By Samuel Parrish
“Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities [of a godly life], though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.” – 2 Peter 1:12-15
There is little that grates on my nerves so strongly as a persistent nag: that inescapable voice stuck on replay, pointing out the tasks I have not completed punctually and accurately. However, as I have grown in Christ, the Holy Spirit has gently revealed to me my overly broad definition and application of the term “nagging”. According to Peter, reminders are a blessing both to give and to receive, not a wearisome rehashing of our failures. So then, what is it about being told something we already know that puts us on the defensive? If we take an honest look at scripture, we will find that it provides us with a clear call to move away from seeing reminders as a burden and instead instructs us to embrace them as a blessing.
On the whole, we find reminders burdensome because we believe them to be boring. We simply cannot endure the weight of simplicity and repetition, continually seeking stimulation to replace substance. Jeremiah writes in Lamentations 3 that God’s mercies are “new every morning,” and we have taken “newness” to mean “novelty.” Yet, if we honestly search scripture, we find that God does not equate these two terms. In his work Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton says it this way:
“[Children] always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.”
Have we become so accustomed to inventing new ways to sin that the thought of our Father’s constant, faithful, and steadfast love registers as dull? If so, perhaps we do need a reminder, a reminder of a God who has redeemed us that we might enjoy his pleasures forever more.
Our distain of “nagging,” or godly reminders, can grow further as we give our hearts to a misperception of authority. Even by calling godly counsel a “nag,” we assign ill-motive to the carrier of the message. Often, well-meaning believers treat spiritual authority figures with resistance, assuming that the relationship will consist only of one-sided reprimands that serve to embarrass and belittle. Peter’s words here should arrive as a great comfort to all as he expresses the goal of any godly leader: that God’s people would be healthy even in his absence. He does not shame them because of their forgetfulness. He does not point out where they have to grow. Peter has seen the days of testing ahead for both him and the Church, and wishes nothing more that they stand firm when those days arrive. As we receive and show grace to one another, let us receive these reminders as the blessing of encouragement they are meant to be.
If we are in Christ, we can indeed heed the wisdom of our leadership free from defensiveness and shame. We are free to confirm our calling with brotherly affection and love, and in doing so, show the world the way to everlasting life.