How to Live for Christ’s Sake
1 Peter 2:13 – 3:17
How to Live For Christ’s sake
You probably saw in the news during the week, the Qantas flight from London that struck turbulence, over India.
I wondered if, when it feels like the plane’s falling out of the sky, and the pilot comes on the intercom and says, “Ah, ladies and gentlemen, will you please fasten your seatbelts”, Do you think any of those passengers yelled back at the pilot, “Get lost! Nobody tells me what to do!”
I think it’s pretty safe to say that every single passenger submitted to his authority immediately!
There are all sorts of situations in life when we willingly submit to others! But submission as a concept, has a pretty bad image problem, doesn’t it?
And yet, the Apostle Peter, wants Christian people, to live lives that commend the gospel to those around them, we saw that last week, and one of the ways this works out, is through submitting to other people.
And so this morning we’ll hear some things from Peter about how we live for Christ’s sake.
For Christ’s sake, submit to authorities.
First of all, For Christ’s sake, Peter says, Christian people are to submit to the authorities that God has established, so that the gospel and Christian people might not be slandered.
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority,, verse 15, 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.
When you’re driving, what is your reason for sticking to the speed limit? Assuming that you do stick to the speed limit!
Generally I think my motivation is that I don’t want to have to pay a fine, so basically it’s greed!
But what does Peter say? We submit to authorities, and by extension, their laws, so that people who would slander Christians and slander Christ, would have nothing to say.
The Apostle Paul, if I were to paraphrase, says that human authorities are like the babysitter that your parents put in charge when they went out. If you disobeyed the babysitter you weren’t just disobeying some 15 year old family friend, you were disobeying your parents who hired the babysitter, and so it wasn’t just babysitter wrath, you felt when you disobeyed, it was your parents’ wrath.
But Peter gives us, another reason to think about our behaviour.
You know sometimes you wish you could have the knock-down answer, that one magnificent statement that just blows someone else’s argument out of the water,
I call them “later-isms”, the really good things, that you think of later!
But when someone like Christopher Hitchens, writes a book called God Is Not Great:, How Religion Poisons Everything,
How do you argue against that?
Well, part of the argument, and the argument that is available to all of us, not just the high-flying apologists with brains the size of planets, part of the argument, is to do good.
So those people, like Hitchens, who say that Christians are bad news,
Those people who fill the talkback airwaves saying that faith has no place in the public life of a country like Australia,
If we show we’re willing to submit to those in authority over us,
That we’re willing to put our personal preferences aside for the benefit of those around us,
How could anyone say our society would be better off without Christians like that? In fact any reasonable person would have to say, we want more people like that, active in our society!
Peter’s saying just because you’re an alien and a stranger in the world you can’t claim some kind of spiritual diplomatic immunity, and disobey human authorities.
Now in Australia, most of the authorities over us are pretty tame.
But when Peter’s writing, Nero is Emperor.
Nero who was described as the first systematic persecutor of Christians.
Nero, who, we’re told, burnt Christians as lanterns for his garden parties.
In fact it’s thought that Peter himself was executed by Nero, possibly even as part of the celebrations for Nero’s 10th anniversary as Emperor.
So Peter doesn’t just have in mind, submitting to leaders and authorities who we agree with, who tolerate Christianity, For him the king was someone violently opposed to the gospel!
But because his goal is the commending of the gospel, and the raising up of Jesus in people’s eyes, he says “submit, even to these authorities. Show how powerful, in someone’s life, the gospel of Jesus is.”
And we submit, for the Lord’s sake, for Christ’s sake, which presumably means we submit, right up to the point where submission would mean disobeying Christ.
We couldn’t disobey Christ, for Christ’s sake, could we?
And Peter, in the book of Acts, finds himself saying, here’s the line, “no, we must obey God, and not man.”
But if all this sounds incredibly restrictive, Peter says, “this actually is how to live as free people!” Live as free men, and women he says.
In the 16th Century John Calvin, wrote the Christian life “is a free servitude,, and a serving freedom.”
Recently Kathy and I have watched a bit of those, what do they call them?, Bonnet dramas, Upstairs Downstairs, Downton Abbey, all about these upper class families, and their servants.
And these maids and butlers and footmen who work in these huge houses, talk about being “in service”, working as a servant.
It’s not just a job,
It’s their whole life.
It’s what they expect to do until they die.
A Christian person could describe their life the same way.
True freedom isn’t an escape from service according to Peter, true freedom comes from a change of master.
And because of your new master, you have a completely different kind of life.
