April 23, 2018
2 Peter 1:5-7
5 In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
As a pastor I’ve ministered over my fair share of funerals. None are easy, but the most challenging are the funerals for someone I didn’t know. But every time, family and friends step up to let me know who their loved one was. Not what they did, but who they were. The obituary tells me the vital statistics: where they were born, went to school, worked, hobbies, etc. That’s the stuff they did. How they showed love to their family, courage during illness, compassion to strangers… that’s who they were, and those are the stories people remember.
The writer David Brooks calls this “resume virtues” versus “eulogy virtues.” He calls resume virtues the skills a person brings to the marketplace; our external achievements. The eulogy virtues he calls the ones that are talked about at your funeral: were you kind, brave, honest, faithful, capable of deep love. Brooks argues that we spend so much of our lives pursuing resume virtues that we end up “lacking a moral vocabulary.”
In Peter’s text today, he seems to be setting up the same argument. “Supplement your faith,” he writes, offering a domino effect of virtues: moral excellence with knowledge; knowledge with self-control; self-control with patient endurance; patient endurance with godliness; godliness with brotherly affection; brotherly affection with love for everyone.
Now I’ll tease a little spoiler alert here: Soon Peter is going to tell us he knows he’s about to die. This is his “last letter.” In facing death, his encouragement to the churches is to grow in the “eulogy virtues.”
But Peter’s motivation is more than just, “so they’ll have something good to say about you when you die.” No, the foundation of his challenge is, “In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises.” And what is the “this” we’re in view of?
It is the promise to share in God’s divine nature, which is found in Jesus Christ. We are not pursuing these virtues for the sake of being virtuous, but of being holy. We are not earning our salvation here… that has already been given to us by grace through faith.
But we do have a role to play in who we are becoming, and we can only fulfill that role through Jesus Christ. If the text we looked at on Friday was a definition of prevenient grace, then today’s is the move to sanctifying grace, leading us in to holy love.
In light of all this, I’m especially drawn to the last line of today’s text, the culmination of these growing virtues: “…godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.”I imagine Peter, writing with his death fast approaching, thinking about the Upper Room, when Jesus’ death was fast approaching. John 13:1 says that in that moment, “[Jesus] showed them the full extent of his love.”
Then he washed all the disciples feet, even though at that time they were competing with each other to see who was more important or planning betrayal. After all, they were pursuing the resume virtues when they argued over who got to sit at Jesus’ right hand and left hand.
In the midst of that moment Jesus says, “A new command I give you: love each other just as I have loved you.” (John 13:34). And then, he gives up his life.
And that is the aim of holiness: No dissonance between our eulogies and our resumes. That our eulogy virtues are “dying to self,” so that our resume virtues may be “made alive in Christ.”
To be continued…
Heavenly Father, what does it profit me to gain a complete resume, but lose my soul? Let the virtues of dying to myself and being made alive in Christ lead me to profound holy love for you, for others, and even for myself. In Jesus name. Amen.
What do you consider your resume virtues, and what do you consider your eulogy virtues? Do you see a dissonance between them? What is the Holy Spirit possibility for you in your lists?