II Peter is different from I Peter, but it is not without similarities. The second letter was written to the same people as the first. 3:1 “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder).” We must think back to I Peter 1:1 to remember who this group of people was, “the dispersion” which refers to those who have been scattered among strangers. Peter was writing to Christians scattered in areas through Asia minor (modern day Turkey). So, this group of people were not only spiritual pilgrims, they were literal strangers and aliens, their faith had already led them to a suffering that is foreign for us and yet it is common for the world we live in. We continue to live in the largest refugee crisis the world has ever known, millions are displaced and largely it is because of their faith, because of the lines drawn by religion. Our compassion should not only be activated when it is Christians who are being displaced, we must be willing to see the world the way God sees it and be compassionate in the midst of any suffering, not only suffering we identify with. When we are not moved with compassion for the suffering we become complicit with the action of those creating the suffering. Peter is writing to the displaced within the Body of Christ. In our time, we must be praying for, going to and caring about the displaced. Peter made it clear that those he wrote to were displaced while in the will of God, what if those being displaced in our day are also in the will of God, being displaced so that they can be reached by the gospel and shown love by the Body of Christ?
While this second letter has points of encouragement, it is largely a warning against false teachers and false teaching. These two letters, standing together, teach us that we need both encouragement and correction, we need to be comforted and challenged, we need to be led and warned. Peter is confronting false teachers and their false teaching for the sake of the truth but also for the safety of those who were being deceived. He teaches us that we are called to address both people and principles, but we must keep them in that order. Standing for specific principles or issues often causes us to lose sight of people and God’s will is about people far more than it is about issues. What we sometimes miss in our Christian culture, is that if the hearts of people change, the principles we stand for will come into clear view but standing on principles or for issues or even against other issues rarely does anything to change the hearts of people. Peter’s first concern in this letter is not that his readers understand the truth but that they are protected from deceit, he is careful and gentle with their hearts. In this letter we see Peter doing what Paul called us to in Ephesians 4:1-3, “I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Paul tells us what our calling will lead us toward, unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace, and how our calling must be expressed, with all humility and gentleness, as well as how it will look, patiently bearing with one another in love. That’s the description we are called to in our dealings with each other and anyone else that we believe to be deceived in any way. Can we see ourselves in that description tonight, can those around us see that description in us?