As the writer of the Second Epistle of Peter draws towards the end of his life, he reflects on what it is that should mark out the life of a Christian woman or man in the world.
As partakers in the divine nature through baptism, he writes, those who follow in the Way of Christ Jesus must: live lives of faith supported with goodness, where goodness is supported with knowledge and where knowledge is underpinned with self-control; where self-control is established on endurance and where endurance is shaped by godliness; lives where godliness is expressed in mutual affection, and, echoing St Paul, where the affection shown to one another must be shot through (like a sweet pink seaside rock with a motto) with love.
The same sort of analysis of what it means to live the Christian life fills the pages of St Paul’s letters too.
Writing to the Colossians, St Paul says that the hallmarks of faith are to be compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience – and that all of these virtues must be rooted and grounded in the perfect of Love of God, the Love which binds everything together; the Love which completes and perfects our flawed and imperfect attempts at living Love-shaped lives.
So often, our attempts at living love-shaped lives go astray – no matter how good or sincere our resolve to do so might be. As Fr Jack reminded us last Sunday morning, St Paul himself wrote to the Church in Rome, as he drew towards the end of his life, that whilst he knew perfectly well what he should and shouldn’t do, how he should and shouldn’t live, he usually ended up doing the exact opposite to what he set out to do!
Even though we inevitably get it wrong so much of the time, just like St Paul, it does not mean that we should stop trying or give up on the unequal struggle; that we should stop straining after what St Paul calls “the more excellent Way” – the way that is Love – Love with a capital “L”, Love rooted and grounded in God’s perfect Love; Love which, as the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus shows us, has the power to overcome darkness and sin and decay and despair and disease and even death itself.
We might stumble and fall; we might go through long periods of feeling downcast and disheartened in our journeys of faith; we might make the most awful mess of our attempts to love even those closet and most dear to us, let alone others, but it is God’s Life, God’s Love which will see us through.
Without God, in our own strength, through our own efforts, we can do nothing, we will fail, but with God and in God and through God we share Christ’s ultimate and eternal victory.