October 23, 2008
by Patrick Lafferty
...as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed...
1 Peter 5:1
Perhaps the hardest thing for children to learn when they are young is to share. In the playroom, on the playground, at the restaurant—even in the bathtub—how often do we find them clutching so tightly to things that they think they are entitled to, or that they desperately need?
Faster than you can say “idol,” they identify so closely with what they possess that the very thought of giving it up elicits the volatile mixture of fear and rage. Unless the object diminishes in value to them, they will not yield willingly. Or unless they come to see that what they share is not so much part of them as it is a thing they enjoy, it will remain an object of desire whose importance seems incalculable.
Children find it hard to share because they think what they will lose in sharing it is more than they can bear. They think they can’t afford to part with it.
If only it were a phenomenon reserved for children. Adults are (sometimes) just more subtle in their attachments.
Our Lord is quite different. To know Him is to put away that sort of childish way (1 Corinthians 13:11). For unlike a child who clings intensely to what is trifling, the Lord shares lavishly what is of ultimate value to Him. What He shares, though, cannot be subtracted from Him even when He shares it. Sharing it exalts Him rather than diminishes Him. What is it? His glory and His nature.
Twice Peter uses a word to describe what it is to be the Lord’s—a word that’s largely fallen into disuse in our day. It’s the word “partaker.” It means simply to share in something. What God shares, we partake in. Sunday pointed us to Peter’s first use of the word, when he calls himself “a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed” (1 Peter 5:1).
Peter is appointed as an elder to shepherd the people of God. His appointment rests squarely upon his having seen the very Lord who commissioned him to this work. But he is not merely occupying an office or fulfilling a mandate. He’s sharing in something of highest value; he’s sharing “in the glory that is going to be revealed.”
The view at the base of a 14,000-foot mountain is breathtaking, but it is nothing compared to the view from the summit. There’s a magnificence, an exaltedness of God which is still to be revealed and experienced. But to partake in that glory, as Peter speaks of it, is more than being simply earmarked for a future reality. For Peter is a present reality, too. He is moved and sustained by the glory of God. That’s how he can say he is a partaker of it.
It is not a partaking reserved exclusively for those in leadership in the church, as Peter’s second use of the word confirms. In his second letter he writes, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:3,4).
To share in that divine nature is to have been liberated from loves of flawed things—longings we once had no interest in laying aside. That’s a partaking all who know Christ may share!
What is it, then, to partake of that glory and that divine nature here and now? It may very well have something to do with our willingness to share—sharing with the world as He does with us.
John Chrysostom, a pastor-theologian of the fourth century, drew the distinction between what is childish and what is mature:
For as in the case of little children, when the child eagerly desires childish playthings, we hide them from him with much care, as a ball, for instance, and such like things, that he may not be hindered from necessary things; but when he thinks little of them, and no longer longs for them, we give them fearlessly, knowing that henceforth no harm can come to him from them, the desire no longer having strength enough to draw him away from things necessary; so God also, when He sees that we no longer eagerly desire the things of this world, thenceforward permits us to use them. For we possess them as freemen and men, not as children.
The Lord shares what is most precious to Himself, and the more we partake in what He graciously shares, the less enslaved we are to the things we thought were so necessary. Be it time, or possessions, or talent, or money, or love—when we partake of His glory, His nature, we see those things less as what defines us or what makes us significant, and more as things to be employed for the good and glory of God.
As the poet David Wilcox put it more succinctly, “you will always have what you gave to love.”
Three questions for your meditation:
Do you think of what you have as a possession, or as what you’ve been entrusted with?
How does what you’ve done with what you have demonstrate having partaken of His glory and nature?
Whatever your answers to the first two questions, why not ask the Lord—who gives wisdom generously (James 1:5)—to show how you might share what you have in the same lavish way He does?