Churches have growing difficulty during this pandemic. There are the big decisions to make. Do we open or not? How do we open/stay open? Mask or no mask? And when leaders decide, there is the group that disagrees with that decision. It wouldn’t have mattered what the decision was, there would always be someone who disagrees with it.
You’ve had similar difficulties. Do you go out or not? Do you wear a mask or not? Do you trust the numbers or not? When you voice that opinion, there are people who disagree with you. Some of you say, “Well who cares about them?” But God does. God cares about everyone. So we do too. But you will go through the difficulty of someone who disagrees
with you. It is tough to do that with humility.
It is difficult being a Christian with everything that is happening in our world. You are different. You believe, act, and think different than people who don’t believe in Jesus. You even believe, act, and think different than some people who do believe in Jesus. It is difficult.
Recognize it and acknowledge, that is ok. Jesus said that would happen. Endure it.
Peter is encouraging a group of Christians to be different with the words from 1 Peter 4. They have a different lifestyle, they think different, they believe different. The world then was a growing hostile towards Christians. It was difficult to be different. Peter urges them to continues and equips them, not just to survive their difficulty, but to thrive. 4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has
suffered in his body is done with sin. Christ suffered – once for all for sin. His suffering was completed and done. We also suffer – and that is a curb to stop us from sinning. It will be finished when the suffering is done, in heaven. 2 As a result [of the suffering], he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. Suffering produces a result. It helps us live our lives, not for human desires, but for God.
3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. There are the sins of the past that plagued the unbelieving world of that day. They were open and disgusting sins. Satan repackages the same open and disgusting sins today.
Drunkenness, sexual immorality, and self-gratification are god in society. Peter reminds the hearers of their past. “You spent enough time doing this. Stop it. This is not you anymore. But not everyone will appreciate the new you.” 4 They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation (harmful and wasteful behavior), and they heap abuse on you. The members of your cohort of the former ways of sinful behavior are surprised
when you take a leave of absence from that behavior. They wonder why you don’t swim in the same filthy behavior that they do (and you used to do). Then they slander you. They speak harmfully about you and to you. It is difficult to endure. It is difficult to hold up under peer pressure to do something wrong. It is difficult being different.
Part of us may be upset or angry that we must endure such difficulty. As Jesus reminds us, you don’t need to worry about them. Let God take care of them. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. They who slander will have to give an account to Jesus Christ for what they have done. He will judge the living and the dead. We don’t always choose to be different. We blend in with the sinful world around us. We grow weary of being different. We think that giving in is some sort of reward for us because of good behavior. We think we can dabble in the world’s filth for a little while then we can quit whenever we want. That lands us under the judgement of Jesus Christ.
But for a believers’ judgment, Peter says this. 6 For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. We will break this verse down into parts. First and the most important of the section, “The gospel was preached.” This is a reminder about what Christ suffered for us. Here’s what Peter said earlier about the gospel. 23 When they hurled their insults at [Jesus], he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:23-25). This is the gospel. Jesus endured the difficulty of suffering with purity in our place. All our going astray
wounded Jesus so we could be healed. You are forgiven. You have returned to the care of the Shepherd of your soul. This good news (gospel) was preached to those who are dead. They were alive but they are now dead, perhaps because of persecution. This gospel affects judgment. The future judgment before God in heaven will not like the previous
earthly (fleshy) judgment they endured. The judgement of this life is done by outward standards and some were killed because of a false outward judgment. Peter wrote from experience that those he knew and loved were killed because of their faith in Jesus. But at the death of every believer, they are judged by God’s standard – life forever because of Jesus
Christ. We are closer now than ever before. So what are the positive differences we are to make while we are here waiting. 7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Judgment day is near and that will be the end goal of everything. So be clear minded (sober-minded) and express self-control for the sake of
prayer. Don’t let the politics or the fear get the best of you and your actions. You are redeemed. You can be self-controlled.
8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. You would think that of all places, Christians would be able to love one another even in all the politicizing of our current situation. It is in the Christian Church where there are strong opinions and an unwillingness to love the other person who holds a different opinion. It is why Peter still encourages the Christians then and God through these words directs Christians today to love one another. Love consistently the brothers and sisters of Christ because love does the hard work of covering over many sins (much more difficult that covering over a few small sins).
Can you imagine what this would look like? Pray this week that Grace Lutheran is clear-minded, self-controlled, and loving to our community around us. That is the different we all want to be. That is the different God already made us in Jesus. It is difficult to be different. It is difficult to humbly hold a different opinion from others. It is difficult to be a Christian in an increasingly immoral and apathetic society. It is difficulty to maintain peace and love between Christians in a climate of debate and self-justifying opinions being god. It is difficult being different. But God sets you free from all the difficulty.
Free from the rat race. Free from the obligation to try to please God. Free from the burden to live for the approval of people. Go be different. You are free to love, as he loved you.