Word Magazine September 1965 Page 3-4
THE ARCH OF TRIUMPHAL CHRISTIAN LIVING
By Very Rev. Father Michael Baroudy
Of all the disciples of our Lord, Simon Peter was a man whose life was colorful, picturesque. Some might think that this description is rather fanciful of a man whose early manhood was spent as a fisherman. But the gospel’s records substantiate the above description. Peter was outspoken, impulsive, dramatic and even erratic at times.
After the call of Christ to Peter, the outbursts of his lively character manifests itself on many occasions. The first one we note was on the occasion when, at the behest of our Lord, he let down the net after a very disappointing night of struggle without catching any fish. Having now been remunerated with a great catch of fish, Peter was startled and dramatically prostrated and cried, “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man.” He felt that he was unworthy to be near a grandiose character as Jesus.
Another outburst of his reaction came into play after Jesus made the statement, “Unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the son of man, there won’t be any life in you.” This declaration more than any other caused many of his followers to refrain from following him saying, “How can this man give us his body to eat and his blood to drink?” It was at this critical juncture that Jesus challenged his twelve disciples asking, “Will ye go also?” to which Peter replied, “To whom shall we go, Lord, and the word of life is with thee.”
One of the most significant statements of Peter was in Caesarea Phillippi when after having spent two years with his disciples, Jesus wanting to probe these men’s knowledge of himself asked, “Whom do men say that I am?” They replied, “Some say thou art John the Baptist, some say Elias, and others say Jeremiah.” But Jesus probed their faith in him further by declaring, “Whom do you say I am?” Peter, in a moment of vivid insight declared, “Thou are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
The space lacks us to enumerate all the episodes that took place in the life of Simon Peter but we shall concern ourselves with the most important ones. Peter’s worst blunder occurred when he denied his Master, Jesus, three times. But he shed penitential tears when he realized the enormity of his fall. There was however some extenuating circumstances. It was a very bitter dose to swallow that the Messiah, the hope of Judaism and the desire of all nations to offer no resistance, to put up no fight when apprehended, he whom they believed to subdue their enemies under their feet.
But how completely different was the picture when with the resurrection and the appearance of Jesus to the heart-broken disciples several times — how transformed was Peter when he saw Jesus alive after death when on that never-to-be-forgotten encounter with Jesus on the shore of the Lake of Galilee, when now Jesus would probe the heart of Peter with the thrice-repeated question, “Simon, lovest thou me more than these?” That is, do you love me more than these disciples, the fishing occupation, the fishing tackles and the rest of the paraphernalia. Peter’s replies were uttered with all sincerity and tenderness, “Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.” Jesus’ rejoinder was, “Feed my sheep, feed my lamb.” Prove your love to me by serving my cause in feeding my sheep, the erring, lost sheep of human beings who need to be helped in living a life that would honor God.
Peter indeed proved his undying love for the Master when on the day of Pentecost he attacked the hypocrisy and the infidelity of the church hierarchy in telling them that they were the ones who wickedly engineered the death of Jesus, the Messiah of prophecy but that “God raised Him from the dead whereof we are witnesses.” On another occasion Peter preached another sermon
to the Gentiles who also received the Holy Spirit through faith in the Redeemer.
But we are to concern ourselves in this article relative to some of Peter’s pronouncements we find in his second letter to the scattered Christians throughout the Roman Empire. Peter was at this juncture of his life an old man, an intrepid and unabashed warrior of the cause of Jesus Christ who wanted to fortify the faith of these men and women with his counsel and experience.
In second Peter, chapter one, verses five through seven, we find this statement. “Add to your faith virtue and to virtue knowledge and to knowledge self-control, and to self-control fortitude, and to fortitude piety, and to piety brotherly kindness and to brotherly kindness love.”
A study of the above text shows that this declaration of Peter may justifiably be called the Arch of Triumphant Christian Living. It is composed of eight stones. Faith is the basic stone in the arch. Peter was writing to the Christians whose faith had been badly battered. They were severely persecuted because they believed and confessed that Jesus was the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. This of course angered the reigning Caesar Nero who took that to be blasphemy so he set out to obliterate Christianity from the face of the earth. Consequently, he ordered the Christians to be thrown to the lions. That was one of the great sports of that time to watch how these poor godly people went to their death. They lived in catacombs under the streets of Rome to save themselves from this blood-thirsty tyrant. Hitler tried to annihilate the Jews but despotic Nero tried to do the same with the Christians.
Peter wanted these persecuted men and women to understand that being a Christian does not make a person immune from trials and tribulations. Said he in another place, “Hereunto are ye called that Christ suffered for us leaving us an example that we should follow in his footsteps.”
