For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men– as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.
This is your Word, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the Truth. Your Word is Truth. Amen.
Fellow redeemed: Our Lord prepares us today, for the fact that there is going to be time in between His ascension and His glorious returning. It is in this context that Peter writes how we then should live. Context is important, especially today. Jesus, speaking to His disciples and telling them that even though they saw him then, soon they wouldn’t see Him, for He was going to the Father, is telling them these things after He has destroyed death’s power over us and bought out the penalty of our sin. Jesus has died and risen again, and it is during the forty days in between His resurrection that first Easter, and His ascension that He so teaches us.
Keep this in mind: Jesus has already redeemed you from the penalty of your sin, and death now no longer holds you. Your salvation is achieved. You can have confidence in it! Seeing you in your sin, knowing all the bad stuff about you, God has already loved you so much that He took on death and hell for you, and has won you. You are His. Jesus loves you. Your sin is forgiven you. You are free. Keep that in mind, dear Christian.
So Peter is not talking about how you can be saved. He’s not talking about how you can earn a special place in heaven. That is yours. Jesus has already earned heaven for you, and given it to you. That’s off the table, ok? But as Jesus says, there’s going to be a while now, when we do not see Him with our eyes, when things may really get hard for us. Now we see Jesus not with our eyes but by Faith, where He has promised to be for us– in His Word, and where He has applied His promise to be with you. He has promised to wash you clean so that you may stand against all the accusations of the devil, the world, and know that your conscience is clean before God, for Jesus has washed you in His Word and water in Holy Baptism. And Jesus has given you His Body to eat and His Blood to drink in the Holy Communion of His Supper. With His Word and under bread and wine you are brought to Him, and He is put into you, to strengthen you, to bring you anew the forgiveness of sins He won for you, with His life and salvation. For this little while (this little while which seems so very long to us now), we don’t see Jesus with our eyes, but we see Him by Faith. We cling to His promises. And we know that we are His own, beloved, forgiven, and free.
How then shall we live? Don’t spend your time trying to earn your way into God’s good graces. You already have that in Jesus. You are free, and you shall live! How then shall we live, if not to earn what is already ours in Christ? Live unselfishly.
Live unselfishly? What does that mean? I want you to consider what a person may be selfish about– common things we’re all familiar with. How about your house or your car? Would it be ok with you if somebody just came and changed the locks and started living in your house, or drove away in your car? Well, why not? Don’t you have lots of houses and cars? Well, no! Those things are expensive, hard to come by, and you need them! Is it selfish to want to keep those things, take care of them, and even to call the police if necessary to get them back when they are taken? Of course not!
So what does it mean to live unselfishly, as you live your life in Christ? Think about some other common things: How about … we live on the coast; lots of beaches around here, and dunes… how about sand? Are you going to be selfish about it if somebody wants a bucket of sand off the beach or out of the dunes? What if somebody came to you and asked if they could pull all the sand out of your living room carpet? We’re talking about respectable folk, you aren’t afraid of them doing other things, would you let them? Hey, I’d rejoice! How come? Because I can’t get rid of the stuff fast enough! What good is it doing just laying around in my carpet? I think it would be rather easy to be unselfish with sand, don’t you?
You can be unselfish with sand because there seems to be a never–ending supply of it around here! Ok, so if you think about it, it should be natural to be completely generous with something you’ve got in such great abundance. Well then consider, you have an infinite supply of the love of God. You have an infinite supply of the grace of Jesus. You have eternal life! Even though it can be hard, and you can be subject to all sorts of hardships during this little while before His returning to bring us Home, already now by faith in God’s Word you can be confident that you are on the receiving end of infinite joy.
