Disentanglement – 1 Peter 1:22-2:3

by Roger McCay
26 January 2020
Sermon Passage: 1 Peter 1:22-2:3
Link to Audio Version

Have you ever noticed on some laundry detergents, the label says, “In case of accidental ingestion, drink a glass of water or milk, and contact a poison control center?”

Why milk? Is milk an antidote of some kind? No, milk is not an antidote, per se. What it does is form a barrier in your stomach and intestines that puts up a resistance to the poison being digested. This is due to the lactose in the milk. The human body cannot digest lactose by itself. For this it needs an enzyme called lactase. Mark Jaquith explains what happens.

Once all available enzymes are put to work breaking up lactose, additional incoming lactose molecules are put on a waiting list. While they’re waiting for a lactase spot to open up, your incredibly acidic gastric juices start doing a number on the milk that is just sitting in your stomach. The hydrochloric acid in your stomach turns the milk into hard-to-digest curds… sort of like what milk looks like when you leave it out for a few days. These curds end up coating your stomach and your intestines, and give you a case of indigestion. And if you’ve just swallowed a poison, indigestion is exactly what you want![1]

So, “by drinking milk, you not only dilute the detergent (or other poison), you overwhelm the lactase enzymes, allowing your stomach’s hydrochloric acid to curdle the milk. This then coats your stomach and intestines, slowing down the rate with which your body absorbs the poison.” [2]

Milk can save your life—keeping poison from being fully digested by your system, and helping your body to more rapidly expel it from your system.

In our passage today, Peter talks about milk, a metaphor of the Lord’s Word. He tells us a healthy believer is like an infant craving his or her mother’s milk. Drinking the milk, Christians receive the Lord’s nourishment towards growing into the loving people we are called to be, and we receive a defense against the poison of anti-love. Likewise, unless we drink this milk of the Lord’s Word, tasting that the Lord is good, we remain poisoned in the entanglement of anti-love.

In 1 Peter 2:1, Peter lists the traits of anti-love as malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander. These entanglements are all tied together. If one is present, the others are found right there with it. They are community and relationship destroying poisons; for where you find these things, love is not.

Malice is a general evil of ill will towards others, or the nursing of grudges towards individuals or groups. It is a darkness within, tainting one’s outlook towards people. It is the delighting in others’ misfortune. Some say the opposite of love is indifference. Indifference, however, is a form of malice, as they both are an absence of love. It’s kind of like how not deciding on something is actually deciding on something.

Tied in closely with malice is envy. Envy is an internal disposition that fuels malice with its bitterness. It may have a semblance of love for someone or something, but such is an illusion covering a self-dissatisfaction and a self-loathing, which has been turned upon the envied. It is, as Dan Doriani, one of my professors at Covenant, defines:

“the gnawing sorrow we feel when someone else has something that we think we deserve…. it hurts everyone. It torments the subject, who envies, and it hopes to destroy the happiness of the one envied…. The envious compare themselves to others and, for some perverse reason, always decide that they come up short.”[3]

Hypocrisy is acting counter to what one says or believes. It has been defined as “including ordinary inconsistency between belief and practice, between one’s inner and outer life. It includes self-deception as well as deception of others.”[4] It is insane, as action has become detached from ones expressed beliefs. Yet it is sane because the action is consistent with one’s true beliefs. Someone says she believes in love and is loving, and actually thinks she does and is, yet her malice, fueled by envy, is plain to all in her actions. Hypocrisy can be both sincere and hypocritical. Deceiving ourselves we easily deceive others with our sincerity.

Malice, hypocrisy and envy readily lead to deceit and slander, as they are all entangled. Doriani comments:

Deceit and slander are both primarily sins of the tongue. When we deceive, we shade the truth, ordinarily to someone’s face. Slander is bald opposition to the truth, ordinarily behind someone’s back. The deceiver hides the truth. The gossip sometimes tells the truth, but delivers it to the wrong people. The slanderer boldly lies, pretending to deliver the truth. [5]

Deceit is a wide-ranging sin that can be accomplished by word and/or by deed. Slander can be an expression of envy, maliciously hurting another, while hypocritically and deceitfully saying they are just telling the truth.