Sunday, February 26, 2023
Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.
Yesterday, we saw Peter emphasize our need to live knowing that Jesus' return is near. That means we must live each day with a sense of holy urgency. We must not waste the time we have.  Today, we return to this theme and notice several expected words of exhortation that seem to go with living in hostile times and preparing for Jesus' return:
1. Be on guard.
2. Stand firm in the faith.
3. Be courageous.
4. Be strong.
These robust commands urge our readiness for warfare against Satan and his angels of darkness.  The battle is at hand. We must prepare!
But, were you a little surprised with that fifth command?
5. And do everything in with love.
And, notice that the command to live with love isn't just pointed in the direction of the people on "our side"! Everything we do should be done with love! Our enemy, Satan, the roaring lion looking to devour people and their eternal futures, is on the prowl.  He is our enemy. People are not. Unbelievers are not. Those who believe in other gods or religions are not. Unbelievers and those who hate us are the most important target for our love because they don't have the hope we have. Notice what Peter said to early believers facing persecution for their faith:
Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don't worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!
Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. 
Love is our most disarming weapon against our real enemy, Satan. Our love for God is essential.  Our love for our neighbors is vitally important.  And, our love for each other is crucial to our survival and our witness.  So, don't think that Paul went soft all of a sudden in his list of key preparations to triumph over Satan. He didn't. The battle over lies, hatred, and murder — the key attributes of the evil one  — is going to be won by our love. Specifically, won by our loving relationships with others, whether brothers and sisters in God's family, neighbors around us who have not come to faith, and those who hate us and long to see dead. Remember, the greatest missionary in the history of Christianity began as a hater of Jesus and his followers, but his heart was turned by the example of someone he had killed  and the grace of a man on his probable hit list who came and shared Christ with him. 
All of the preparations and weapons Paul listed are important for us as we face challenging times and battle the hosts of hell. However, building loving relationships is our greatest weapon against evil and our most remarkable testimony to goodness! Remember what the apostle Paul said:
Three things will last forever — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love. 
And, Paul didn't just know this because the Holy Spirit inspired this truth in him; he had experienced this powerful weapon of grace at work in his life from the examples of those he persecuted!
Dear Father, I confess that I am often more attracted to powerful weapons to protect and defend me and those I love. My first reaction is often to return anger for anger and threat for threat. I am praying for the Holy Spirit to pour an extra measure of Your love in my heart * to conform me more to Jesus' character, especially His love for those who hated Him. ^ Please, open my heart to believe that love is the only weapon to disarm hate and evil. Please give me the wisdom # to know how best to display and use this love to protect the vulnerable and disarm the haters. In Jesus' name, I ask for this help. Amen.
Together in Christ is a daily devotional that focuses on what Scripture teaches about godly living in relationships.
'Together in Christ' is written by Phil Ware.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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