23, Peter makes use of the WORD OF GOD, quoting Isaiah 40:6-8 in vs. 24+25.
Church life must be Christ-like.
I can’t approach the topic of brotherly love without mentioning Laurel and Hardy. To me, they are an emblem of brotherhood. When we had our sabbatical in England almost 30 years ago, we dedicated an afternoon to the small Laurel and Hardy Museum in Ulverston, the birthplace of Stan Laurel.
As I learned recently, there is an anecdote from their lives that proves their devotion to one another. Their last performance together was on May 17, 1954. Oliver Hardy had been stricken by a heart attack which ended his acting career. He died three years later. Though he survived Oliver Hardy by eight years, Stan Laurel refused all offers to appear on stage or screen without his partner. In addition, throughout that time he kept writing new material for the comedy team as if they were still together. That is an example of great dedication and friendship.
I offer Stan and Ollie as emblems of brotherly love because what made their comedy work was that their characters were polar opposites of one another. Human nature is such that we tend to belittle or exclude others who are different from us. Christ’s nature is just the opposite. Remember how some people complained because Jesus included tax collectors and sinners in His circle? Remember how He started a conversation with a Samaritan woman?
That’s how Christians are supposed to be, especially in our relationships with each other. The love of Christ compels us to draw as wide a circle as possible, loving as many people as deeply as possible, opening the gates of heaven in our daily living.