Respect and the Mission of God
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the day:
13 No one can hurt you if you are determined to do only what is right; 14 and blessed are you if you have to suffer for being upright. Have no dread of them; have no fear. 15 Simply proclaim the Lord Christ holy in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have. 16 But give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience, so that those who slander your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their accusations. 17 And if it is the will of God that you should suffer, it is better to suffer for doing right than for doing wrong. 1 Peter 3:13-17 (NJB)
The next question is obvious: Is the dispute with other religions not basically just as much an instance of Christian self-righteousness as the dispute among the denominations was an instance of denominational self-righteousness? In consequence, it is no longer Christianity that is at issue, but religion as such, which makes its presence felt among mankind under a variety of forms in which it is not basically a question of changing content, but of the inner nature of religion itself, which can be expressed in many contents, even entirely without the word of God. Catechesis is thus reduced to mere information on the one side, to instruction regarding religious attitudes (but with no prescribed content) on the other side, and faith silently quits the field. (1)
“65 As we explained before, we could never come to recognize the Father’s favor and grace were it not for the Lord Christ, who is a mirror of the Father’s heart. Apart from him we see nothing but an angry and terrible Judge. But neither could we know anything of Christ, had it not been revealed by the Holy Spirit.
66 These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and distinguish us Christians from all other people on earth. All who are outside the Christian church, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, even though they believe in and worship only the one, true God, nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing. Therefore they remain in eternal wrath and damnation, for they do not have the Lord Christ, and, besides, they are not illuminated and blessed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.[i]” (2)
Pope Benedict XVI’s quote this morning struck a nerve in me. It causes me to look within, to try and understand exactly what my motivation is, as I minister. Is it a matter of personal pride in my intellect? Is it, as Benedict asks, a matter of self-righteousness, or worse, a sense of gnostic condescension? That I have the secret knowledge to a good life, even an eternal life, and those of other religions do not, is that my motivation? Or worst of all, have I set my faith to the side?
That question is hard, very hard. It is one that I am afraid to ask.
It is the same conversation that Peter is having with the early church, as he talks to them. Give the reason you have hope, do it with respect. Do it with the love that cares more about them knowing Jesus than you do about winning the argument.
That is what Luther is getting at, in talking about the work of the Holy Spirit. As the Spirit reveals that we live in the presence of God, as He gives us the ability, the comfort, the assurance that God wants to reconcile us all to Himself. Some have only seen God in nature. Others
Christianity isn’t a privilege. Christianity isn’t a combat sport. Christianity means sacrifice, just as Christ suffered for us. Peter talks about this as following in the footsteps of Jesus, Paul encourages the church to imitate him, as he imitates Jesus. They call us to sacrifice and serve, that people would be able to presented perfect to Jesus.
This is far more than finding ourselves more righteous. This is eternity, this is living free of the guilt and shame caused by our sin, by the relationships in our lives that were broken. A relationship with the God who created as to be His “beloved”.
TO engage in that kind of work takes sacrifice, it means putting aside our own pride, our own desires, our very lives. And that requires to take up the faith that we’ve laid aside. It requires that we realize salvation transforms more than our future. It transforms our lives, from our baptism through the day God completes us.
This isn’t pietism, it is the reaction of gratitude to a God who revealed Himself to us, who made known His attitude toward us, who invited us to be part of His work, part of His ministry. It is the Holy Spirit. This is what communing with God does for us. As we kneel at an altar, as we see revealed to us the love of God for the world, as we are given hope, we explain that reason to others.
This is the life of a believer, this is the life of the children of God.
Lord, Have mercy on us, and help us to realize you live in our very lives.
(1) Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 32). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
(2) [i] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 419). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Posted on January 22, 2016, in Devotions and tagged Abiding in Christ, apologeitcs, apostolate, baptism, Eucharist, Large Catechism, Luther, Missional, Pope Benedict. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.