… [the unrighteous] entice people who have just escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. – 2 Peter 2:18-19 (NRSV)
So much public discourse (and a great deal of private thinking) assumes that everybody’s current state is the result of their choices. Failure or success is a matter of personal morality—or so go the arguments of the self-sufficient and the moralistic. Christianity becomes little more than a useless public health campaign: Just Say No.
But anyone who’s spent any real time with the issues knows that personal morality is a surprisingly small part of how we end up where we end up.
2 Peter’s screed is weird, but it recognizes something important: those around us play a major role in our outcomes. What the community offers in terms of not just temptations, but options. What latitude it allows not just for sin, but for righteousness. How much hope it gives to whom, and what it does to those who act out of hopelessness.
A strong work ethic is great—but it can only do so much if no one will hire you because of the name on your resume.
Dressing a certain way is fine, I guess—but it won’t help if the problem is actually other people’s notions and desires and not your clothes.
Self-care may be important—but it won’t do much if your community doesn’t care about you too.
Just saying no isn’t going to work if nobody’s offered you that option.
2 Peter’s screed is weird, but it gets one thing right: I have a role to play in your salvation, and you in mine.
Let me be, and let me create, the community we deserve. Amen.