• The Explore the Bible lesson for Sept. 25 focuses on 1 Peter 2:11-20.
Now and then, taking a trip somewhere, we find ourselves on Interstate 20 running east to west across what once was No-Man’s-Land in Texas—Comancheria. Occasionally, I’ll take note of the collapsing remains of an old Stuckey’s convenience store.
Back in the day, on vacation, Dad would steer our 1957 two-tone blue-and-white two-door Ford Fairlane off the road and into the drive at a Stuckey’s. He and Mom let us spend whatever we had left from our meager vacation allowance on some piece of junk we thought was a treasure. I have no idea where any of that roadside treasure might be anymore.
I’ve often wondered what my net worth might be if I had saved and invested those few dollars over the years. No telling! The fact of the matter is that, not thinking of a future we couldn’t even imagine, we weren’t interested in preparing for what might come—only what was most immediately at hand.
It was in that spirit the Apostle Peter addressed his readers. “I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). It’s so easy to objectify those words of instruction.
“Aliens and strangers” Peter called the Jesus-followers. No matter where we may be on the road at any time, we’re just passing through. We’re meant to travel light. Overstuffed backpacks become distractions to the true purpose of our journey and cause us to expend precious energy meant for better things.
Abstain from desires of the flesh
Desires of the flesh? What’s that? I mean, other than a temptation to eat an extra helping of my mother-in-law’s dressing at Thanksgiving. Who could resist that sage-laced cornbread sopped in turkey fat, with a side of over-buttered mashed potatoes slathered in giblet gravy?
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I think of ancient things when I read Peter’s words about “desires of the flesh”—ancient idols and temples of idolatry filled with prostitutes. I don’t think of Stuckey’s, the places that keep calling to us from the journey, enticing us to spend our money frivolously.
The problem for most of us is not that we have chosen the wrong journey in life. Even if we did, Christ has chosen for us another way and redeemed the journey. Yet, the roadside attractions still call to us. It’s not that we’re wasting our lives in terms of direction, only in terms of discretion. A good life moving in the right direction still can be wasted by throwing it away a minute or a dollar at a time on things that ultimately don’t matter.
In a day and time when democracy and free elections had yet to be conceived, Peter encouraged those on the Jesus journey: “Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge” (1 Peter 2:12).
We can argue all we want with those who believe differently. Or, we can let our walking do all the talking. Is there any question about which has the louder and more authoritative voice?
The ultimate goal of all this is that, when the time come, the accusations of others will fall silent up against the ways in which our lives honored and glorified God. More often than not, it is not heroic deeds that make the headlines that honor God. It’s the little roadside distractions we pass by on the way to something more honorable.
A penny tossed is a penny lost
One of my college classmates was quite proud that he came from a wealthy family. One day, as we were walking across campus, he took the change out of his pocket, sorted through it and threw all the pennies on the ground. He was trying to prove to us how lacking in value a penny was, compared to what he thought was more worthy pocket change. To him, the space a penny consumed was a waste. I’ve often wondered what became of him.
Now, with each passing year, I find myself wondering about the pennies-worth of time and life and energy and thought I simply threw away on little distractions. The cost of a college education these days is at least questionably immoral. The cost of throwing away a life, one penny at a time, is even more so.
Peter goes so far as to say that living a holy-thrifty way includes abiding by, enduring and even honoring earthbound authority. God at least allowed it for the sake of human community. Not all human authority honors God. That is what it is. Those who follow Jesus can still honor God—even all the more so—against the backdrop of immorality.
It’s important to remember that, when we choose to pass up the roadside distractions, all we need do is look in the lane next to us. We’re not the only ones making the hard choices. The road trip is a family affair! We’ll all be glad we made the journey together.
Glen Schmucker is a hospice and pediatric hospital chaplain in Fort Worth.