13 Can anyone really harm you for being eager to do good deeds? 14 Even if you have to suffer for doing good things, God will bless you. So stop being afraid and don’t worry about what people might do. 15 Honor Christ and let him be the Lord of your life.
Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope. 16 Give a kind and respectful answer and keep your conscience clear. This way you will make people ashamed for saying bad things about your good conduct as a follower of Christ.17 You are better off to obey God and suffer for doing right than to suffer for doing wrong.
Christ died once for our sins.
An innocent person died
for those who are guilty.
Christ did this
to bring you to God,
when his body
was put to death
and his spirit
was made alive.
19 Christ then preached to the spirits that were being kept in prison. 20 They had disobeyed God while Noah was building the boat, but God had been patient with them. Eight people went into that boat and were brought safely through the flood.
21 Those flood waters were like baptism that now saves you. But baptism is more than just washing your body. It means turning to God with a clear conscience, because Jesus Christ was raised from death. 22 Christ is now in heaven, where he sits at the right side of God. All angels, authorities, and powers are under his control.
I’ve collected a variety of Lenten practices for us to consider during this season. All of the practices are aimed at faith formation, at making us stronger, more intentional followers of Jesus.
The first two verses of our epistle lesson speak to the practices of Lent.
13 Can anyone really harm you for being eager to do good deeds? 14 Even if you have to suffer for doing good things, God will bless you. So stop being afraid and don’t worry about what people might do.
13 Can anyone really harm you for being eager to do good deeds? Have you ever held back from doing a good deed? Were you afraid of what people would say about you? Were you afraid the good deed would be rejected or not appreciated? Can good deeds cause problems? If you were to sit for awhile and contemplate these questions, you’d probably come up with some good examples. Did you ever stand up for someone on the playground and get pushed around for it? Did you ever try to stop someone from saying bad things about another person? I take a little heat sometimes for being too “churchy,” too goody-goody. My solution is to stay away from people who don’t share my respect or compassion for people who might be labeled losers. I’m not particularly proud of that, but it’s one way to keep my temper and my friends at the same time.
What is Paul’s answer to this dilemma? 14 Even if you have to suffer for doing good things, God will bless you. So stop being afraid and don’t worry about what people might do.
It is a dilemma. Just to remind you, A dilemma is a problem offering two possibilities, neither of which is practically acceptable. In other words, you’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t. You’re between a rock and a hard place. Following Jesus does put us in that position from time to time. Sometimes we try to wrap ourselves in the warm, fuzzy blanket of Jesus’ love, so that we don’t have to deal with the thorns and the rocks.
We were talking about racist jokes the other day and how to deal with those. Do you laugh? walk away? accuse the person of being a racist? tell yourself you don’t mean any harm? My wise daughter has a great technique that does not offend the other person, but instead makes them examine how the joke is racist and why the joke is supposed to be funny. So…does anyone here know a joke that might be racist? Would someone be brave enough to tell it?
Now, here is the technique. You simply say, “I don’t get it. Can you explain it to me?” At that point the person explains, and amazingly, in explaining the joke, it becomes clear that yes, that joke is insulting to the Child of God who is a member of a particular ethnic or cultural group.
What about the fourth-grader who sees a student hurting another student? What happens when the fourth-grader tells the teacher or the playground supervisor? It might be that nothing will happen or the naughty kid will have to sit in the corner….or the naughty kid will pick on the tattle tale. In the grown-up world, we call those tattle-tales whistle blowers; whistle blowers don’t always get a bonus for pointing out that the company or business needs improvement: sometimes, they get fired.
Praise God, as often as not, following Jesus is a regular high. I think of mission trips that my friends take to Jamaica and Haiti and how they can hardly wait to go back to hospitals and orphanages that would be condemned and closed in this country. I think of people who go to nursing homes, not to check in, but to visit and to entertain the people who make their homes there. Or what about the fourth-grader whose teacher sends a note home telling what a great thing she did for another student?
We take chances when we follow Jesus.
I’ve argued for a long time that the Church is the one place we count on for security. We count on the church to stay the same. The rest of the world changes faster than we can blink. But the church is the one place that stays the same.That’s why we call this room a sanctuary…we’re safe. But like any criminal hiding in Gothic monster of a cathedral, we eventually have to go outside. Jesus doesn’t sit here all day; neither do we. We come here, but then we leave, following Jesus into the real world.
A word about the Church staying the same: it doesn’t stay the same. Today we have new bulletins and a new order of service and a new hymn. Sometimes we have visitors. The people on the prayer list change. But you know what never changes, has never changed, will never change? Jesus. Jesus gave us some guidelines, and those have not changed. OUr interpretations changes from time to time, when we put that warm fuzzy love blanket over our heads. But, if you take the Bible seriously, it comes down to this:
Love God. Love your neighbor. Amen.