13Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. 14Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. 15Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; 16for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
17If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. 18You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake.21Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God. 1 Peter 1:13-21
In the earliest days of Alcoholics Anonymous, before there was a big book and 12 steps, there was a movement in the church to reclaim and recapture the heartbeat of the earliest church. Dr. Frank Buchman, a Lutheran minister, was the founder of what was initially known as the First Century Christian Fellowship, later as the Oxford Group.
It was a simple plan – gathering in small groups, reading the Bible, surrendering their lives to God, and devoting themselves to what they called the four Absolutes.
Absolute honesty. Absolute purity. Absolute unselfishness. And absolute love.
Dr. Buchman, building on earlier work by Robert Speer, believed that these four moral absolutes are what drove Jesus and his followers in finding their way through life. They directed their decisions and behaviors.
People in AA today are often quick to say that their goal is progress, not perfection. But that isn’t how it started. It started with the desire for absolute perfection in attaining and living by the four absolutes. Of course, no one could do that. But that wasn’t the point. People were taught to strive for perfection – and no sooner does one do that then they quickly realized they couldn’t do it on their own. They needed God’s help. The resulting humility, and the continued surrender to God, was the point.
I think this is exactly what Peter is after here in calling us to discipline, obedience, and holiness. It is much like friendship – we don’t get friends by wanting them, we get them by being friendly. Friends are the byproduct we discover along the way. So it is with the grace of God. It isn’t an idea but a power that amazes us.
Let us pray: Like a loving parent, discipline us, O God. Make us mindful of the little gods who are not gods – including our own selfishness and pride – that disconnect us from you and those around us. We let go today and trust that you will take care of us and our needs as we focus only on surrender and being useful to others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.