If you were watching a movie or even viewing a really well-produced TV commercial that featured a character who was morally centered, self-controlled, patient, exuding genuine love, would you expect that character to be an evangelical Christian? Not likely. In my lifetime, icons of spirituality have been Mormon, Buddhist, Native American–but hardly ever biblical Christians.
Here are three verses that, if taken to heart, would transform an individual into the type of spiritual example you would want to imitate. First, Peter says that our effort is a response to God’s promises, a supplement to faith, not the means of a relationship with him. Then, he begins his (ostensibly top-of-mind) list of virtues, beginning with moral excellence. Here is the holiness every Christian is called to and must pursue with “every effort.” Morality, however, is not an end in itself. For the Christian, The Good Lifeis not equivalent to the moral life. Christianity is not moralism.
Peter immediately adds knowledge to holy living, and we know that a biblical view of truth ties together knowledge and obedience (1 Peter 1:22). It is not enough to say, “I’m a doer,” or “I’m a thinker.” The real Christian is both; thinking and doing are two sides of the same coin. Note that knowledge does not lead to pride, but rather self-control, self-control to the ability to endure hardship. And that kind of character can be described as godly (God-like).
But these virtues could be attained and practiced individually, for the most part, in isolation except for the endurance of persecution. Peter does not let his (inspired) vision of the complete Christian end there. Like Paul’s practical applications of the Christian life unfolding in the context of relationships, Peter presses us to “brotherly affection”–the household of faith coming first–and love for everyone. Thus the virtues of true faith have their vertical and their horizontal dimensions.
Now, think of how the one just described would look to the world. Out of step? Yes, probably. But if truly potent and genuine, such a virtuous man or woman would be so useful, so productive (v. 8) that their life would be worth imitating and imaging (in stories and movie characters).
Lord, we need Christ-followers like this. I need to be like this.