For Christ’s sake, slaves submit - a paradigm for all Christians
But submission doesn’t end there.
Peter turns to relationships in the home.
Whenever a new religion appeared in the Roman world, it was evaluated by how well it reinforced traditional Greco-Roman ideals of household life, and there were lots of documents that laid out the Greco-Roman ideals.
Peter says, living for Christ’s sake, even shapes what happens in the home. Now in all those outside documents, slaves and wives were talked about, but they weren’t talked to. They were actually thought to be in deficient, and so it was left up to the husband or slave master, to make sure they lived appropriately.
This is different, though, isn’t it?
To say to slaves and wives, “You have responsibility for your own behavior”, was incredibly subversive to the culture.
slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.
Slaves in the Roman Empire could have been teachers, doctors, or lawyers, this here is household slaves, the lowest of the low. Think of all the chores we’ve made obsolete because of plumbing and sewage, those things were the job of the household slave!
Peter says to these people on the bottom rung of society, you can walk in the footsteps of none other than Jesus, as you suffer unjustly, To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
Now, we probably want Peter to come right out condemn slavery, but Peter’s agenda is different.
First of all, instead of calling for a change to social structures, Peter is explaining a completely new way to think, a new way to think that actually ends up, changing social structures.
Miroslav Volf is Professor of Theology at Yale University, growing up, his father and grandfather were pastors outlawed by the government of communist Yugoslavia.
he knew what it meant to be persecuted and to suffer, to be powerless in society.
He says this:
The call to follow the crucified Messiah was, in the long run, much more effective in changing the unjust political, economic, and familial structures than direct exhortations to revolutionize them would ever have been.
For an allegiance to the crucified Messiah—indeed, worship of a crucified God—is an eminently political act that subverts a politics of dominion at its very core.
You want to change the world?
Don’t tear down the social structures, at least not straight away! Preach Christ, the suffering servant,
Preach Christ, and God in his grace will change people’s hearts and minds.
Preach Christ, and people are given a new way to think,
Preach Christ, and the social change that follows will be, well, it’s lasted 2000 years.
Peter also wants the Christian slaves to know, when you suffer unjustly, you become model for all the other Christians, because isn’t that exactly the behaviour that this new identity in Christ demands from everyone, not just slaves?!
Slaves, you have to put up with unjust treatment, but the rest of you, feel free to fight back! Repay evil with evil!
Not at all, if you’re a Christian, you’re a slave to God, and so the actual slave who is obedient to their master models that role for the entire Christian community.
See it’s not just to slaves that Peter says, To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
Again, only slaves have to follow Jesus’ footsteps?
No, Peter is speaking to everybody!
The slave who suffers for doing good, serves as the paradigm for all Christians.
I heard once of two young brothers whose mother gave them a plate with 2 pieces of cake, one was a little bit larger than the other, and the boys were arguing about who would get the bigger piece.
Mum sees an opportunity for some discipleship training, and she says, “Billy, Peter, what would Jesus say if he was here?”
Billy thought about it for a moment and said, “Jesus would say, ‘let my brother have the bigger piece.’”
Mum’s just so thrilled, but then little Peter says, “OK, Billy, you be Jesus!”
This is, a paradigm, a model for life, and example for all Christians.
And the word example there describes the letters of the alphabet that a teacher would write across the top of the page in a child’s exercise book. And what does the kid have to do?
Follow that example,
Copy it as closely as they can,
And if you’ve had kids you know that when they start you can’t even recognize them as letters, but with time and practice they learn to follow the example.
Changing the structures of the world, well that’s not really Peter’s goal here, at least immediately, he wants to see God’s people transformed, and there’s both and evangelistic and a social outcome.
For Christ’s sake, Wives & Husbands
Peter then turns his attention to husbands and wives, chapter 3 verse 1 Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.
It’s the same idea isn’t it?
Live in such a way that the gospel is commended.
Wives, in the same way, means, for Christ’s sake, Live the kind of life that will tune other people’s ears in to the gospel of Jesus,
Because who is he speaking to here?
It’s Christian women with non-Christian husbands.
be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words
And he gives an example, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
Do you remember the TV show “I Dream of Jeannie”? People used to joke that it was every man’s dream! All the time “Yes, Master! Yes Master”!
But that’s not Peter’s point here, all you’ve got to do is call him “master, rather the focus is on doing, what, is right.
Now blokes, if you start thinking, “I want the I Dream of Jeannie life, where she calls me Lord and Master all the time”, Remember Jesus’ words, say in John 13, the real Master, is the one who serves in every way,
To the nth degree,
Always putting the other first.
