13th Sunday after Pentecost September 4, 2022
1 Peter 3:8-15
WS #761, WS #775:1-4, WS #767, WS #775:5-6
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +
Prayer of the Day: Almighty and everlasting God, of Your great mercy in Jesus Christ You have granted us forgiveness of sin and all things pertaining to life and godliness. Send us Your Holy Spirit that He may so rule our hearts that we, being ever mindful of Your fatherly mercy, may serve You in holiness and pureness of living and may give You continual thanks for all Your goodness; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
In the name of Jesus Christ, the Name that is above all names, the Name at which every knee shall bow, and the only name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved, grace, mercy, and peace to you all.
Americans like to memorialize their heroes and people that were very important to us. When soldiers, police officers, and firefighters die while serving their country or their community, we like to find a way to remember their names—especially if it is someone we knew. We might remember them with a plaque or a tattoo, or we might even name a child after them. Whether it was someone who died in battle or someone close to us that just died too soon, the name and memory of that person becomes very special to us, almost sacred.
This morning in our text, Peter writes of One who laid down His life in battle for you—Jesus Christ. His name is sacred and holy all by itself, but as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be Thy name,” we want His name to be kept holy among us. Now, we may choose to remember the name of Jesus with a tattoo or a cross necklace, but Peter talks of more than outward symbols. This morning we’ll consider how he calls on us to honor Christ in our hearts and with our lips, mindful of the blessing Christ obtained for us. We seek to honor Him whether we are with our fellow believers or those outside the church who insult us, and honoring Him by defending our hope that is within us. Listen to the God-breathed words of 1 Peter 3, verses 8 through 15:
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. (ESV)
With the psalmist we pray, “You have done good for your servant, O LORD, according to your words. Teach us good judgment and knowledge, for we believe in your commands.” Amen. (Psalm 119:65-65 EHV)
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Dying to rescue someone is the greatest act of love one person can have for another. There’s no more someone can give someone else than one’s own life—whether that is a soldier jumping on a grenade to protect his fellow soldiers or a friend getting hit by a car as he pushes his friend out of the way. There is no greater act of love anyone can do for their friend than to lay down their life for them to save them.
In our text, Peter reminds us that we have been called to “obtain a blessing.” Now, you and I know what that blessing is. It’s heaven. It’s eternal life in the Paradise of God. But in order for us to obtain that glorious blessing, Christ had to lay aside all the blessings of heaven. He had to leave His rainbow encircled throne (Revelation 4:3) and take on the form of a servant. Though He is God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, He humbled Himself by becoming our brother. Christ had to earn this blessing for you by living as the perfect Son. And then on the cross, this perfect Son laid down His perfect life for us as He was punished and died in place of all the disobedient sons of men.
By this great act of love, the Son of God obtained a blessing for you. As Peter already told his readers, we have been born again to a living hope through Christ’s resurrection “to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for salvation.” (1 Peter 1:3-4) In our hearts, let us honor Christ as holy, knowing He has obtained the blessing of eternal life for us!
But honoring Christ doesn’t just stay in our hearts. Honoring Christ overflows into our daily living with our attitude and our speech, beginning with our fellow believers in Christ. Peter writes in verse 8, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” In other words, we care about our brothers and sisters in Christ. They too have been called to obtain the blessing of eternal life. These are the ones Christ lived and died for, just like you. What better way to honor Christ than to care for those who, like you, are members of His body?
In the early days of the Christian Church, the Roman Emperor Hadrian sent a man to spy out some strange creatures called “Christians.” His report to the emperor was mixed, but one thing he was sure of and this report remains to this day, “Behold, how they love one another.” This pagan unbeliever witnessed first hand how believers honored Christ by loving their fellow believers in words and actions.
What that spy witnessed, was the very thing Christ talked about the night before He died. From John chapter 13 (v.34-35), “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” In loving our fellow believers as Christ loved each of us, we are not only imitating our Lord, we are also honoring Him. Speaking to the believers on the Last Day, Jesus says, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40) May we honor Christ with our hearts and lips by having unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind with one another.
But we’re not always interacting with Christians. Our jobs, school, sports, conversations over the backyard fence, and even playing at the playground, sometimes brings us into contact with people hostile to God’s Word and opposed to Christ. Those interactions are not always pleasant as sometimes evil things and insults are said to us. When situations like that arise, how can we honor Christ? Peter writes in verse 9, “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.”
Now, this idea of blessing those who cause evil things to happen to us or who insult us, is totally foreign to our flesh. From childhood on, our natural reaction is that when we are hit to hit back—to repay evil with evil, and insult for insult. But remember, Christ endured the evil and insults of the cross to give you the eternal blessings of heaven! Heaven is yours right now. “So what” if you are insulted because your are a Christian? As Peter goes on to writes, quoting from Psalm 34, “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.” When evil and insults come our way, we entrust ourselves to the hands of the Father who sees what is happening to His children and listens to our prayers. Paul writes, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) Peter goes on to say in our text, “Even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.”
When evil and insults come our way, we have another opportunity to honor Christ with our hearts and lips. We know that Christ loved us and died for us even when we were enemies of God. We remember that Christ prayed, “Father forgive them,” even as He endured the evil and the insults of the cross. Therefore we can honor Christ who taught us, “I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
The young couple in the hospital was surprised. Their newborn child was in the NICU and there was all sorts of uncertainty as to what was wrong with the baby or what would come next. They had been praying about the child and comforting one another with God’s promises, but only when they were alone. And yet the nurse surprised them by saying, “You’re Christians aren’t you. I can tell.” These Christian parents weren’t evangelizing or singing hymns for everyone to hear like Paul and Silas, they were simply waiting on the Lord in their time of need—yet by their attitude in this trial, a nurse could tell they were different.
As you honor Christ in your heart and with your lips by caring for your fellow believers and returning evil and insults with blessings, you can expect people will notice that you are different. This, again, gives us another opportunity to honor Christ. Verse 15, “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
As people witness you honoring Christ with in your hearts and with your lips, be ready to tell them why. The reason we act the way we do is because of the hope that is within us. We don’t have some vague dream about what could possibly happen, our hope is a living hope because our Lord is a living Lord. When Christ rose from the dead, our hope rose with Him. Because He lives we too shall live. And this sure and certain hope of heaven, this living hope, affects our daily living. As we care for our fellow believer and bless those who insult us, we find another way to honor Christ by giving a defense for a reason for the hope that is within us.
A couple of years ago, our family spent time in Springfield, Illinois—the home town of Abraham Lincoln. Everything in Springfield seems to have a connection to the assassinated 16th president of the United States. There is the Lincoln house, the Lincoln museum, the Lincoln library, the train station where Lincoln left Springfield, the church Lincoln attended, and on and on it went. Obviously, the name and legacy of Lincoln is very important to the people of Springfield. How much more so is the name of the One who left heaven to live for us, die for us, and rose for us that we might obtain a blessing. May we honor the Christ the Lord as holy in our hearts and our with our lips by how we care for one another, as we bless our enemies, and as we give a reason for the hope that is within us. Praise be to Jesus’ name! Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage Version® (EHV ®) © 2019 The Wartburg Project. All rights reserved. Used by permission.