To read this sermon from The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr. click on “Continue reading” below.
Sermon based 1 Peter 3:13-22
For those who have been involved with the Boy Scouts, today’s sermon title should be very familiar because this is the motto of the Boy Scouts. That is certainly good advice for the Boy Scouts. If they go camping they are encouraged to be prepared. This might involve bringing dry matches, a sharp knife, warm sleeping bag and a tent that does not leak. Likewise, when we read the words of Scripture from 1st Peter this morning, we too are reminded to be prepared. Peter’s instruction this morning is not just friendly advice however. Peter was encouraging the church to develop skills in life that would have them ready and prepared. Certainly as Christians there are some things we need to be prepared for and Peter addressed those things our reading.
First we are to be prepared to live without fear. When exploring this passage it is important for us to remember the harsh fate that often awaited outspoken Christians in Peter’s day. In Peter’s day, it was a time in which Christians were a small minority with little social or political acceptance. Being a Christian during that time placed a person at physical and economic risk. Some verses of this passage touch upon this reality when Peter wrote:
And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” (1 Peter 3:13- 14)
Verse 14 of this passage is actually a reference from the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah 41:10 says:
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
In studying this more closely we are left to wonder who are the “they” that Peter makes reference to and what exactly do “they” fear? Peter was making reference to the people who lived their lives with no reference to God. Their fear was losing respect, their livelihood and even their lives because of their belief in God. In thinking of the subjects of fear and faith, it has been said that fear is our greatest adversary. Studies over the years seem to suggest that fear is not only a universal emotion but also the first of emotions to be developed in humans.
Perhaps we are familiar with the legend about a man riding upon his horse one day to Constantinople. A woman asked him for a ride along the journey. He took her upon the horse and as they rode along, he asked, “Who are you and what are your plans in Constantinople?” The woman replied that she was Cholera and planned to take the lives of residents. Upon hearing this news he ordered the woman to get off his horse and walk to town; but she persuaded him to take her along because she promised that she would not kill more than five residents in Constantinople. As a pledge of the promise upon their arrival, she handed him a dagger, saying to him that it was the only weapon with which she could be killed. Then she added: “I shall meet you in two days. If I break my promise, you may take my life.” One hundred twenty people died of the cholera in Constantinople. The man who had given her a ride to town was enraged. He was prepared to use that dagger because she had broken her pledge of taking no more than five lives. Upon finding her in town he was prepared to take her life but she stopped him, saying: “I have kept my agreement. I killed only five residents. It was fear that killed 115 others.”
This legend is a true parable of life. Where disease kills its thousands, fear kills its tens of thousands. The greatest misery of humankind often comes from the dread of trouble rather from trouble itself. From the cradle to the grave fear casts its shadow. Fear betrays our spirits, breaks down our defense, and disarms us in the journey of life and faith. The good news is that we can live our lives without fear because Christ is alive and among us. In life we must be prepared to recognize Christ as Lord of our lives. Peter encourages us to share the blessings of God with others. I believe the greatest blessing God has given us is the opportunity to be in a relationship with His son. To recognize Christ as Lord and Savior will help lead us to a more fulfilling life. Peter suggests one way we can best model this belief in our lives is to simply “sanctify the Lord God in our hearts” (1st Peter 3:15). To sanctify means to set apart. The Christian faith makes no sense nor does trying to live as followers of Christ unless we set Christ apart in our lives. We must allow Jesus Christ to be Lord of our lives.
Throughout the book of 1st Peter we learn a lot about living a life of holiness. To sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts allows us to live a life of holiness. To recognize the Lordship of Christ means we must put Christ first in our lives. The late Samuel Wilberforce, a bishop in the Church of England once said the lordship could be defined in four words: admit, submit, commit and transmit. Indeed we are called on to admit our sin and the need for a Savior, we must submit our lives to Christ as Lord, we must commit our way to living life as a Christian every day and we must transmit and share Christ’s love and goodness with others.
Peter goes on to share in this passage the importance of transmitting. Peter tells us to be prepared to give the reason for our faith. Peter encouraged the church to always be ready to give witness to their faith without bitterness. He brings to their attention the example of Christ, who suffered for doing what was right. He wanted to prepare them to be ready to suffer as well for doing right, for being a follower of Christ. Peter speaks about living a life of hope that resonated with the church that was suffering and hurting during this time. Based upon their current circumstances, the people had little reason to rejoice or to have hope. However because they were followers of Christ, they were displaying hope in their lives despite those outward circumstances. Often people would inquire why they were filled with hope. Peter told them to be prepared to give an answer. We took must be prepared to answer for our faith yet many of us resist the opportunity of sharing our faith with others. If we love Christ, we need to share Christ with others. It’s interesting to note that as we study the Scripture about how and where Jesus met unbelievers. Jesus simply met people where they were. There are over 100 accounts in the gospels of where Jesus had contact with people. Only six of those accounts were in the Temple, only four were recorded in the synagogues and the rest (over 100) were out with the people in the mainstream of life. Our lives are different because we love Jesus. People around us will notice this difference. If people are struggling in their lives, if they are suffering and they are witness to how we respond and handle those times in our lives with the help of our faith, they will ask us why we can live a life of hope.
Peter tells us to be prepared to give an answer to those who ask the reason for our hope. This does not mean it is an opportunity to brag on our success rather it provides us an opportunity in the words of Peter to share with meekness and fear and a good conscience (1 Peter 3:16). We need to respond to others with the same respect that Jesus had for all people. Our Lord never forced His way into people’s lives. Jesus was always gentle, respectful and loving.
Our goal is to help bring others to know God in greater ways. We are to be prepared.
The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr.
May 21, 2017