So, just, don’t get too excited!
But what does Sarah’s example, in places like Genesis 12 and 18 and 20, teach us about submission?
Well, submission also includes things like, following the husband’s leadership,
Accepting his decision making,
Forgiving, when those decisions turn out to be wrong,
Specifically, in order to demonstrate that your life is different.
And let me say, Peter is talking generally. He’s not trying to address the specifics of what might be a very complicated situation in this home or in this home.
And another thing that Peter is absolutely not saying, is that submission means wives need to agree with their husband on every issue.
We know they don’t agree with their husbands on every issue!
They’ve put their faith in Jesus!
They’ve turned their backs on their husband’s religion, something unheard of, in the first century!
These are some courageous women!
They’ve got greater spiritual understanding than the blokes they’re married to, but so their husbands might also get to that point, Peter urges the wives to submit, so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words
This isn’t the only teaching on husbands and wives in the Bible. If we want to understand submission more generally, we need to look elsewhere,
And I think it’s also worth saying, that submitting to another person, doesn’t mean that the one who submits is of less value.
The Scriptures tell us Jesus, the Son of God, submits to his Father.
You suggest for a moment that this means the Son is of less value than the Father, and you’ve torn apart the very nature of God.
In fact those who would argue that submission implies inequality and, betray a secular worldview that identifies worth as based on position.
And there’s no room for that way of thinking, among the chosen, precious people of God.
Let me highlight one more little thing, in this section about beauty.
The word for beauty that Peter uses, is used only 3 other times in the Bible, once in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and twice in reference to Jesus himself.
Don’t you think it’s remarkable, that a concept like beauty, that in our culture is so linked with femininity and physical and outward things, to actually understand what it really is, we need to go back to Jesus?
Ladies, and guys, you want to understand beauty, as it is in God’s sight, the place you start is with Jesus.
You want to teach your kids about beauty, your young women, and, our sons too, we start with teaching them about Jesus.
Well we’d better leave the wives there.
For the blokes, Peter keeps it short and simple.
Verse 7, Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
Again, notice, husbands, in the same way, for Christ’s sake,, be considerate as you live with your wives. A better translation might be “understand your wives”, although, some might say that’s setting the bar a bit too high!
And we joke about this, because we know it’s hard sometimes! You know the book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus? Well Peter is saying, “men are from earth, women are from earth, deal with it!” And husbands it starts with you, the primary responsibility for living together in understanding lies with you.
Understand, blokes, that generally speaking, she’s likely to be weaker and less robust than you. Of course there are women who are strong, but in most cases, the husband will have greater strength and physical endurance.
The question is husbands, how can you guide your wife, how can you be helpful ?
How do you respect her, not because she’s powerful, which is usually where respect goes, But how do you respect your wife because she’s weaker?
How can you use your greater physical strength, not just to make her life easier, you know, taking the lids of jars and squishing bugs, but in helping your wife be a better follower of Jesus, and heir of
the gracious gift of life?
I’ve told some of you before, years ago, listening to a sermon on a cassette, I’m so old school, the preacher was an American guy named Howard Hendricks, he was kind of relating an imaginary conversation with God on that last day, and he’d talk up his ministry achievements, and the great life he’d led, and then in this imaginary conversation, God thundered, “What about the wife I gave you? What about her?”
Make no mistake husbands, that is a question you will be asked, and me as well.
Peter says, if you make no effort to understand,
If you offer no care,
If there is jealousy and bickering instead of love and compassion, don’t expect that God will hear your prayers, and don’t expect to enjoy that time of spiritual intimacy where together you approach God in prayer.
Surely you don’t expect God to honour your requests, if you won’t honour the wife he’s placed there with you.
No wonder he only gives us one verse!
That’s enough for us to work on for a while, isn’t it?!
For Christ’s sake, be distinctive, you’ve got nothing to lose
And so we come to the last section, for Christ’s sake, be distinctive.
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
Peter’s not saying, if you bless someone, or act lovingly towards someone, then you get instant rewards.
This is inheritance language, and what’s the thing about an inheritance?
You’ve got to wait for it?
Peter drawing our eyes to the future.
When I studied psychology at uni, we did some research with rats, before that was decided to be unethical!
But my rat, which we called Elmer, all he had to do, was push a button and he’d be rewarded straight away with food.
Turns out, Elmer was the dumbest rat in all Christendom!
He just couldn’t do it.
The button was the only thing in his cage, you’d think the law of random something or others would mean eventually he stumble onto the button, but no!
