This is the Sermon for Jubilate Sunday -- April 21, 2013 at

Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church
Laurie, Missouri



1 Peter 2:11-20

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.

Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. 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. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 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.

Sermon for Jubilate Sunday                                                                                                                                                                                                     4/21/13

Silencing Ignorance


My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

The Christian life. It is frequent focus of the Apostles, and one of the most divisive topics in the Church. For some it seems to be a set of rules – if you live according to the rules, then you are a true Christian, or so that teaching says. Among Lutherans, ‘the Christian Life’ is the life which a Christian lives. It is not bounded by a lot of detailed rules, to which one must measure up. There are Biblical principles to which we pay attention. Some of those are contained in our text, along with the rationale - and you will note that we live our Christian lives not in order to get into heaven (for that is already given to us by Jesus Christ), but because we are going to heaven, and are God’s people, and represent both God and His holy people in ourselves and our conduct here on earth. One of our goals is, in the words of our text, to silence the ignorance of foolish men. And so our theme this morning is Silencing Ignorance.

The ignorance of foolish men – meaning people, not just the male portion of the race – surfaces in the opinions of unbelievers about Christians. These opinions often break out into persecution of one sort or another, but even when they don’t they voice their foolish ideas - their ignorance, if you will. The example that springs to my mind in these days is the ignorant statement of Rosie O’Donnell a few years ago, when she stated that Christians posed a greater danger to this country than Islamic terrorists. One is tempted to search for meaning, and try to figure out how she could see things that way and why she would say something so out of touch with reality. Were there specific Christians that endangered her life and limb? Did she feel that certain Christians were dangerous to her in specific?

We shouldn’t play the game that way. We should take her at the words she spoke and call them “insane”. I can guess that she feels the disapproval of some who are Christian about her lifestyle and blatant, in-your-face homosexuality. But my opinion about her moral choices does not endanger her, or even limit her right as an American to choose. Perhaps she has received threats from some who assert falsely that they are Christians. They could inspire fear, or even dislike, but it is insane to judge all Christian by the actions of a few, self-appointed nutjobs. It is blind hatred - the kind Jesus said that they world would have for us because we are His - when someone asserts that our sorrow over her choices is roughly equivalent to (let alone worse and more dangerous than) those who have declared publicly that it is their goal to kill us – Rosie included – violently.

Another example would be the very recent news item showing a military training item that listed threats – as in terroristic threats – to our nation. It listed Evangelical Christians first, Islam second, and continued on down with “Fundamentalists” (by which they appear to mean Bible-believing Christians) and Roman Catholics. Those are groups that need to be watched and are considered dangerous threats to our nation by the administration now in power in America. The ignorance of foolish men.

We cannot influence the blind hatred behind such pronouncements. We hear such things from the immoral who want to pursue their immorality without guilt – and the witness of our holy lives to God’s law or to the coming judgment make them feel guilty or afraid. The vitriol spills forth from the pseudo-scientific community when we refuse to be panicked into rash behavior or unbelief by their latest junk-science, such as their climate change hysteria, or we decline to follow the latest fad in science designed to teach children that there is no God - like evolution. When social engineers try to reduce humanity to population groups, our insistence on the value of each individual life drives them batty with anger. When politicians try to gin up class-warfare, the Christian principle of the basic equality of human beings with one another propels them to saying stupid things inspired by the same blind hatred.

We will always be living among those who believe the world would be a better place without Christians, although they have no real idea why, or what our absence would mean. Peter gives us instruction about living a holy life so that our enemies in the world will have no genuine justification for their hatred. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles (that is, among the unbelievers). This isn’t so that might earn something, but simply to demonstrate the foolishness of their hatred. Peter doesn’t say that this will make them love us or change their minds. It won’t. Our holiness will only stand in sharp contrast to their wickedness and immorality, and demonstrate that their hatred is not grounded in our conduct toward them. The goal isn’t to end their hatred and persecution today, but that when the Lord comes, and they must bear honest witness to what they have observed, they will give God glory that we were holy even in the face of their evil persecutions.

