Peter’s example of a disciple’s journey—from faith to knowledge, to self-control, and on and on—turns in an interesting direction: “supplement your steadfastness with godliness.” (2Pet 1:6) This might be confusing because, after all, isn’t all this stuff “godliness”?

The word “godliness” is unique. This was a common word in the ancient Roman world to talk about religious piety, a reverence for the gods. It would describe a person who is “really into” their faith. This would include, of course, active involvement in their faith community; i.e. their religion and its rituals and practices.

Add this to your "steadfastness." Why?

Peter is saying, “Steadfastness is a wonderful virtue, but when practiced by sinners it needs help. For example, steadfastness can settle into over-familiarity. Also, steadfastness is difficult: what sustains it? Participating in the religious life of your church has always marked God’s people. It sustains our hearts against the wear-and-tear of life.”

You’ve heard people say, “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion.” That’s not totally true, is it? It’s true that God wants a personal relationship with each one of us. But it’s also true that God has appointed, ordained, established, a worshiping community. And He's given it specific practices to be done at regular intervals—i.e. religious stuff.

Because our faith needs the formal discipline of religious habits done at a gathering of the faithful. Because our faith needs the disruption of our personal favorite ways to relate to God. Because our faith needs to be owned by us, but sometimes it needs to be led by others.

We need religious practices. We need church.

In addition to serving our steadfastness, godliness also serves our love. Remember, this is a journey from faith to love, a journey from loving God with our whole hearts to loving our neighbors…better than we do.

How does “religious piety” help us love?

One of our pitfalls is thinking that the disciple’s journey happens only internally: just in our hearts and minds. But where is our faith going? Toward love. Toward actually loving actual people. So this “godliness” here has less to do with our internal attitude of reverence than with the outworking of our religious commitments. And it is included at this point because it is not just good for my soul, but it is good for my community too.

This “godliness” is not Christlikeness in a general sense. It is Christlike in the specific ways He worshiped and reverenced His Father. Which we see by His regular participation in the worship services: And as was his custom, Jesus went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day. (Luke 4:16)

Jesus loved His Father, so Jesus went to church. And Jesus loved His neighbor, so Jesus went to church. And by going to church, Jesus helped sustain the faith of the other congregants.

Want to be more “Christlike”? Go to church. It’s actually what Jesus did! And why? Because He loved God with His whole heart, and He loved His neighbor perfectly.

We need religious practices. We need church. And our church needs us. 

Think of how you feel when someone has missed Sundays for a few weeks. What a concern! What a sadness! Think of how you feel when someone returns to the service or the Bible Study. What a blessing! What a gift!

We tend to downplay the significance of our little gatherings and the significance of our attendance or non-attendance—we think, What’s the big deal? No one will notice.

Or people critique church services. They are pointless and what we really ought to be doing is serving soup or helping neighbors with chores or something that’s actually loving actual people. This ignores how powerfully loved we feel by the physical presence of our worshiping church. It's good to be together. Sometimes vulnerable people need hot soup; always vulnerable people need songs of hope, Good News from Scripture, and a reminder that they’re not alone (because they're literally surrounded with people).

Take church seriously. Respect your rituals.

In 2 Peter 1:3 it says, “His divine power has granted us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” Jesus grants this by, first, changing what we already do—like how He messes with our budget or our plans. But also, Jesus grants all this by providing things that we didn’t have, or didn’t value, and need to incorporate in our lives—like church stuff.

And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day. (Luke 4:16)
As we journey from faith to love, first, we need help sustaining our faith. Church is for that. Second, we need help loving well. Church is for that.

Church might be a bit of a let down at times. No surprise there. But when we keep away from God’s gathered people, we injure our faith, indulging our bitterness or self-pity. And we injure the faith of our friends.

Respect your rituals. Take church seriously. We need religious practices; our religious community needs us.
To Consider and Discuss:
What is church attendance for?
How might Jesus’ perspective on attending services differ from your own?
How have you experienced blessing because other people came to church?
How might you “get more out of” the Sunday service?
How might you “give more” on Sundays?

Photo by Annie Spratt  on Unsplash