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CHRISTIAN ENDURANCE AND LOVE CAN CHANGE THE IMPOSSIBLE
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
6 MAY 1990
By Frank L. Hoffman
1 Peter 2:18-25
Preparation Verse: (James 3:13)
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.
At various times in our Sunday services, and at our Bible studies, we have discussed the abuses that we humans inflict on each other and upon all the rest of creation.
We also have talked about the responsibility of Christians in the face of such abuses.
And sometimes it seems like it is impossible to correct these abuses, for so often they seem to be getting worse.
But we're to hang in there, for "Christian Endurance and Love Can Change the Impossible."
In 1 Peter 2:18-25, Peter is talking about the importance of grace and submission in the life of a Christian: submission first of all to God, but then to our earthly conditions; and, in this particular case, that Christian servants are to be submissive to their masters.
Let's take a look at these verses again and see if we can understand how God wants us to act, and how He will act in response.
18. Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.
19. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.
Now let's stop here for a moment or two, and look carefully at what we are being told.
First of all, Peter is addressing the household servants of the wealthy.
He did not use the Greek word for slaves, but the word for servants.
Yet from the context of the passage, it could very easily seem to be referring to slaves as well, particularly in the end of verse 18 where he refers to unreasonable or, more precisely, crooked or perverse masters.
If the person was a free-will servant, and the employment conditions were unjust, then that person could find another job.
But Peter seems to imply that the servant can't get another job, giving the impression that he may be referring to actual slaves.
In order to understand why Peter may have been using the word for "servant," we should realize that Israel was under Roman domination, and that anything that sounded subversive would bring down reprisals upon them.
Therefore, by using this approach he is using the devil’s own tactics against him. While the enemy sees outward cooperation, he is relaxed, and the Christians are able to become stronger and achieve their ultimate goals.
Perhaps the pro-lifers could have been further ahead following this example of Peter's.
Perhaps we all could be further ahead in everything we do in the name of Christianity, if we followed this example.
This is the main reason that everything we do in promoting compassionate living for all being, whether human or other animals, is done in a polite and peaceable manner.
Christianity teaches the equality of all people, and these servants or slaves, as the case may be, were told to be submissive to their masters, a condition that seems counter to this very Christian teaching of equality.
But it is not.
What Peter is teaching here is about our Christian witness and the way God views it, and also of the ways in which He will respond.
Our conscience, in relation to God, is not some kind of outward response that we are to have concerning our sins in the face of a holy and righteous God in some far off and invisible heaven. It is our response to a loving and ever present God who dwells within every believer.
And if in all our actions we respond to that inner presence of God, it finds favor with Him.
It also finds favor with the people around us, for they will see that Christians – true Christians – don't respond as do the people of the world.
20. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.
If we sin and are punished for it, people expect it.
And this is exactly what happened to the pro-lifers in Vermont.
If we are justly punished, people will say we deserved it, whether or not we endure it with patience, for people will just see our patience as a form of repentance.
But if we endure patiently that which is wrongly inflicted upon us, others
will observe and perhaps respond to our Christian attitude, even those who are
inflicting unjust treatment; and that is what is favorable to God.
21. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,
22. who committed no sin nor was any deceit found in His mouth;
23. and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;
24. and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
25. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
Jesus Christ knows all about the suffering we go through.
And sometimes we wonder how long we will have to endure before the wrong is corrected.
But God's word tells us to patiently endure in a Christ-like manner.
And it is from this Christ-like behavior that our salvation comes.
Let me give you an example.
In the newspaper, the week before last (April 1990), there was an article about the
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and its relationship to
preventing cruelty to children.
Neither the unborn baby in the womb, the animals in our care, nor most children in our society can truly speak for themselves.
They are like slaves.
And when we see abuses, and want to help stop them, we also often find ourselves just as helpless as the slaves; but there is hope.
When Henry Bergh saw that the horse-drawn streetcars were over their legal limit of passengers, and that this was causing the horses to be abused, he would step in front of the streetcars, blocking their way, until they unloaded to their legal number of people.
Henry used the law to help the helpless.
He did not break the law to do so.
And in 1875, when a church worker named Etta Wheeler tried to rescue a little girl who was being beaten by her stepmother, but couldn't get help from the law because there were no laws against child abuse, she went to Henry Bergh for help.
In 1866 Henry had been successful in having laws passed in New York State that protected animals against cruelty, and Henry was successful in using those same laws to protect that little girl.
He explained to the judge that this little girl was covered by those animal laws because she was an animal, just like the rest of us humans; and the judge granted protection to little Mary Ellen.
That same year, the public's attention was so drawn to this case that the
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was formed, and laws followed
Peter, Henry, and Etta did their best within the law to help those who could not help themselves; and thus they pleased God.
Above all, God is the protector of us all, for He sent His only begotten Son to free us from our slavery to sin.
Our real problem is not that we abort babies, or abuse animals or children, for these are just the effects of our problem.
Our problem, as a society, is that we don't truly believe in God, even though many say they do; for if we truly did, we would also follow God's teaching.
We wouldn't have to protest abortions, if there were no unwanted pregnancies.
Almost all of our unwanted pregnancies come from our not following God's moral standards.
And we abuse animals and children because we don't love God, or His creation, or each other.
Beloved, we are protesting the wrong things.
We should be protesting our own lack of moral standards, and we should be encouraging everyone we encounter to seek God and His everlasting love.
We shouldn't fear the world around us, or how they react to us in doing God's work.
And we shouldn't fear others when we seek to live a godly life and set a
proper example for others.
When we begin to fear, we should remember the words of the 23rd Psalm.
1. The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
2. He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3. He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name's sake.
4. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil; for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
5. Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
Thou hast anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
6. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Believe this promise of assurance.
God will help us to see through all of the problems and evilness around us.
Hang in there!
Love without ceasing!
And because God is with us, we will overcome the seemingly impossible.
Your Comments are welcome
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