For those of us who celebrate the Lunar New Year, another season of lavish trading of well-wishes has begun. Greetings like “Gong Xi Fa Cai” [blessing of fortune] and “Nian Nian You Yu” [blessing of abundance] are almost customary, although most people know by experience that reality is more often a far cry from what they have previously hoped for themselves and others. Yet somehow one might feel superstitiously safer to be on the side of custom in case the fate of life should frown upon a renegade.
Unfortunately, some of us may carry similar beliefs into the Christian life. We behave morally, serve religiously and show kindness generously for fear of being on the wrong side to God, and so forfeit some of his blessings. But when life is generally going well and the prospect is good for that year, we thank God and slide into a state of false “contentment”, only to be awakened at the next economic recession and retrenchment. If this describes us, then we are ‘faithful’ to God only because we fear life itself. Who then is ‘God’?
The Christian people whom the Apostle Peter addresses his letter has every reason to fear because grievous trials are threatening them each day. Peter exalts them towards obedience (1 Pe 1:14), holiness (v15), reverent fear (v17), and mutual love (v22). Did he superstitiously think that by doing so, it would place those suffering Christians aright with God and somehow avert those trials, and earn God’s favour? Certainly not!
At the point of issuing his clarion call, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action…” (v13), Peter has spent ten previous verses (vv3-12) explaining the basis for his confidence that they can be what he exalts them to be because God the Father through Jesus “has given them new birth into a living hope” (v3); “into an inheritance that can never perish…” (v4). Furthermore, their sufferings only prove that “they are receiving the goal of their faith, the salvation of their souls” (v9). They are called to excel in Christian faithfulness because they are already ‘in Christ’ and God is faithful to his word, his covenant promises (v23). To put it bluntly, ‘be good’ because “you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Pe 2:3).
“In this (salvation) you greatly rejoice, though for a little while you may have had to suffer…” (1 Pe 1:6) Whatever the last lunar year had been, or what the new lunar year will be, Christians can sincerely and wholeheartedly wish one another “Gong He Xin Xi” [Blessed new joy!] because we know that whatever befalls us, God is good and we are his people. Let us therefore stride into the new year with confidence to love and serve God in holiness and in reverence of his ways.