Summary: May 5, 2002 -- SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER 1 Peter 3:13-22 Color: White Title: “Fear of God causes one to respond rather than react.”
May 5, 2002 -- SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
Title: “Fear of God causes one to respond rather than react.”
The author is convinced that how a Christian behaves in the face of injustice, especially personal injustice done to that Christian, is so powerful an example that it has a good chance to cause the perpetrator to change and accept Christ. Because a Christian would respond to injustice so differently from a non-Christian, respond by patient endurance and non-retaliation, that in itself might be enough to get the unjust one to think twice. Absent that, it will certainly cause others who witness the Christian response to personal injustice to either convert to Christ or, at least, start asking questions regarding the power behind such a response.
Because the Christian knows that no real harm, no ultimate harm, can come to him or her at the hands of humans, the Christian bears the injustice with grace, knowing that it is temporary and that God will ultimately right all wrongs. The Christian can wait because the Christian hopes. Also, most Christians grow to realize that what God is doing is building the Christian’s character rather than changing others or conditions and circumstances.
In verse fourteen, “But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated.”
This is a quote from Is8: 12 where it reads, “Do not fear what they fear.” Here it means, “Be fearless because of your fear of God.” The first meaning of fear is the normal one, namely, that human emotional reaction in the face of one more powerful, provoking dread, impending doom or harm or cowering or shrinking and the impetus to either run or stay and fight. The author says that a Christian can be spared that experience, not have to “suffer” fear, if he or she is “conscious of God” (2:19) because that fear, fear of God, so much more powerful than an army of humans, leaves no room in the person for fear of anything else. When one is conscious of how awesome God is, capable of crushing, even annihilating, yet merciful, there is no more emotion left to be afraid of humans or of life. Fear of God, consciousness of him, fills one’s mind and heart, reveals how “small,” other threats really are, puts all things in perspective, and empowers a Christian to behave with courage. Where others might see threats, where others might be stymied by them, the Christian walks fearlessly right through them, or, if stopped, patiently puts up with them, and then continues walking.
In verse fifteen, “but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.”
“Is8: 13 reads, “the Lord…you shall call holy.” The author replaces “Lord” with “Christ” here. “Sanctify” means “acknowledge as holy.” There is always a connection between “feelings of fear” and “the holy.” At first “the holy” provokes the emotional reaction of fear, but if the person stays with it and listens to the experience, becomes familiar with the experience, the fear subsides and awe rises. Recognizing Christ as just such an experience, recalling all he did and does, reduces fear of humans either to virtual non-existence or to such a degree that the fear does not significantly affect behavior. Fear of humans happens in the “profane” realm where they appear to have real power. Fear of God or God as Christ happens in the “holy” realm where the “profane” is canceled out.
“Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope.” By ‘hope’ the author means the same thing as Paul means by “faith,” the eternal vision and version of reality. Since this vision is invisible, but the behavior that flows from it is not, Christians walk around like big question marks. People want to know the “secret,” that is, how do Christians behave so confidently in very scary situations? They want and need answers. How Christians respond to those questions could be the deciding factor as to whether they will accept Christ or not. So, it is crucial.
But do it with gentleness and reverence: Any hint of feelings of superiority or arrogance will destroy the answer’s power. “Reverence” translates the Greek phobos, “fear,” here meaning “fear of God or Christ.” If a Christian loses that sense of awe, of otherness, of transcendence, the answer will come out as just another human explanation for success in or control of a situation, and not be an answer from and of the Spirit.
Keeping your conscience clear: This certainly would be “being conscious of God” as well as behaving in accord with that awareness, so that one’s conscience is good (Greek agathe).