All he had to do was press the button and get food,
Good deed, blessing.
That’s what a lot of people think the Christian faith is like.
Good deed, blessing.
But we are not rats in God’s cage.
Because we were called to inherit a blessing, this is how we ought to live, compassionate, humble, keeping your tongue from evil, seeking peace,
And even if nobody notices, orif you get treated poorly because of the way you live,
God sees and is near,
Do you see how God’s presence and nearness are described in verse 12?
the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
his ears are attentive to their prayer,
the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, quoting Psalm 34.
A burglar once broke into a home at night, and was walking through the lounge room, when he hears a voice, “God is watching you.”
He stops, silence, another few steps “God is watching you.”
Finds the light switch, flicks on the light, all he can see is a parrot in a cage. Parrot speaks: “God is watching you.”
So the burglar says, “Who do you think you are?” And the parrot answers “I’m Moses.”
Burglar says, “What kind of people name their parrot ‘Moses’?”
And the parrot replies, “The same kind of people, who name their Rottweiler ‘God’!”
God sees your distinctive life!
Remember, it’s not the rat in the cage, where we live perfectly and so get given a prize.
When we suffer unjustly, we’re faced with a choice, do we respond in kind, out of our old nature and our old way of thinking, or do we demonstrate the power of God’s grace through a radically distinctive life?
Peter says, if you’re a member of God’s chosen nation, of course you can live this kind of distinctive life, you’ve got nothing to lose, nothing of any real value anyway.
Who is going to harm you he asks, if you are eager to do good?
Now we could probably think of a few people, but then, so could Peter!
In his day, Christians were getting crucified,
Tied to bulls and dragged through the streets,
Sewn into the bodies of dead animals and thrown to the lions.
How can he say, who will want to harm you, ?
Well he’s not saying, no one is going to harm you physically, Obviously, plenty of people were trying to do that!
But God’s promised an eternal inheritance,
And who can take that away from me?
I’ve got nothing to lose!
But what does it mean if no one is harming us,
If I’m not suffering, unjustly,
Am I doing something wrong?
Perhaps the reason you’ve never come under fire for being a Christian is that no one has ever figured out you are a Christian.
Maybe you’re not as distinctive as Peter would have you be.
But simply by the grace of God, few Christians in Australia suffer the way our brothers and sisters in China Indonesia, Pakistan do.
So does do we make of these commands to be distinctive for Christ’s sake.
Howard Marshall, New Testament Professor in Scotland says, “What Peter says to Christians who are actively and vigorously attacked for their faith, also applies to us whose Christianity might be ignored or quietly tolerated.
Maintaining the highest standards of Christian living and seizing every opportunity for positive witness are abiding obligations of all Christians”
And whether we’re suffering unjustly, or in God’s kindness benefitting from the rule of those over us, those two practices are absolutely essential aren’t they?
Maintaining the highest standards of Christian living, and seizing every opportunity for positive witness
Peter’s whole point in this section is that they go hand in hand, the highest standards of Christian living, will give opportunities for positive witness, that is, talking about Jesus.
And so he says, when the time is right, for Christ’s sake, speak up.
For Christ’s sake, speak up
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
There’s a legal flavor to this language, as if you’re defending yourself in court.
I got summoned for jury duty once, and it just happened to be the week that the jury was being selected for the Snowtown Bodies in the Barrels murder trial. I thought, if I have to sit in this, I’m going to be in court forever! And it ended up being Australia’s longest ever murder trial.
But that’s kind of how Peter pictures the Christian life, being in court, forever, day in and day out, not just as a juror, but as the defendant.
In effect we’re on trial every day that we live for Christ in a non-Christian world, we’re being asked to defend the hope that we have.
Terrorism, Global Financial Crisis, relationship breakdown, sickness and death, There are all sorts of reasons why people feel that life is hope-less,
But Christians are people with hope!
It’s how Peter started his letter, God has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ
The resurrection is a great foundation for hope!
What Jesus said and claimed was true, and God demonstrates this by raising him from the dead.
I was talking to one of our people just this week and they were describing really some appalling treatment they get in their workplace from one of their managers, public vilification and ridicule for their Christian faith.
And yet, because this manager has brought our friend’s faith well and truly into the public arena of this work place, other members of staff are now quite happy to ask our friend the questions they have about the Christian faith.
See Peter doesn’t necessarily expect it will be happy things that give you a chance to speak of your hope.
But we make the most of whatever we’re given, because it really is a hope worth speaking about!