Sermon: I Peter 4
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August 23, 1970 (tape 202-A, CD 24)
This morning when I was looking for a sermon, a very interesting and most profound thing came to me. Out of First Peter and the 4th chapter: “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought. For whomsoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin; 2) So as to live for the rest of time in the flesh no longer by human passions but by the will of God.”
Well you know my attitudes about suffering and about being persecuted and self-persecution and these sort of things of old. And I thought to myself, “I wonder what that word ‘suffer’ really derived from.” And so I went back into the Hebrew. And there was the bright and shining light. While English has used this as one of two or three interpretations, words rather, meanings: You can feel a great hurt, you can endure, you can be tolerant, you can enter a place where things are different than that that you are used to and suffer well while you are there because you do not fight or you do not try to disturb this way of doing, so you “Suffer little children to come unto me” as the Master said.
But I found it had a very interesting connotation and a very interesting part of this word is the fact that it has no root. It has no beginning. It has no source of meaning. It is only through the use in life that the man has put it to, that it has taken on a duplicity of interpretations and only through the way it is associated with other things that you have a meaning, a definite meaning. And it also has a more potent meaning in the Hebrew, which was a ‘gem’. And when we first hear this, this doesn’t mean too much. But when we look at this passage it has a great deal of meaning. Because, he said, “So as to live for the rest of time in the flesh, no longer by human passion but by the will of God.” And here is where we pass over so lightly. For man, when he hears the word ‘passion’ he immediately thinks of those things which have to do with man and woman and other things of this nature.
Well let us look a little further into this word and into this ‘gem’ of the flesh. A gem of the flesh. This passion. Man is always looking for something, searching, and we would use the word today we would say ‘he was searching for the truth’ or this and that sort of thing. But this is really not it. Because within this spirit of God which is totally incorporated into the flesh of man is the very nature and personality of the Father. And so he is moved. He goes and he looks up Mohammedism. He looks up Buddhism and this isn’t it. He looks up, maybe, Roman Catholicism and he doesn’t feel it there. He looks up another religion and he doesn’t feel it there. He looks at us and he says, ‘Well I don’t feel it here’. Well certainly he doesn’t. Because he is looking for something that he cannot find because he already has it. He already has it. How could he find it when it is in totality within his own flesh? For the passion is the passion to give and not to receive. Because he knows only through, unconsciously, that All Being of himself. Knows that only through giving can he receive higher and greater wisdom and remove himself from the totality of error or sin or whatever you want to call it. Only through giving can he do this because he cannot receive anything higher unless he can give.
And you know, it’s such a strange thing, that the very simplest things, we fail to seek. In philosophy class many times I have said, “You have to be on a higher rung of the ladder or you can’t reach down and pull up your brother.” Well this is exactly what he was talking about. Not about going through pain. Not about going without food. But understanding his brother and giving something of this to him. Giving what he has already understood and knows so that he can receive more. Now that’s a pretty selfish thing, isn’t it? But that’s the whole cycle of life. You give life to have life.
You know a couple get married, and they have the normal marital relationships with one another and the wife gives forth a child into the world and after she’s given forth that child she then has a chance to raise herself up spiritually. She gets married and as she looks to her husband in the proper way she has a chance to gain spiritually. And this is one thing that our cosmopolitan congregation of people throughout this United States has failed to recognize. Jesus wasn’t saying be a servant to your husband. He was saying ‘You are of a different nature than he is so look to him for this so you can give it to somebody else’. It doesn’t make any difference whether he’s an angel or got wings or not, that’s not it. This is that Way, here is the gem of the flesh. This is the way it is. And then we rebelled against it and said, ‘I’m not going to obey him. I’m not going to do what he tells me. I’m an individual. Yes, I am an individual. I am going along against the way God created this Earth and this universe. I don’t care anything about how He did it.’ Why are we so stupid? That we can’t understand the simple cycle of life? Why must we revolt against the very foundation of creation?
But you never stop to think that your poor husband, he couldn’t have a child, could he? He’s got no way of revolting against that. There are a lot of other things that he couldn’t do because it isn’t his nature. But nobody ever looks at that. There’s a lot of other things that he has to do. Because it is his nature. But nobody says anything about that. ‘It’s just poor little trampled down me. I have taken on the nature and the power and the form and symbol, the same as the Blessed Virgin did.’ And isn’t that horrible? Our dear Blessed Virgin.
For two generations her mother was prepared, alone, just the mother, to say nothing about Joseph, in order to give birth to our Lord and Master. She was not permitted to run and move over the face of the earth wherever she wanted to. Did she suffer? Yes, she suffered, but she used the suffering, the desire that was within the flesh, the gem, the will of God, the great yearning to be with Him.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit.