Peter’s Letter: “Who is going to harm you?”
Scripture Reading: I Peter 3:13-17
If you’re going to ask a question, be prepared for an answer. If you don’t like the answer, it’s too late to withdraw the question. Our reading this morning from I Peter 3:13-17 begins with a question, “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?” The answer was already given in the previous verse (I Peter 3:12) where Peter quotes from Psalm 34 saying, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” No one can do real harm to the person upon whom God has shown his grace and favour. If you have been called by God, you belong to God and there is nothing on earth that can separate you from the love of God that is given in Christ Jesus our Lord.
That’s the answer and it sounds all good, but is it true? Are the “good people”, the “righteous” protected from all harm? This hardly seems to be the case. More people are being persecuted for their faith in Christ today than ever before. Though it hardly ever makes headlines in the news, to profess your faith in Jesus Christ can cost you your life in many places around the world. Giving your life over to the lordship of Jesus Christ is not an invitation to health and wealth, social standing and success. (See Genesis 37:2-24)
How aware are you of the persecution of Christians around the world?
Besides Joseph, can you think of other biblical characters who suffered for being called by God?
Right after Peter’s question in verse 13 he says in verse 14, “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.” The apostle understand that suffering is a reality in this world this side of Christ’s return. The deep-seated longing and groaning for a world of justice is very real. However, for us as followers of Christ, it’s not so much justice that we crave, as it is for the fullness of love, grace, and truth (Reconciliation!) that is given in Christ alone. Justice apart from grace will give you hell. Justice that is accompanied by grace will bring us “blessing”.
In what ultimate sense does “justice without grace” lead to hell?
What is a blessing? Who can you bless?
Daniel Migliore in his book “Faith seeking Understanding” writes, “Christian life is a movement toward a goal. God not only justifies and sanctifies human life in the power of the Spirit but also gives a particular vocation and a great hope. Christians live by the promise of God and thus in creative hope. There is work to be done, a message to be proclaimed, service to be rendered, hostility to be overcome, injustice to be rectified.”
Our world and society need a good word. The Church of Christ needs to be a prophetic voice for blessing and reconciliation in Jesus Christ. We need to be a living temple calling the world to see the God whom we serve. The apostle turns to this calling in the second part of verse 14 and in verses 15-16 where he says, “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
We are given two commands in I Peter 3:14-15.
1. Do not fear what they (the world) fear.
2. Set apart Christ as Lord.
What does the world fear? What do you fear?
How do we “set apart Christ as Lord”? What does this mean?
We are called to witness to the lordship of Jesus Christ over every area of life. We are to live within the Story of Redemption revealed in the Bible. We are called to witness and be a blessing for the world. Peter says “Do this with gentleness and respect.” Fred Craddock writes, “Nothing is so alienating and obnoxious as Christian witnessing with arrogance and condescension, with rudeness and intrusion. Have a sense of the appropriate.”
Are you living up to this calling? Have you ever been embarrassed by the behaviour of fellow Christians in how they witness for Christ?
In our words and deeds, the Christian life is one constant proclamation of the Story that testifies to the grace and truth of Jesus Christ. Amen.