One of the things that I get to do in my church is participate in leading the high school and middle school students in our semi weekly meetings. Interacting with these students in this way is pretty challenging on my patience at times, but it is also significantly rewarding both mentally and spiritually. During our most recent meeting we were reading and discussing the first chapter in 2 Peter, when we came to a point in the discussion that challenged the way many of us thought about life as a Christian.
According to verse 2 Peter 1:5-10, if we as Christians supplement our faith with goodness, and our goodness with knowledge, and our knowledge with self control, and our self control with endurance, and our endurance with godliness, and our godliness with brotherly affection, and our brotherly affection with love all while making every effort to confirm our faith and identity in Jesus then we will never stumble in our faith. Never. Not again. At all. Never is a strong word and it seems pretty unlikely that we will never stumble or sin as Christians, but I’m not trying to convince you of my viewpoint, I am just reading from the Bible. In order to keep from ever stumbling or faltering in our faith we must not only possess the qualities listed, but have them in increasing measure (according to verse 8 of that chapter). This is a huge request, but the promise still remains in verse 10 “you will never stumble” (emphasis added by me).
As encouraging as this promise is, there could be a case made that “stumble” does not mean sin, it means to fall away from faith in God or something less than sinning because no one is perfect. I believe that the God (through Peter) is telling us that it is possible for Christians to go on living their lives without sinning if they are doing the things listed in the previous verses. If you disagree on my interpretation, feel free to let me know, but my faith allows me to believe that God would make it possible for us to live life without sinning again. However, this interpretation of scripture is not why I write this post. It was my personal reflection on this idea of living the Christian life without ever stumbling (or sinning) that I felt worth sharing.
Starting with the assumption that it is possible for a Christian to go on living his or her life without ever sinning again, so long as he or she is living in the prescribed manner, my first thought was that I might be able to satisfy these prescribed actions if I sat at home all day everyday concentrating on nothing more than these things. Simply put, if I were a hermit I would be able to live life without sinning. I would be (seemingly) free from distraction, temptation, frustration, manipulation or anything else that would lead to me stumbling in my faith. Then I realized that while this would seem true and might even be partially true, I don’t believe that God desires His people to be hermits. Rather than pull away from the world to look for God, I think God wants us to engage the world and interact with all the things and people in it with the knowledge that we possess about Him. God wants us to live abundant and vibrant lives which requires us to go out into the world instead of drawing away from it.
The catch is that going out into the world and engaging and participating in it puts the Christian in a place that does not understand or encourage his faith. When God asks or commands us to go into the world it requires us to trust that God will make it possible to do the things that will lead us and others back to Him. While it would be easier to not sin while living the life of a hermit, excellence in morality is only the prerequisite and aide in God’s true desire for our lives.
Maybe I am wrong, but when I read the God’s words to us I see a God that wants us to desire Him and please Him instead of just trying to not disappoint Him. For this reason I am actually in the position to lead our high school and middle school meetings. I have not actually received any formal training on how to lead this young students, but I have had several mentors model what it means to lead students in ministry. It would be easier to study to and get a degree or certificate in youth ministry and in 3 or 4 years be able to lead these students in the “right” way, but I honestly think that God would rather me trust Him and trust the people that He has already put in my life to equip me to do this work. The former option takes time and gives me confidence in myself and my education, the latter option takes faith in God’s ability to use me despite me and a reliance on the promise of forgiveness when I fall short.
End Note: I write this not to boast in my faith, but to encourage you to walk in yours. More often than I care to admit I am left wondering whether these student meetings are making an impact in any of the students lives’.