1 Peter 2:1 – 3
Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. 2Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
As Paul does in Romans 12, this author now goes on with “therefore”. Remember, “therefore” connects what has gone before to what he is going to say – because of this great gift of grace his readers (and we) have received, there is a way we should live. Because we have been born into a new life, there is a way we should live. Therefore, in order to live in genuine love for one another, believers must put aside those attitudes and behaviors that destroy community. Notice, the list of things he insists be put aside is not a list of all sins, but one of behaviors that hurt the community. The idea that this community as a whole rids itself of such behaviors refers to their (and our) baptism, when one’s old life is laid aside and the new life is taken up, as in the early church people were baptized by removing and laying aside their old clothing and stepping into a baptismal pool, coming out on the other side as newly-born, and donning new clothing.
Lay aside all malice – not a word we often use today. It is defined as “the intention or desire to do evil, ill will”. We may say that we are angry with someone, but we would probably deny intending to do evil to them or wishing them harm. But what is in our hearts? Is there someone toward whom we feel ill will? And rid yourselves of guile – this is being tricky, manipulating others to get our way. Honestly, now, when did you last use guile, manipulation of others, our brothers and sisters in the church community? Insincerity sort of goes along with that, doesn’t it? As Christians, born in Christ, we are called on to be authentic, even though that means being vulnerable as well. And how many church communities have been destroyed by malicious slander and gossip? We know we should lay aside these behaviors, but they are probably a greater temptation to Christians than those things we like to think of as sins, so we can condemn others for doing them!
Where do we get the strength to lay aside these attitudes and behaviors, these inclinations of our hearts? We get that strength from the presence of the Holy Spirit within our hearts, from the grace given us. Indeed, like new-born babies, we are nourished on the milk of the Spirit, on the truth of salvation, on the good news brought to us! We are nourished in all the “means of grace” – all the ways God has provided for our spiritual nourishment: prayer, scripture, worship, Christian community, study with others, contemplation, and serving others. These things “taste good”; they feed our soul and nurture us in Christ. In all these ways, through God’s Sanctifying Grace, we grow spiritually, we grow in our salvation, closer to Christ.
Salvation is not a single event, a one-time “I’ve been saved”, but a process by which we grow. As an infant is born, and then grows into an adult, so we are born into Christ, but continue to grow in grace. And in our growing, we learn to taste and see that the Lord is Good.