1 Peter 3:13-22
Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
Happy Easter! Today is the last Sunday of this Easter Season and what an Easter season it has been. We have been learning about the implications of our Lord’s Resurrection on the Early Church and how Christ’s resurrection even effects who we are today as Christians. It is by the power of the Resurrection that we are able to radically forgive just as God forgives through His Son. We see that in the Resurrection God continually is working in our lives. From the time that Christ resurrected to now, the Living God who created us, is working in our lives redeeming and sanctifying us to be restored into His greater perfection. It is in Christ’s Resurrection that we are called together into community, a group of believers who are working together who form the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in the world today. By his resurrection we are called together to form the one true church with the central mission of transforming the world by making disciples of Jesus Christ. These are not merely those who do not believe, but to uplift those who already believe to continue into the living lives of righteousness, thus furthering the discipleship of the already believer.
This catches us up to what we have already discussed over this Easter season, but also sets the stage now for today. It is with the resurrection of Jesus Christ do we as Christians find our identity as spokes people for God’s kingdom! Let’s take a closer look at these words from Peter as we understand more fully this identity.
V. 13 says that Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? Peter in this question asks very simply, if you are eager to do good, then who honestly would desire to harm you. This is a statement about the intentions of the Christian. If Christians have the intentions of harming, then they have not set their hearts on what is God, for God has come in the incarnation of Jesus Christ that they may have life and having it abundantly. One of the three General Rules from John Wesley was a simple rule of “Do No Harm, avoid evil of every kind, expecially that which is most generally practiced”. Wesley even went on to define what were some of the harmful things that people commonly doing like: The taking of the name of God in vain, The profaning the day of Lord, either by doing ordinary work therein or buying and selling, Drunkenness, Slaveholding, Fighting, Uncharitable or unprofitable conversation; particularly speaking evil of magistrates or of ministers, Doing what we know is not for the glory of God, The putting on of costly apparal and gold, The singing those songs, or reading those books which do not tend to the knowledge or love of God. These are but a few of the common practices that speak to the doing of harm. If you would like to continue reading this list of these things I would encourage you to look on pg. 73 of the BOD as the Discipline has clearly defined these things by which Wesley and the people called Methodists were called to uphold when becoming a part of the Methodist societies.
Peter goes on to say though that But if you even do suffer, if on the mere chance you may suffer, you are blessed. Don’t fear what they fear, for you have not placed your heart in the values in which theirs lie. The Christian is the person to whom God and Jesus Christ are the supremacies in life; his relationship to God in Christ is life’s greatest value. If a person‘s heart is set on earthly things, possessions, happiness, pleasure, ease and comfort, him or her is of all people most vulnerable. For, in the nature of things, he/she may lose these things at any moment. Such a person is desperately easily hurt. On the other hand, if he/she gives to Jesus Christ the unique place in his life, the most precious thing for him is his relationship to God and nothing can take that from them. Therefore, they are completely secure.
This next part of Peter’s Epistle is by far I believe one of the most challenging for many Christians. Peter says, “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” This is where I call each and everyone of us ministers and spokes people for the Kingdom of God. We are all expected to have an accounting of our calling to the church. We are all expected to be willing to give testimony to the hope that has been placed within us because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. How does one even begin to share the hope that one has because of their relationship with Christ. Well, for starters, we do not experience Christ only once in our life and we continue telling how we came to Christ, although that is an important story and often for many the turning part in their life. Some people I have talked to talk about their lives in two parts, the BC days and the AD&R days. Those BC are those days that they were living Before the knew Christ, Before Christ. And the second part of those days the AD&R are the days of After Death and Resurrection. After they understood that they have died to themselves and have been resurrected with Christ. We often call this in the church their conversion story. But a relationship does not only consist of when you met. For instance I can tell you a very cute story of how Jackie and I met in Kindergarten…(Tell story of how we met), But if our relationship were to end there and there was no more to our conversing and talking with one another, No more continuing to date and relating to one another. Then that whole story of how we met was worthless and a waste of time. We must continue to be in relationship with Jesus Christ and not only are we to be in relationship with Christ, that relationship should be testified to. Our relationship with Jesus Christ is what gives us hope in a world that often leaves people hopeless, how could we not desire to share such a relationship with others. It’s like in a marriage, when you have a good thing going, you often want to tell other people about how great your husband or wife is. You want to brag on them when they do something nice for you. Women, it’s like when your husband brings you home flowers, you want to go off and brag to your girlfriends about how great of a husband you have. And guys, when you have a wife that supports you when it seems like no one else is, you want to tell your friends how great of gal you married. Our relationship with Jesus is very much the same, except God is by far a more compassionate, loyal, holy, and honest friend/companion/LORD than anyone we have ever had a relationship with. The outcome should be the same, we must tell our friends, our family, and when you have fallen head over heels for God, you MUST shout it from the mountain tops of how Great is our God.
There are many ways by which we do this shouting from mountain tops, we as Christians understand that “loving God is ALWAYS linked with loving the neighbor.” We have seen this kind of loving the neighbor by the response of Christians to disasters like Haiti and Japan, to tornados of Joplin and throughout the South East. We even see this care in our daily lives as we reflect on how we treat the people that we interact with in our lives, whether or not we pre-judge someone because of their economic status, or if they are a racial minority. How is it that we treat people not just here within the worship building, but how we respond and treat others on each and every day.
Finally, Peter beckons us to recall something of the greatest importance. We, regardless of being in a state of comfort or suffering continually do we proclaim our hope that rests in Jesus Christ. It was Jesus who suffered while still being able to forgive the soldiers while on the cross, It was Jesus who suffered while continuing to see God’s work at hand, It was Jesus who suffered while remaining not only a part of the Body, but the Head of this body, And Jesus, while suffering, proclaimed the loudest I am the Son of God by the way in which he Loved, not only his friends, but loved the world through his suffering. Peter reminds us that Jesus is our exemplar, and when we suffer for the good, then so be it for God’s greater glory!
Where does this identity come from, but none other than our baptism. Peter says, “And baptism, which this prefigured , now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.”
God has proven his authority over all matters, spiritual and worldly. With our baptism, God begins to work in our lives even before we come to acknowledge him as Lord. It is when we confirm this baptism, when we respond to God’s wonderful grace do we receive his eternal gift of life everlasting…all stemming from His action for us on the cross and with His resurrection! Happy Easter, could you ever have known it meant so much and more!