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Stepping Toward Love and Life

Whoever among you would love life and see good days

must keep your tongue from evil

and your lips from deceitful speech.

Turn from evil and do good;

seek peace and pursue it.

1 Peter 3:10-11, TNIV

In our days—in the valleys of the hours and minutes and seconds that we have been given, in that seemingly eternal "now" in which we all exist—we have the ability to choose for ourselves how our lives will go. If what Peter, the ex-fisherman-turned-friend of Jesus, says in his first letter is right, everyone can move toward goodness and away from evil. We can step toward love and life and reject the forces of moral inertia that lead us away from ourselves and away from each other.

So much of the situation in which we find ourselves is, of course, not of our choosing. From the shape of our faces and the bent of our bodies to the direction of our natural aptitudes, we are the product of forces largely unknown to us. Even in our nurture, in the cultural heritage of our families or in the lands that we call home, we travel on trails blazed long before our first breaths.

Some of us accept our fates and graciously let our natures and our nurtures take their course. We champion the home teams and run the races marked out for us. We grow comfortable in our skin, comfortable rubbing up against the skin of those who surround us; the richest of us moving toward more wealth, the poorest continually relenting to poverty. Others revolt against the occasions of their lives to make something other of themselves. The results, of course, run the gamut between great and ghastly, and their stories are retold and rewritten countless times.

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For those of us in Christ, however, neither revolution nor comfort will quite do. Since the whole truth of our lives lays heavy in the hands of God, a full-scale revolt against our natures pushes against the plans and dreams of God himself. But, then, to acquiesce to the darker urges that haunt our hearts is to stop short of God’s best wishes. So we must live in the tension by an act of our own will. We must choose to act with God. And it’s not some kind of illusion of choice, either. Our choices will really take us closer to goodness or closer to death.

According to the apostle Peter, a good place to start for those of us who really want to love life, to really desire good days is to choose truth and goodness. We must first quit lying, to stop talking up the evil in our lives. It’s not the end, of course, but it’s a good place to begin. And we have to turn away from actually doing evil as well, in whatever form evil may take during our days.

Our next choice is to do good, in whatever small or large way possible. By an act of our wills, we have to look for ways to put ourselves into the action, by choosing the good that could be in the situations we experience. In this way we help usher in God’s preferences for those around us. As a by-product the action of goodness clears our heads, redirecting our focus from merely not doing evil.

Finally, according to the apostle Peter, we should search for peace wherever it may be hiding out. When we find any traces of it, we should run after it—hunt it down, so to speak. When we finally find peace, after our serious pursuit of it, we may find that goodness has begun to become second nature and that not speaking evil has become surprisingly easy. In fact, we will probably find that—after we have been consistent in our choosing—our lives really will go better, that we will we "see good days."

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