In this dying, sin-sickened world, anything, anything that promises even an instant’s pleasure is prized. You have infinite joy and eternal life ahead of you. In this dying, sin-sickened world, people will do anything to feel better, even if in the long run the behavior which makes them feel better now is going to hurt them in the end. But you have God’s love and grace and life and joy, you live now by faith and not sight, but even here and now you have God’s Word, His wondrous promise of things to come, and you have communion in Him through His means of grace. So, you don’t have to just live for today. You know that you may confidently live for that forever tomorrow in Christ. Your joy is already there for you. Your life is in Him. Your priceless treasure is kept already for you where moth and rust cannot corrupt and thieves may not break in and steal. You have something this world cannot give.
So… live like it! Live knowing that you don’t have to scrabble after every shred of promised pleasure in the death-dealing ways of sin. Though for a moment you may feel the twinge of loss, what is that when you consider what is already yours, which soon, and forevermore you shall enjoy completely in Christ?
You might wonder, is this unselfish sort of living really necessary, since we aren’t earning our way into heaven, and the law has already been fulfilled for us in Christ? Well, isn’t that missing the point? You have heaven itself, but your neighbor doesn’t. You have eternal life ahead of you, but the lost and dying all around you don’t. How then shall you live? Live in a manner which brings honor to Jesus, who has bought you not with silver or gold but with His precious blood spilt upon the cross. Live in a manner which brightens the heart of your neighbor. Do not live as though you were a hopeless wretch just living for today like those who know no better. Live for that tomorrow, and be gracious and kind along this life’s way. You are only here for a little while. You are on bivouac. You are a pilgrim, a sojourner. Your native land looms even now before you, and it is wondrously fair. Live as one whom God has called and loved and ennobled. Even in wanting and hardship, live not for today, not seeking the moment’s sinful pleasure (which does you no good anyway), but seeing what the world cannot see, which only those eyes tuned by the promises you have in God’s Word may see.
This world is hurting, and it is dying. The lost cannot find their way, and seeing that you are one of those Christians, they may even hate you, and see what they might be able to throw at your reputation, whether it might stick. But you are not dying, but living, and living for a life to come where there shall be no more sorrow, no more hurting, but only the love and joy and grace of Christ. So live in a manner which will cause even those who may hate you, for they hate everything, and themselves for their sin and shame most of all!, live in a manner which will capture their respect. And as Peter elsewhere says, be ready dear one, be ready to give an answer to the hope they see in you, doing so with gentleness and respect.
Why are you to be obedient to the laws of man, so long as they do not require you to break God’s law? Why are you to submit to those whom the world raises over you, when you know that you are the noble child of the King of heaven, and indeed by grace, a royal heir? You are free, and yet why are you not to take every advantage of the Christ-won liberty you have to do whatever seizes your attention in any given moment to do? Why are you to live unselfishly in the grace of God? Do it not because you think you might get a reward, but having already the promise of reward in Christ, so live in love of the God who so loves you. Please Him out of the love you have received from Him. And see in those around you the ones Jesus also has so treasured that He suffered and died to gain them life. Jesus loves the lost and dying, should you not now generously, and gratefully love them too? Do so in living among them in a noble, gracious, and loving way, not giving in to the passing pleasures and whims of this fallen world, but always holding up before yourself and those around you that which is coming, that which is forever, that which is already yours now in the grace of Jesus. And if you suffer in doing good, then let the world see it and wonder, and let them know, those who would know, of the One in Whom you live and hope. When you have forever ahead of you, waiting and enduring this little while is no big deal. You can be patient now, for a little while, for you will see Jesus with your own eyes very soon, and forevermore.
You are a child of paradise, you are blood-bought of Jesus, your sin is forgiven. Put aside all vice and envy of this dying world and life, and see the grace you are given by the Gracious One. Love one another, for you are dearly loved. Love your neighbor, Jesus died for that one too! Live, insofar as you are able at peace, and know the best is yet to come. Jesus has won eternity for you. Live then, as the beloved one you are. Your sin is forgiven. You are free. Live as forgiven. Live as free. Astonish the world with the light and grace of Jesus!
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your heart and mind through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.