“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil,
but living as servants of God.”(1 Peter 2:16 ESV)
From last week, we find that we often get that feeling of “being used.” Others are choosing to make use of us for their own ends. That may be acceptable if we agree, but many times, we don’t.
But now we go on and think about what the verse above is advocating. It says, “not using, .. but living.” It implies that we also are not to be “user’s,” taking advantage of others for our own purposes, but we ourselves are to be those who live in the service of God for the sake of others.
Think of the creation mandate. Adam and Eve, and their children, were to subdue creation and to rule over it. They were not to just “use” it in the sense of ransacking it and leaving behind desolation. Rather, they were to organize and creatively develop the good gifts of God’s creation so that it would reflect God’s glory more and more. Even as they “used” creation as their home and recreative space, they were to live as servants of God.
The author Wendell Berry has written about the stewardship of land, which also results in the respect of community. He decries those who sweep in to an area (in his case, Kentucky) to blast the tops off mountains, truck off the resources and leave behind piles of waste and polluted waterways. Both ecology and economy have been ruined. These intruders have not “live(d) as servants of God.
The New Testament, then, also talks about our role in the world, not as “user’s,” but “liver’s.” We can desecrate our homes and communities and the lives of those around us with greed, or we can serve as God’s stewards for the good of others, which often turns out for the good of ourselves.
But the thrust of this activity in the New Testament is not so much creation care as it is a gospel ethic. This is not to say that creation care has expired, or that it is not a worthy endeavor. But for a Christian to pursue only creation care is to have missed the focus of the Gospel, that we are to do good to others (one of the key themes of the little letter of Paul’s to Titus. Read it and see.) Our “not using,.. but living” now has a redemptive focus - a kind of living that shows that we have ourselves been redeemed from selfishness and grabbing for ourselves, and that we are sincerely grateful for this life-changing redemption found in Christ and His sacrifice for us, that we are eager to take back our lives from those who would use us for their own purposes, give ourselves as servants of God, and pray that people around us would see Christ in us.