Scholars and commentators disagree as to how to translate – much less how to interpret – 1Peter2:2. The ESV has it “pure spiritual milk,” while the KJV renders it “sincere milk of the word.” The “of the word” is added by the KJV translators because the Greek here is difficult and they appear to be making a connection to 1:23 in order to make sense of it. It could be spiritual-not-physical milk, metaphorical-not-literal milk. It’s hard to say. Practically, this is an important question because we’re told to long for this milk, whatever it is, and we’re told that by it we grow up into salvation. So, a command and an indication that this is our part in the dynamism of being progressively saved. This is no small matter.
Thankfully, the meaning can be made clear by the context. As the phrase “of the word” isn’t actually there, and as in 2:4 there is reference made to tasting that the Lord Jesus is good, it seems clear that the milk we are to long for is Jesus himself. This is strongly reinforced by the last mention of our salvation in 1:8-9. There we’re told that our part in the dynamism of our present obtaining of our coming salvation is this: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, [thereby] obtaining the salvation of your souls.”
The parallels between these two passages are striking. In both the outcome is progressive, experienced salvation. And in each, there is reference to experiential (dare I say “emotional” or even “visceral”) engagement, specifically with the person of Jesus Christ (not just with “God” in some vague sense). In 1:8-9, we love him, we trust-and-give-loyalty-to him, and we celebrate with joy that defies cognitive articulation. In 2:1-3 we have tasted that the Lord (clearly, from the pronoun in v.4, the Lord here is Jesus Christ) is good, and we long for him. We jones. We cry, like infants, insatiably until we get him.
This is extremely significant. But before I explain why, I want to take a brief aside into my own experience in order to illuminate why precision here is important. I pastored for 9 years. I found that nothing helped my enjoyment – visceral, emotional enjoyment – of Jesus like studying the Scriptures. And nothing was a greater threat and damage to my enjoyment of Jesus like studying the Scriptures. It’s possible – sometimes even likely – to engage the Bible and miss the King. Don’t get me wrong here … I love the Bible. I know few people who love it more than I do. But the Scriptures aren’t the 4th member of the Trinity. The Scriptures are given to us to bring us – always, ever, only – to Jesus the Messiah. It’s in him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden, and it’s in him that the fullness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell in bodily form. And it’s him we’re called to adore, trust, hold faith with and celebrate. The Scriptures, according to Jesus, are given to us to help us do that.
This is great news. It totally uncomplicates what it means to be one of God’s people, and to be part of God’s People. We are the people who addict ourselves – at every level of our personal and gathered personalities – to the living and present Christ. Our task is to discern and engage Jesus totally.
This is the case that Paul is constantly making. He preaches Christ. He tells the Corinthians to discern Christ. He tells the Colossians that Christ is EVERYTHING, and that nothing else counts. He further tells them to direct their attention and affections to Jesus Christ. And he tells the Philippians to celebrate the King always, and then he repeats himself. Christomania is both the experience and prescription of Paul.
That we find the same emphasis in Peter is significant. It’s not just Paul’s pet language. Two very different Early Church leaders are making the same case, suggesting that early leadership shared an understanding of the Jesus Way a) that centralized personal and corporate engagement with Jesus; b) that this engagement was to be cognitive, emotional and visceral; c) and that the practice of Christianity should be defined in terms of this engagement. We, at every level and in every way, are the Jesus People.
So, how do I, tired and a little depressed, cultivate this kind of whole-person engagement with Christ? I don’t know. But here’s what I’m doing and I think it’s working.
1. I’m asking him for help.
2. I’m using the Scriptures copiously. I’m using them with focus (study) and with volume (sustained attention through frequent reading). And I’m using them like Jesus said to, “Search the Scriptures, for they tell of me”
3. I’m consistently trying to help the spiritual communities I’m part of to focus on Jesus, and then I’m riding their energy in (they are not all tired and depressed).
4. I’m being ruthless with myself, while being at the same time patient with my expectations of emotional energy and careful to attend to Jesus, not to my feelings about him.
5. I’m using music, specifically Rich Mullins’ Jesus Record and the Waymarks album from the Northumbria Community.
6. I’m remembering that I can’t make myself feel anything, but I can direct my attention to the object of my affection, and that is what kindles the flame.
7. I’m trusting my Teacher and Friend to meet me in this endeavor and to make up the difference.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what I’ve said here, and to hear how you bring all of you to bear on connecting with all of him. Email me.