1 Peter 3:8-22 (ESV) Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For 'Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.' Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, 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 having been subjected to him.
Of course, these seem like at least some of the right verses for us to prayerfully consider and meditate upon in the aftermath of such vile sins being committed by so many institutions and people in this country.
Not only do they instruct us regarding our proper response to such evil and sins in this world, but they also remind us of the blessed hope we have in Christ Jesus and in remembering our Baptism.
However, what I particularly love about these words is that they do not promise me a "Puppy-Dogs-And-Ice-Cream" type of existence in this life. Quite the contrary, actually!
In fact, God's Word here pulls no punches and it comes right out and tells us to expect evil in this world, especially evil that's specifically directed against us Christians in response to our public portrayal of our cherished faith.
It reminds me of something I once read in a sermon...
Yes, beloved, on account of the Name of Jesus, you will be hated, persecuted, mocked, intimidated, humiliated, slandered, misrepresented, fined by the governing authorities for hate speech, censored in the name of tolerance, and possibly imprisoned, or even suffer death. Men will hate you because of the Name you bear in your baptism. Men will hate you because you are Christian, because you believe what the Bible says about salvation, because you believe what the Bible says about morality; the value of life, the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, respect and dignity of all people, and because "with the heart you believe unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:10).
As Christians clinging to the Name of Jesus we therefore also cling to His Word. To do otherwise would be to deny His Name and reject His gift. Sadly, many Christians and Churches are tempted to compromise God’s Word and bow before the altars of tolerance and acceptance. Rather than boldly proclaiming the clear Word of the Lord in their vocations, too many exchange God’s life-giving proclamation for the praise of men and the fleeting peace they have to offer.
How often do we covet the praise of our friends and so bury God’s Word from plain sight? How often does the desire of peace between family, friends, and neighbors, silence our confession of Christ? How often do our lives reflect the times we live in rather than counter them? It is easier to mention Jesus at home. It is easier to allow your coworkers to slander your Christian brothers and sisters. It is easier to skip church for the sake of visiting family or friends. It is easier to tolerate immorality from family, friends, and neighbors, rather than lovingly admonishing them to repentance. It is easier if we don’t publicly live out our faith, keep it to ourselves, etc. After all no one likes conflict. Conflict brings suffering and anguish. And no one likes suffering and anguish. The truth is we’ll go to great lengths to avoid it! We’ll even go to the point of imitating the behaviors, echoing the talking points, tolerating the alternatives, and endorsing the theological mindset of this unbelieving world.
So, I guess everyone must ask themselves this question, "Whom do I fear/respect more, God and His Will for me and all mankind as revealed in His Word, or men; my family, boss, friends, neighbors, and their friendships?"
-- Rev. Tony Sikora
Boy, isn't that the truth? Guilty as charged!
Such words resonate with what we read in Galatians 1 too, which says rather plainly...
Galatians 1:10 (ESV) For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Christian witness begins with a person's own faith.
We must know WHAT we believe, teach, and confess according to God's Word as well as WHY we believe, teach, and confess it.
Christianity stands up to scrutiny and investigation because it is true. We Christians are to be prepared to tell others about this truth whenever we have the opportunity to do so within our God-given vocations in this life, and even if it means we will be hated, persecuted, and ridiculed for it by our family and friends.
You might not think so, but others might notice our faithful response to such adversity, which may even cause them to seek the reason for such a faithful response and thus end up with them hearing the Gospel from our lips.
Whether they do or not is not the point of us being faithful though. God alone draws people to Himself (John 6:44) and He converts souls unto salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are simply expected to give a faithful and pure confession of the truth about Him and His Word when put in a situation to do so (1 Peter 3:15).
Even so, defending the Gospel should never be done with arrogance or militance since God calls for a gentle witness to the truth. Yet, the reality is that even when we go about such things properly by speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), there will still be those people who will react violently in response to the truth no matter how softly we deliver it to their eyes, ears, hearts, and minds.
Regardless, just remember that that 1 Peter 3:17 tells us that God may put us in such difficult situations to chastise, strengthen, draw us back into His fold, and/or to benefit others. He will never give us more than we can bear either.
At the end of the day, remember, we always preach Christ crucified for the sins of all mankind and that repentance and faith in Jesus' death and resurrection for our sins is how we receive His forgiveness and free gift of salvation.
It is enough if we know that Christ descended into hell, destroyed hell for all believers, and delivered them from the power of death and the devil, from eternal condemnation and the jaws of hell. We will save our questions
about how this happened until the other world. Then not only this , but others also will be revealed that we simply believe here and cannot grasp with our blind reason.
-- Epitome of the Formula of Concord IX 4
Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. He suffered and died for us (for you!). He rose to give us (give you!) life. His power and authority is above all others.
In a Lutheran layman's terms, we are "always being prepared" to suffer for righteousness' sake, but we should never retaliate against wrongs by repaying evil for evil, but should instead always respond with the Gospel and let the "sword of the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:17) do its work.
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!