We are only half way through the year and it seems the whole world in 2016 has been set on fire. Report after report of turmoil in our country and the rest of the world seem to snowball into even greater tragedies day by day. Murder, racism, terrorist attacks, government scandals, police killings, and the list goes on. At some level these atrocities came at a surprise to me. Another mass-shooting again? Another terrorist attack? Really? But on the other hand I also realize that the world is filled with sinful people who do sinful things. My heart continues to hurt for this sinful world. I happened to be away from the news for a couple of days, only to find out that there had been another terrorist attack. I can’t keep up! For many, the future is uncertain and even terrifying. The threat of mistreatment and death is no longer far-fetched. It has arrived at our shores and it is no longer an impossible thought that it could reach our doorsteps. How should a Christian live is such an unjust world? How do we take a stand against the tidal wave of evil that threatens to drown us? Fear not. The Apostle Peter can help us navigate through this chaos.
In the book of 1 Peter, Apostle Peter exhorted the churches along Asia Minor to a life that demonstrated gospel hope, holiness, and gospel proclamation amidst an increasingly hostile society. These Roman churches were encouraged to pursue holiness and to live with a clear conscience even as they were being slandered and reviled so that their enemies would ultimately be shamed because of their good behavior (1Pet. 3:16). Our society is not much different today. Thus these same exhortations are helpful for us as we navigate through this increasingly antagonistic and intolerant world. But do we start? Peter began with the right outlook.
The Christian ought to be a person of hope. We have a hope like nothing else this world offers. The difference? Our hope is grounded in the rock solid promises of a gracious and all-powerful living God. Peter wrote that God “caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3b). He has promised and delivered salvation for anyone who worships Him. We don’t wonder if we have salvation. We know we have it. And we don’t have to blow people up, like radical Muslim terrorists, or drink the Kool-Aid in order to earn salvation from God. Jesus’ death on our behalf was sufficient. We have been redeemed not with perishable things like silver or gold for our sins, “but with the precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1:18-19).
The beauty of our salvation is that it is so sure. God is the one who guarantees it. HE made us born again and he is the one with the power to keep our faith in Him (1:3,5). Now this is real hope. This is the only kind of hope that can bring real joy in any situation. Yes, even the worst of trials. No matter the calamity we face in the world, we have real hope for our future. Nothing beats the confidence in knowing that at the end of our life we can stand before God justified because of Jesus. What is even more spectacular is that this same hope is available to ALL those who trust in Jesus. The implication? There is real hope for even the worst of evil men today. Yes, God can even save terrorists, lawyers, and politicians! He saved us, didn’t He?
Brothers, though we grieve the sin of the world, may the weight of that burden not discourage us to the point of uselessness. Instead, let the pressures of trials cause us to point to the hope of Jesus Christ. Peter says it best, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:13).
Real hope is essential to the life of the church in this chaotic world, but it is not the only distinctive that matters. Holiness matters. Holiness is part of our worship to God. We must be holy.
Personal holiness matters. We must pursue holy lives that reflect a holy God. We are not to conform ourselves to our former ignorant ways (1:14), but to live with the fear of the Lord (1:17). We must put away malice, deceit, envy, hypocrisy, and slander in the church (2:1). The temptation is for our love to grow cold. Instead, we ought to love one another with a fervent love, the kind that overlooks trivial offenses (4:8). The sins of this world are quite sobering. We must remain united in our churches rather than quarreling over petty preferential issues.
The way we treat world also matters to God. He cares about the way we interact, communicate, leave Facebook comments, tweet, and blog about others. Peter summarizes it this way, “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king,” (2:17) whether it be Trump or Hilary. “Be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead” (3:8-9). Our behavior must be excellent among the world (2:12a). Holiness summarized then is a radical love for God and others. Consider Christ as our example—“while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (2:23).
Last but not least, our marriages matter (3:1-7). If unity and love were to flourish the greatest, let it be with our spouse. Wives are to be submissive and respectful to their own husbands—even if they are unworthy of honor. Husbands on the other hand are to honor their wives as their own equal, and for most of us, our better half. We must learn her and provide for her needs, protect her as the weaker vessel, and cultivate companionship. Let us not excel in all things, but fail horribly in our marriages.
So what is the church’s role in this ever increasing sinful world? God has saved us and sanctified us for a purpose. It is the mission we were left with us before Jesus comes back again. Peter wrote, “BUT YOU ARE A CHOSEN RACE A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR GOD’S OWN POSSESSION…” why? ”…so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (2:9).
In a timely message that our pastor preached this last Sunday, he reminded us that if we are not careful we can easily get sucked into the myriad of various social injustice movements out there today. All of these are good causes. Which one should we fight for? Which movement should we pour our lives into? the pro-life movement? anti-racism? fighting the sex-slave trade? It can get quite confusing and overwhelming really quick. These are all important issues. But if we really think about it, there is even a greater social injustice that exists that the Church must not neglect—that the world does not worship their king, Jesus Christ. So what is the most important thing the church can do? We must proclaim Him! That’s what I love about my church. Our ultimate goal is to exalt Jesus Christ by making disciples. This is what we do. Yes, the world is on fire. Yes, Jesus is coming soon. Chaos will ensue and the world will burn, but the mission of the church does not change. We proclaim Him!