You are the beloved of God and free from sin and death and hell by what Jesus has accomplished. That is the Gospel truth. Peter is sketching a brief outline of what that means for your daily life. He is describing, in a sense, how to silence the ignorance of foolish men.

Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.” Of course, the immediate temptations we Christians face as those who have heard the Gospel are either to become legalists, and try to limit Christ’s atonement, so that we have to be worthy or become worthy, or remain worthy by our own behavior – or to become antinomians, that is, to dismiss any claim of God’s will on us, covering our sins in forgiveness, and wrapping ourselves in a blanket of the license to do whatever our flesh may desire, as though sin doesn’t matter any more. The devil wants to push us to either extreme, and some people to both, alternately. Either extreme, however, gives credibility to the ignorance of the foolish. The Gospel guides us right down the middle - where we do not deny the Word of God either as to the Gospel, or the Law, and silences the ignorance of the foolish.

The truth is that men and women are never absolutely free in this life. Romans 6:16-23 describes for us how we are either free from righteousness, and therefore slaves of sin and evil, or we are free from sin and evil, and therefore slaves to God and to righteousness. Paul ends that section with the thought that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” That is the truth of man’s existence before God. You, who believe the Gospel and hope in Jesus Christ, have been set free from the Law and sin and evil, so God tells us through Peter to use that freedom for holy living, “that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.” Using your freedom as a covering, an excuse, or a license to sin and do or say evil is to live as slaves of evil. Acting on your freedom from sin means that you use your freedom as the slave of God, bound to be holy and to do what is God-pleasing.

One of the “Lutheran Questions” is, “How is this done?” That is the substance of our text. Peter is telling us. For example, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul.” Those “fleshly lusts” are the desires of the sinful nature. They include sexual desires, the lust to be in control, the desire for victory or apparent justice (rather than waiting on God and His will and His justice), the lust for comfort, the desire to be wealthy, or any desire which focuses on you without any particular regard for others or obvious trust in God to get it right.

The hostile world is looking for excuses to point the finger at God’s children. They are even willing to make stuff up. Peter tells us to keep our behavior excellent among them, so that they will be revealed as slanderers, on the day of Jesus’ return in glory, and will be forced to give God the glory of acknowledging the truth of our good conduct before all of mankind. In other words, make their criticism and accusations slander by living holy lives and behaving rightly. For example, “Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.” Government is not always right, or always friendly to us, but since God establishes that human authority among us, we submit.

Every nation that has persecuted Christianity as tried to assuage their conscience by saying that Christianity is subversive - but we are not. We are commanded by God and our faith to be faithful citizens, submitting to the law in every respect, except when doing so sets us against God’s clearly expressed will. A true Christian cannot be a revolutionary and be faithful. We trust, rather, in God. “For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.

We are to also do things like, Honoring all men, obeying and respecting those in office in our government. We are to love the brotherhood - the Church, and our fellowship first, naturally. We are to love one another with the love of compassion and action, not just of words and feelings. And we are to do what is right and holy, no matter what.

Peter uses the example of the slave, but if it is true for slaves, how much more for us. He instructs slaves to be “submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable”. The principle in this verse is that we don’t just do what is right and holy and good when it is easy or popular or acceptable to others. We do it in every circumstance. Peter even addresses the situation where you do what is right and suffer for it. Do it, he says, and bear the consequences patiently. Speak the truth, and bear that backlash patiently. Take the risk of reaching out to help someone, or to tell them about your faith, or to invite them to your church, and if they turn on you, bear it with patience and grace. The ignorance of foolish men will not be silenced easily - or painlessly. But it is one of the goals of our good behavior.

On the other hand, it’s part of that forgiveness thing. You need it, and Jesus forgives you. Others need it from you, and you can act like your Savior and give it to them, even when they don’t deserve it. We must do what is right, and follow Jesus, no matter how it feels or what others might say. The hearts and behavior of foolish men are not to shape ours. “For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.

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” This is how we live out our forgiveness and our freedom from sin and death, from Satan and hell, and from the oppression of evil. We trust God in every situation, do what is right, and we endure whatever doing what is right requires of us. It finds favor with God - and God tells us that in the end, it is about silencing the ignorance of the foolish.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

(Let the people say Amen)


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