Summary: How are we to live in the light of the end times? We're to be disciplined, clear-minded so we can pray. We’re to love one another at full strength. We’re to serve one another with whatever gift God gives us.
Repent! The End is Near! It’s one of those cheap laughs that people get at the expense of Christians. Some Christians at least. You see it in cartoons, usually on a sign-board held by a man with a long beard wearing a white robe and sandals. And of course there are many variations of the mad man predicting the end.
But in fact it’s no laughing matter is it? We don’t believe the end is coming because we’re out of touch with reality. On the contrary, we believe that God is involved with the world in a real way, that God is in control of his creation. We believe that He’s revealed his intention to bring judgement and justice on this world and to bring in a new creation at a time that he’s set.
And we believe that if the end really is near then we’d better get ready for it before it’s too late. That’s what Peter has to say in this passage that we’re looking at today. He says: “The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers.”
But do we believe it? If we believe this is true then what difference is it making to our life together and our life in the world? It should be making a huge difference shouldn’t it? We all know what a difference it makes when we know that something is coming to an end, that the time is short. If you’ve ever moved from one job to another you’ll know what a difference it makes to your commitment to your old job. You go through the motions; you do what you have to but no more, because you know that whatever you do probably won’t last. When the Archbishop visited Broughton Rd the year before last he commented on how run down the buildings were and of course I explained that we were planning to leave the site in the next few years so it wasn’t worth spending money on maintenance. On the other hand if you’re planning to sell your home you gladly spend money painting and tidying up the garden because you know that it’ll add value to your property. You see, when you know that the end is near it affects how you think and act.
So if we believe that the end of all things is near how should that affect our behaviour? What sort of things should we be thinking about? What sort of things should we be doing?
Peter says “be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers.” Or, “be clear-minded and self-controlled.” That is, be watchfully waiting for the Lord’s return, living realistically, being aware of what’s going on, seeing the issues clearly, so that your prayers can be focused, so you’re not distracted by the stress of living in a hostile world, so you’re prayers are maintained in times of testing.
Now I think there’s a connection between disciplining ourselves for the sake of our prayers and what follows. You see what would be the content of the sort of prayers people pray who are living in the last days? What do people pray when they know they’re facing a challenge? There’s a few VCE students who might be praying hard at the moment? “Lord help me to get through.” “Lord, help me to concentrate.” “Lord help me to be well prepared.” For Christians thinking about the end times it’ll be about surviving persecution. It might be asking for opportunities to tell as many people as possible about Jesus before it’s too late. And if that’s what you’re praying about, then isn’t it reasonable to expect that your life will be shaped by those things? What we pray for is probably what we’ll be working towards in our lives together and in the world. And so in verses 7 to 11 he talks about the sort of behaviour that they need to have as the last days draw near: showing love, and using their gifts.
He says we’re to maintain constant love. Another translator suggests we’re to love one another at full strength. That is, our love mustn’t be half-hearted. Rather it’s to stretch out to encompass all people. In Ephesians Paul says “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love ,18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” That’s the sort of love we’re to have: love whose width and length and height and depth can’t be measured. And why? Because love covers a multitude of sins. How else can we accept others when we discover their failings. How else can we go to those who treat the gospel or us with disdain and offer them God’s free gift of eternal life? How else can we stand to be part of a church that’s filled with so many people who are so different from us? How else can we do as Jesus told Peter, and forgive our brother or sister 70 times 7? We can only do it with the love of Christ in our hearts.