“Always Right?”  I Peter 3:13-22

No one has ever been bullied into becoming a Christian. 

Sixth Sunday of Easter  (Mother’s Day)  May 13-14, 2023

“Always Right?”  I Peter 3:13-22

Rev. John R. Larson  Ascension Lutheran Church  Littleton, Colorado

             When is the last time you offered a meaningful apology?  Today?  Yesterday?  Last month?  Last year?  Can’t remember?  I’m not talking about an apology which begins, “If I offended you, I’m sorry that you took offense.”  There isn’t much grief in such an “apology”.  “I’m sorry that you don’t have thick skin and you get offended so easily.”  That’s no apology.  Those are empty words.

            No, when is the last time you said to someone, “I’m sorry.”  “I was wrong.”  “This is all on me.”  “I sinned against you.”  “Can you forgive me?”  In our reading from Peter we run into the Greek word, “Apologia”.  Using a dictionary that word usually means, “An expression of one’s regret for having injured, insulted, or wronged another.”  An apology.  In Christian language we say that is repentance.

            Peter told his readers that they had reason to make a meaningful apology to God and to others.  “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.”  (I Peter 2:1)  Later he addressed their history of sinfulness, “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.  (I Peter 4:3)  He reminded them, “Once you were not a people”, “Once you had not received mercy”.  (See I Peter 2:10)

            That is where we begin.  A true apology.  An honest word.  “I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities…”

            But there is another definition of that word “Apologia”.  This is it, “An explanation, defense, or justification in speech or writing.”  That is how I Peter 3:15-16 uses that word “Apologia”.  It is a defense of your faith.  “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” 

            Be ready to give an answer for the hope you have.  You are a Christian.  You have a living hope.  You have Jesus.  Jesus has you.  There are many people in this world that don’t have any hope in life.  They don’t know that all the evil that sits in their heart can be forgiven.  They carry a load of guilt and remorse and don’t know what to do with it.  Too many people, millions of people, face a life every day that has fallen apart, went the wrong way, and they don’t have any idea if a good life can be resurrected.  Too many have a life that has just turned in on itself – never realizing that God’s good life is to be outwards, not inwards.  Too many, including many of the folks that we know, realize that life became entrenched with sin and evil and ugliness and they don’t know what to do to change that.  Too many people have run out of hope.

            What do you do when all of that pain and evil and loneliness speaks to your soul and mind?  Bury yourself in pity?  Look for a remedy by your own hands?  That doesn’t work.   You had better go to Jesus.  Peter, ever a bringer of true hope says, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.  He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.”  (I Peter 3:18)  Always go to Jesus.  For forgiveness go to Jesus.  “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”  (I John 1:7)  For a new life go to Jesus.

            You go to Jesus.  And invite others to go to Jesus, as well.  “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.  But do this with gentleness and respect.”  All of us need to grow in our faith.  We need to know more about what we believe and why we believe it.  But the witness of our faith is more than our words.  It is our heart.  It is our love for those that we are speaking with.  We are not engaged in a conversation about Christianity with another person so that we can prove that we are right and that they are wrong.  Our words are not meant to be, “I win; you lose.”  No one has ever been bullied into becoming a Christian.  Nobody.  Ever.  Peter says we share the reason for the hope that is within us with “gentleness and respect.”  We listen before we speak.  And when we speak, we are given a message of true hope and deep love.  Paul says that we are to “Speak the truth in love.”  (Ephesians 4:15)  As Jesus says of His followers, “You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:14-16)

            This past week we had a sad funeral.  Some funerals are called “end of life celebrations”.  Some old person, after living 80-90-100 years dies after living a full and good life, their heart is at peace with God, they trusted in the death and resurrection of Jesus as their only hope for eternity, and now “they rest their weary eyes”.  Good life.  Good death.  Eternity in that place of no tears or sorrow has begun.  But on Friday we had a sad funeral.  Vernon Kahler died at 52 years young.  Unexpected.  Quickly.  He had such a zest for life, such a joy on his face.  Gone.

            I read to Rose, his wife, and her family a verse that I have read to many of you.  “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.  We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”  (I Thessalonians 4:13)  In one hand we have grief and tears, a part of our soul is empty.  Our loved one is dead.  But in the other hand we have hope.  Not hope as in a wish or a dream.  Hope as in a certainty that God will keep his promise.  We have grief in one hand and we have hope, in Christ, in the other.  As Peter says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

            Peter writes this letter to Christians scattered all over the world.  But they had a few things in common.  They all were undergoing suffering and they wondered if they could hold up under the struggles of a world that opposed them and their faith.  In the next chapter Peter gives them hope in their difficult reality, “Dear Friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.  However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”  (I Peter 4:12-16)

            Hope is what God gave them.  Hope is what God gives us.  In death.  In life.  In tears.  When puzzled with unjust suffering.  Earlier Peter would give the example of Jesus to those who suffered for their faith, “When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.  Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”  (I Peter 2:23)

            We entrust ourselves to Him because He is always right.  He is always right when He reveals our heart, exposing our sin and telling us to repent of such self-imposed death.  And He is always right, mercifully, when he says that He sent His own Son, Jesus who died for our sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God.  That is so good.  That is so right.

            And now, we, given a living hope, bring a living hope to others.  We make the apology of our sin and now we can tell the world the very reason that we have hope and joy and certainty.  We have Jesus, God’s living hope.  He claimed us.  He loves us.  He uses us.  Christ is set apart in our hearts as our Lord.  We have a real hope to give to everyone.  Amen!!            







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