Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

The impossible gap

FOR THOSE OCCASIONS when I’m tempted to start thinking that I am doing pretty well in the living-a-godly-life department, a couple of verses from the apostle Peter’s first letter act like a waft of smelling salts, awakening me to reality.

In 1 Peter 1:14-15, he wrote: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.””

How holy is that? Mostly holy, except for when any reasonable person might be expected to (fill in the blank)? Nope, holy as God. That is, utterly and entirely without ever a shadow of wavering.

So much for my best efforts.

This absolutely impossible gap between what God requires and what I am capable of (which points to my need for a Savior and the empowering of the Holy Spirit) is echoed in Jesus’ teachings.

Consider that He warned His followers against greed and covetousness.

Just what did they have to be greedy and covetous about back then?

They didn’t have model homes.

They didn’t have designer clothes.

They didn’t have cars.

They didn’t have gym and country club memberships.

They didn’t have exotic vacations.

They didn’t have much of anything except some basic tools, utensils and a roof over their head. And yet Jesus warned against greed and covetousness.

If it was a danger for them then, how much more for us today with our choice-chocked supermarkets, our home shopping channels, and our 24/7 marketing?

Consider too that He warned His followers against sexual impurity.

Just how much of an issue was that?

They didn’t have giant billboards showing lots of skin.

They didn’t have hypersexualized music videos and marketing campaigns going 24/7.

They didn’t have pornography accessible at the click of a button.

They didn’t have a mobile, fluid society that made unfaithfulness fashionable and easy.

And yet Jesus warned them against lust and sexual impurity.

If it was a danger for them then, how much more so for us today?

Of course there is no difference in the human propensity to sin between 2,000 years ago and now. However, there is a vast difference in the ways that bent can be lured and fed.

It seems to me that the seriousness, the weightiness of Jesus’ words somehow stand out more starkly when they are seen against the limited background of their day, rather than lost against all the words and images of today’s buy-this, crave-that society.

But if He meant them then, He certainly still means them now. And if there was no hope for the people back then to live as they were supposed to, without God’s empowering, how much less so today.

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