Pet Peeve

Everybody has one. Even if you don’t like to admit it or talk about it, there is probably one in your life. Of course, you all know what I am talking about. I am talking about phrases and expressions that you hate, words that irritate and annoy you. Does anyone in your life use an expression or phrase that really tweaks you? My wife hates “A.S.A.P.” She doesn’t mind if I say, “As soon as possible,” but heaven forbid I say “A.S.A.P.” or “A-SAP.” It also bothers her if I say “guac” instead of guacamole. I don’t know why – it’s just one of those things that rubs her the wrong way.

Is there any particular phrase or expression that always bothered you? What is it? For me it was hearing people say, “Same difference.” Aaagghhhh! Either it’s the same or it’s different! The only way you have a same difference is if you compare 9 minus 5 and with 10 minus 6. What do 9 – 5 and 10 – 6 have in common? They have the same difference. Other than math, things are the same or they are different – there is no same difference.

There is, however, something to be said for being the same. If everyone shares similar tastes or has similar interests then companies can sell millions of product X. If your product doesn’t fit the mold of “this is what everyone wants,” you don’t sell very many. Some years back my wife and I enjoyed watching American Inventor on tv. Did anybody else ever watch that show? The premise was this – thousands of people bring their inventive creations before a panel of judges and explain why their product is the next great American invention. It’s like American Idol for inventors. One couple had invented a device called the “Tea Brain.” It was a device that allows you to brew loose-leaf tea in your coffee maker. One judge in particular thought that this was an idea that would appeal to millions of people – there is a large and shared interest in tea. Then came another pair of inventors – engineer buddies from who invented a new claw for hanging bikes.

The judge that loved the “Tea Brain” hated this claw. He thought it would not be universal enough to be popular. This is how our capitalistic society trains us to be. Something is good only if it has mass appeal. If something is too unique and doesn’t blend in enough, it should probably be discarded. Unfortunately, the same is often true of how people are treated.

Our modern world likes to pretend that we embrace differences but there is a limitation on how different people will allow you to be. Being different in our culture is embraced until that difference interferes with other people’s actions. Being different in our culture is embraced until that difference makes people feel uncomfortable. Look at issues of faith – you can believe whatever you want to believe and I can believe whatever I want to believe and everything is peaches and cream until one person tells another, “You can’t do that” or “You shouldn’t behave like this.” That’s just crossing the line. You and your weird religious beliefs can’t dictate the way I live my life. The funny thing is, when we really examine the issue, differences aren’t really embraced anyway. Those who are “different” are ostracized, mocked, and mistreated.

I’m sure many of you have a story about the awkward and eccentric kid in high school. Maybe you were that kid. You know who I’m talking about, the kid everyone made fun of and teased. The Napoleon Dynamites of the world.

In my high school his name was John. He was different. He stood out. He didn’t fit the mold created by the masses. I always thought, “Thank God I’m not that awkward and geeky. I don’t want to stand out like that – I want to be an accepted part of the group. I think this is a normal reaction for people of all ages. I don’t want to stand out and have others look down on me – I want to be like everyone else. This is the line of thought that Peter is attacking in his letter.

Peter’s message is as clear today as it was for his church centuries ago –

You have a special calling to be God’s people. Therefore you ought to be different from the rest of the world and be like Christ.

4:1-6 – Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge in with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are no dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.

Peter’s church was a suffering church, but he presents here an idea that we don’t like to accept; present suffering is good for the Christian life. “Say what?!?!? Suffering is good for the Christian life? I don’t believe that. That doesn’t make any sense. If God wanted to make sense, he would say that pleasure is good for the Christian life.” Anyone out there hear me? But I’ll say it again – present suffering is good for the Christian life. I am not saying that God hands out suffering. Peter is not saying that God causes suffering. But suffering has the ability to move us towards God, and Peter patterns human behavior after Jesus’ behavior. If Christ suffered, so can we. So accept suffering, draw close to God, and live for and seek His will.

Peter tells us that we’ve already done enough sin in the past. Now it’s time to live out the calling as His chosen people. We are to be different than we used to be. Notice Peter’s two contrasting time frames: past behavior vs. present and coming behavior. Who we were in the past is no longer who we are in the present and the future because of our encounter with Jesus Christ. Have you seen the movie, Back to the Future?

It’s a classic and one of my favorites. At the beginning of the movie, Marty McFly’s parents are a real mess. They are a mess because they used to be a mess in the past and never changed. Through the course of the movie, Marty travels back in time, has a run-in with his past parents, and then returns to his own time to find that his parents, especially his father, had changed completely. Marty’s dad changed, and who he was in the past was no longer who he was in the future because of his encounter with Marty. Believe it or not, this is what Peter is telling us needs to happen with our own lives. Who we were in the past is no longer who we are supposed to be now because of our encounter with Jesus Christ. We are supposed to be radically different.

Being morally and spiritually different brought abuse to Peter’s church – their old friends didn’t like their new behavior, didn’t understand, and so abused, mocked, and ridiculed the new Christians because of their differences. Like Peter’s church, we have the same responsibility to be different, to stand out from the world and not fit in. It’s okay to be different. No, not just okay – it is what God asks of us – that we be different.

No matter how the world lives, God’s people have a calling to be different, to stand out no matter what the consequences. We don’t need to concern ourselves with their judgment. Peter makes it clear that they will have to give account of their actions and behavior to God. The real question is, are you ready to give account? Are you different? Have gone through a “Back to the Future” transformation, where your current and future actions are different from your past actions?

It’s time to take inventory of your life. Where do stand out from the world? Where do you blend in too much? Your language? Your mental habits? Your sexual behavior? Your social interactions? Your hidden sins that you never want revealed? It’s time for us to stand up and stand out. Our behavior should not reflect the world. Our old friends should be upset that we’re not joining them in their lifestyles anymore. That is not who we are. We are His, and we need to act like it.