LIVING FOR GOD IN THE WORLD
Third Sunday after EASTER
29 April, AD 2012
TEXT: I St. Peter 2:11 – 17.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (I St. Peter 2:11-12).
The First Epistle General of St. Peter was written around AD 64 to a People experiencing serious persecution. The Emperor, Nero, had proscribed the practice of Christianity and had begun a campaign of “search and destroy” wherever Christians might be found throughout his Empire, in order to eradicate the dangerous and disruptive threat from followers of “The Way.” St. Peter wrote to all Jewish Christians who had been driven out of Jerusalem and scattered throughout Asia Minor; any Christian who was experiencing persecution for their faith. He writes to comfort them with the assurance of everlasting life and to challenge them to continue living holy lives. He connects their suffering with Christ’s ultimate suffering and, in this section of the Epistle particularly, reminds them that God, who created all things, by the example of their lives through the power of the Holy Ghost, can convert those who speak ill of them, that is, the Gentiles, by the way in which the Gentiles observe the Christians’ manner of living. St. Peter reminds them that, as followers of the Risen Christ and by His holy example, Christians still must live in the world, yet not of it. How we are to live as pilgrims and sojourners in this world and how we combine our heavenly and earthly lives is the special subject of the Epistle, today.
First of all, St. Peter reminds us that Christians must look upon the world as our temporary home; as sojourners and pilgrims in it. Our position here is temporary, seeing, as Hebrews reminds us, “We have no continuing city, but seek one that is to come.”Hebrews 11:13-16. Likewise, St. Paul, echoing the words of St. Peter, reminds the Philippians in chapter 3, verse 20, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” St. Peter stresses that, through the use of our Christian conscience and consciousness, we must cultivate a life of detachment from the things of this world that are contrary to the Christian life, for they “war against the soul.” It is a very difficult and thin line to tread; for while being detached from the world, we are still in it, and as such, we have a duty and responsibility not to be hidden or withdrawn, but to live our Christian lives in the open and be “examples” for the rest of the world who will see how we live our lives and come to glorify God in the Day of His Visitation. Therefore, we are not to establish our separation from the world through personal pride or contempt of it, but to remember our duties to the world of example, submission, and service in order to hold up our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as the ultimate example to the world of the Way, the Truth, and the Life. So we turn, first, to the Christian’s duty of example.
As Christians as we are to show the world a better way – not through condemnation or abuse of it, but to show its error by living a Christians lifestyle and doing what is right. Christianity works not through insurrection or revolution but by revelation; to live that the world will come to know, through our example, that the Christian life is honest, true, and redemptive as well as being a comfort and hope in times of sorrow and anxiety; that there is a reality of “being” at the end when the earth will vanish away and God’s Kingdom will be fully established.
Secondly, St. Peter exhorts us to submit ourselves, for the Lord’s sake, to every secular authority instituted among men; not in the sense of giving in, giving up, or capitulation, but voluntarily cooperating with them out of love and respect for God first, and then, secondly, out of respect for them as God’s instruments – not to the point that we ever compromise our Christian conscience or relationship with God, but by being obedient to the Holy Spirit in service to God. In other words we are to be obedient to the government – not as a creation of man, but through the authority of government which is ultimately from God; to be obedient “for the Lord’s sake” in the fact that the laws, so far as they are wise, express the wisdom of God; and the concept of human justice, in so far as it is just; all established and based on the justice and righteousness of God. Obedience “for the Lord’s sake” lies at the foundation of our society, for laws, as ordinances from God, are the only security for good order, true liberty, confidence, and prosperity in a relationship with each other and with God. For God’s principles and values are eternal and immutable. Therefore as we live in the world and by the laws which govern our society, we are obedient to God as the Creator of all things and find ourselves in a climate in which we can live peaceably as we endeavour to show this world the better Way, even Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; so that by our doing good through obedience to God and His Word, we, as St. Peter says, will put to silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.
Thirdly, is our duty of service. Through the power of our Christian liberty by the Resurrected Christ we say to the world, “You are not my Master, neither is society or the Self.” For those who serve those entities are really seeking their own ease or advancement in the world and use their freedom as a cover-up or cloak for their ulterior motives instead of living as the servants of God. Historically, it is like those barons who desired the Pope to absolve them from their allegiance to the king that they might serve neither God nor the State, but only themselves. Instead, we use our Christian liberty in this world as a sign of ultimate allegiance to God and His Sovereignty in the manner in which our Lord taught us in the Beatitudes, St. Matthew, chapter five, who said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” In these three ways, through our duties of example, submission, and service, we bring the Kingdom and Justice of God a little closer to being a reality to and for this world.
Finally, St. Peter’s words were not just for the persecuted Jewish Christians living in dispersion during the first century AD. They are timeless. Even today, there are Christians, near and far, who are experiencing all kinds of persecution. Even in this State, there are those who wish to redefine and circumscribe God’s immutable Law with regard to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, which He established for the good Order of our society at the foundation of the world, for the advancement of their own political power and peculiar agenda. Through tactics of fear-mongering and outright lies, these people are seeking to serve their own interests and are proposing as a matter of personal rights behaviours that are contrary to what Holy Scripture informs us is the Will of God and His created Order. It is more important than ever that we, as Christians standing firmly as pilgrims and sojourners in this world, acknowledge the all-encompassing Lordship of Jesus Christ and reflect His Will, Sovereignty, and Love to this world by the way in which we live; that through the power of the Holy Ghost within us, He would bring those who would prefer to ignore Him into the Way of His Life and Love for them.
Let us pray.
Guide us, O Christ, in all the perplexities of our social life; uproot our enmities, and lead us in the way of Thy righteousness and Truth; that as Thou hast bidden us to let our light so shine before men, in Thy good Spirit shining through us, Thou wouldest bring all to Thy Holy Will and to the maintenance of Thy Justice among all men and nations. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
And now, unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost be ascribed all might, majesty, power, and dominion as is most justly due this day both now and forever; world without end. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA – JEU+