“8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” (2 Peter 1:8-9–ESV)
In his book The First King of Shannara Terry Brooks tells of a battle between a contingent of badly outnumbered elves and an army of rock trolls, gnomes, and other evil creatures. The elves had cunningly set a variety of traps in a valley where they would meet this oncoming army. There they planned to meet, fight, and then retreat from this enemy. The elves left small flags to guide them through the traps they had set for use when it became time to fall back from the battle. The flags were part of the strategy of how they maintained their smaller fighting force as an effective one.
Christians are not immune from the pitfalls of life. Christians may know the importance of Jesus Christ unto their salvation and their ultimate home. Traps, though, are set in the wilderness of life. To negotiate through these traps Peter said there were flags, so to speak, which show the way through to safety. In verses 5, 6, and 7 were 8 flags that show the way through.
While this type of analogy has appeal unless it is installed in one’s life it does nothing. Before being installed in one’s life one must consider their own goals and motivations in life. Of prime importance is the question: Does one want to be effective and fruitful in the knowledge of Jesus Christ? Is effectivity IN the knowledge of Jesus Christ the priority for one’s life? Is this priority higher than all else or does it rather stand alongside (or beneath?) other priorities? The answer to these questions is paramount to Christian maturity. The ladder of maturity that Peter nicely structures here is a satisfying little package, but it is a package easily read and acknowledged for its structure but not so easily taken to heart.
The battle is fought in the daily experience. It happens with desires while standing in the kitchen or sitting in the living room. The battle happens when something is wanted but cannot be had. James says that wanting and not having can lead to killing and coveting. The things cannot be had because of wrong motives, pleasure motives rather than godliness motives.
Another analogy that may be applied is that of a contractor who possess nuance and knowledge of house building, but who is not building houses1. A Christian may possess nuance and knowledge of Jesus Christ and not be effective in life. Life without love (the 8th step on this ladder) is a falling short life. It is an ineffective life. Paul called such a life an echo: a resounding gong; a clanging symbol2.
If one desires to be effective and productive in the living styles of Jesus Christ then one must possess the 8 traits mentioned here and must grow in them. The perseverance or self-control of a young person often falls far short of what that same person will have later in life. Maturity is like that. Peter tells us of the steps. We must still apply them.
Some Key Concepts:
- Christians are not immune from pitfalls
- Does the Christian want to be effective in the knowledge of Jesus Christ?
- Analogies are useless unless the moral gets installed
- The struggle is in the daily experience
- Life without love is a falling short life
- Maturity is just that, something that develops