Click here to read 1 Peter 4:7-11.
“The end of all things is near” sounds like something out of a disaster movie. It sounds like something said to scare people. But to a Christian this isn’t doom and gloom. TV and Hollywood just don’t seem to get this. “The end” in films is a disaster, it’s destruction. But in the Bible, “the end” is glory. For Christians “the end of all things” does not mean destruction or doom, it means fulfilment. When we talk about the end of something, we could mean the closing or finishing of something, but that word can also mean the point or purpose of something. Like when we talk about “the ends justify the means” or we say “to what end” someone is doing something. It’s even in the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:
Q 1: What is the chief end of man?
Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.
What that question means by the word “end” is “purpose”. What is the chief purpose of human beings? What is the main point of people? Humanity’s chief purpose is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. So, “end” is not a bad, scary word.
The culmination of all things, the purpose of all things is at hand. All that needs to be done for God’s great plan of salvation has been done. Jesus has come, he has performed his rescue, dying for his people on the cross. Jesus has been resurrected. Jesus has ascended to heaven to reign. The Holy Spirit has been poured out on his people. Everything has been put in place. Christ can return in glory at any moment to make all things new and to put away evil, death, mourning and tears forever. Our role is not to just wait around for that, but to be alert, to pray and to be useful to our King.
Yes, there will be judgement, but in Christ, God has already declared us righteous because Jesus suffered in our place. So, for us, thanks to Jesus, the end is glory and joy. Since the end is near, let’s stay the course, let’s remain faithful. The finish line is near, so let’s keep going.
Above all, Peter says, we must love each other deeply.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
(1 Peter 4:8, NIV (Anglicised, 2011))
The work that the church is called to do in this world we must do together in the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s how God wants us to live: cooperating with one another, each using the gifts that God has given us by his Spirit, each of us a member of the body of Christ in this world. A holy community.
Just because this is a holy community doesn’t mean that we’re a perfect community. Like any community we are a community of sinners. Because we are still sinners there will be falling out, there will be hurt, there will be acts of selfishness. Although this is expected, we don’t have to accept it and surrender to it. We must fight against this with love. If we love one another, we will be less inclined to act in selfish ways that hurt each other. If we love one another, we will be able to forgive one another and reconcile when we fall out, and then we can get back to being that holy community that God calls us to. This is as true in the church as it is in the home. We simply must love each other, there’s no way we can be the church without love.
It’s not easy to forgive. True forgiveness is costly. Forgiveness means deciding not to make someone pay. It doesn’t mean pretending that everything’s okay. It doesn’t mean excusing sins. It doesn’t mean putting up with abusive relationships that endanger you. It means that you have decided that you are not going to make them pay.
If someone owes me money and I forgive them I have decided not to make them pay. But it costs me. Now I end up short however much they owed me. If someone crashes my car and can’t afford to repair it and I forgive them, then I’m the one who must pay. If someone hurts me and I forgive them then that too is a painful and costly process, but it’s the way of Christ.
In the cross of Christ, we see God forgiving us and just how much it cost to do that. The cross is the best picture we have of God’s love for us. God forgave us, but the debt still needed to be paid. On the cross we see God paying that debt himself, we see God’s painful costly forgiveness.
If we are recipients of such a costly forgiveness, then we don’t get to begrudge anyone forgiveness. We don’t get to say that although God has forgiven such a great debt for me, I’m going to make sure you pay for all the little ways you’ve offended me. That’s not an option for those who have received such grace. If we want to call ourselves Christians, then refusal to forgive is not an option.
That means we don’t hold grudges. We don’t grumble, but we show hospitality to one another.
“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
(1 Peter 4:9–11, NIV (Anglicised, 2011))
We have received the grace of God and so we are stewards of that grace. In other words, we must pass it along. Those who have received grace must be gracious. Being hospitable is more than just having guests in your home, which is good really because we can’t have guests in our homes right now. Being hospitable means being kind to strangers, loving those who are not like us.
We are to serve one another with the gifts that God has given us. Whether it’s speaking or serving, we do so in God’s strength and as agents of God so that God will be praised. This is the calling of the church: to do God’s work in God’s strength for God’s glory, If we are going to do that then it needs to be done together. And if we are to be together, then we will need to be forgiving. We are going to need to love one another. There’s no other way.
Our loving Heavenly Father, we thank you for saving us and making us a people. We pray that you would help us to be that people: a people of grace, a people of mercy. Help us to be a gracious community, gracious to one another so that we can show Christ’s grace to the world.
We pray for those who lost jobs or are struggling with their business or finances during this time of increased restrictions. We pray that when this virus passes our economy would bounce back, but not just with more money for the rich. We pray that employment would be restored. We pray for a fair and equitable society for all.
We pray for protection from the virus, especially for those who are most vulnerable. We pray for healing for those who are sick. We pray for your comfort and strength for those who are grieving the loss of loved ones.
Help us to weather this storm we pray. Help those working on the front lines to keep society going. Help those who fight against this virus, caring for and treating people. Help those working to produce medicine and vaccines.
We pray that we would see the end of this soon and be able to enjoy community and fellowship again.
In Jesus’ name we pray,