Further Peter advises, “Supplement your faith with virtue.” In other words, faith must manifest itself in good deeds, God-honoring, God-glorifying. Virtue is a word which means goodness. Virtue is the antithesis of vice. Christians are living representatives in the world and as such they are, or should be, the light of the world and the salt of the earth. The Bible lists the Christian virtues as follows: “Love, joy, peace, longsuffering gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.
The world today is seething with trouble; a social revolution is taking place here in America. Discontent is everywhere in evidence, but there is little or no evidence of the faith once delivered to the Saints. We are drifting with the tide of materialism which is threatening to make out of us spiritual anaemics. We major in minors and minor in majors. There is nothing that could or would save this poor world of ours except adequate, victorious faith which declares to all and sundry that God still reigns in the lives and affairs of men.
Peter further affirms that virtue should be supplemented with knowledge. The kind of knowledge indicated here is spiritual, the knowledge of God as the Father and Jesus Christ as the Savior. The sacred writer points out in another place that, “The fear of God is the crown of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Almighty is understanding.” In the light of what the Bible teaches, whatever a person may attain, insofar as worldly knowledge is concerned, unless it is crowned, fortified and edified by the knowledge of God, would in the last analysis profit nothing. How is that knowledge attained? By earnestly seeking life’s higher values, by having adequate, unquestioning faith in God and in Jesus Christ as the One who paid the price for our redemption. Peter concludes this letter by affirming, “Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Peter further advises, “Supplement your knowledge with self-control” and self-control has a large place in the Christian economy. It is possible for a person of vast spiritual knowledge to be infused with spiritual pride and may become Pharisaic, arrogant and even contemptuous of others. It is an attitude that we should diligently guard against. Peter was fully aware of what a sense of spiritual pride did to him personally. In the Upper Room the night when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, to Jesus’ remarks, “All of you will be offended in me tonight,” Peter’s answer was.” If all would leave thee, I will not.” That remark was prompted by spiritual pride and made him within a few hours deny with curses and an oath that he never knew Jesus.
We are told further to supplement self-control with fortitude which means our convictions must be well-established, deep-rooted so that we would not be swayed by any wind of doctrine or ism which savors not of the truth revealed in the Scriptures.
Oh, how we need to be fortified with the kind of convictions that the religion we profess is divinely given and inspired! We should be steadfast, unmovable by materialistic concepts tinged with atheistic philosophies which are widespread, corrupting the thinking of most people, especially our younger generation. The youth in this crucial time of history is confused, perturbed. They hear and see so much of the present-day corruption and words which tend to pull them away from their moorings so that they become drifters on the highways and byways of life. Parents should exercise eternal vigilance on their household in seeing that their offspring’s entrusted to them by Kind Providence are provided by the kind of spiritual nourishment adequate to make them wise unto salvation, capable of taking care of themselves and go out of their homes to bless and enrich the world.
We are admonished further to supplement self-control with piety. Piety is a quality of the soul which manifests itself in sincere devotion to God and to His church — sincere, God-fearing way of life which never falters from the path of righteousness and the truth. There is a danger that our manifestation of religion, prayer, Bible-reading, church attendance become mechanical, meaningless, a front, to be seen of men, of the carnal variety. Many people today within the fold of the church are suspicious, irreligious, masquerading in the name of religion. That type of religionist is seeking salvation from the world and not salvation of the world. Jesus our Lord was most compassionate with the down-trodden, the underprivileged and the sinners, but unsparing in his criticism of the hypocrites and pretenders who manifested a type of piety that was un-Christian, revolting to say the least.
We are further instructed to supplement piety with brotherly kindness. St. Paul, in his letter to the church at Ephesus said, “Be ye kind one toward another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.”
Today we note the absence of brotherly kindliness among Christian people. Even people belonging to the same church are critical of one another, unkind, uncharitable and un-brotherly. Gossip, jealousy and friction are in evidence within the ranks of the church.
One of the greatest sins — regardless of what other sins we may have, is man’s inhumanity to man. Note, for instance, the violence, the intrigue, and the exploitation of man for selfish, ungodly purposes.
Last but not least, is that brotherly kindness should be supplemented by love. We are living in a period of vehement emotion, seething passions have taken hold of us and we are in danger of becoming un-Christian in our emotional life. It should not be so bad if we were merely hysterical about it, but we are likely to hate, harm and hurt those with whom we violently differ.
Hate does not stop with our enemy. It literally releases poison within our own bodies and sets up a chemistry which interferes with normal functioning of our physical being. It also leaves a scar on a man’s soul and will disintegrate his whole personality unless it is driven out by some higher emotion. “Love casteth out fear,” understanding expels intolerance, and only hope can drive away despair.
Jesus’ technique in dealing with an enemy was first to find out why anyone had become a foe and then remove the causes. Let us follow his example. Let us find out the causes and remove them, especially those that root back in our own personality. So we see that faith is the basic principle of triumphant Christian living and love is the perfection thereof.