Jubilate Sunday Sermon
ďJustice in an Unfair WorldĒ
April 17, 2005
1 Peter 2:11-20
Lifeís not fair.
We might be able to imagine a fair and just world in which
perfect justice is meted out to everyone, whether rich or poor.
But we canít find this world. The endless pursuit of justice is just that: endless.
It goes on and on because it canít be found.
The reason is really very simple.
Justice in this world requires justice in every heart. As long as
this world is inhabited by sinners true justice will always elude us.
If you want to understand injustice, donít look
out there. Look inside.
Examine your own heart. Examine
your own life and conduct. St.
Peter tells us to avoid fleshly lusts that war against the soul.
Fleshly lusts are those things that we think and want that place
our desires above the needs of others.
Fleshly lusts war against the soul because the fleshly lusts come
from our fallen sinful nature. This
nature is rebellious against God. It
refuses to submit to God. It
lives to serve itself. It
wonít humble itself under God or man.
It seeks its own. Whether
in sexual immorality, defiance of authority, or in holding on to vices
of various kinds, the flesh refuses to submit itself to God.
Since it wonít submit to God it wonít submit to human
Only the Christian religion teaches the truth about
original sin, but anyone with common sense can see its fruit. You donít have to be a Christian to recognize sin for what
it is. Even the Gentiles
Ė those who donít know Christ Ė know what is honorable when they
see it. Only the insane
have no conscience at all. Unbelievers have a conscience and by means of that conscience
they can discern right from wrong at least in a general sense.
Thy can see if Christians are living lives that agree with their
creed. And since
unbelievers live under the judgment of their own conscience they live
their lives standing in judgment of others.
Only Christ can set you free from judgment. Christians, whom Christ has set free from Godís judgment,
nevertheless live their lives under the judgment of this world.
Every single day of our lives we are being watched, examined,
studied, and judged. The
gospel of Jesus Christ offends proud and impenitent people.
This is why proud and impenitent people love to stand in judgment
of Christians. We represent
Christ. We see Him very
differently than unbelievers see Him.
We see Christ as our Redeemer who has freed us from judgment.
When we hear the gospel of Christ we hear good news that tells us
that our sins are forgiven for Jesusí sake.
But to impenitent sinners Jesus stands as an offense and His
cross is a scandal. Those
who refuse to repent of their sins despise Christ and His Christians.
They look for hypocritical Christians they can judge.
When they find Christians who live to satisfy their own flesh
they can point out this hypocrisy in an attempt to discredit the
Christian religion. They
seek to silence Christ Himself. It
matters what people see when they see us.
Everywhere we go, whatever we say, whatever we do, we go, say,
and do as Christians.
Now you might think this is too big of a burden to
bear. But thereís
something we must always keep in mind as we face the judgment of this
world. The world may be
judging us but God is not judging us!
That makes all the difference.
God isnít judging us! We
are free! There is nothing we need to get from God that He hasnít
already given us. Do you
want to be at peace with God? Listen
to the words of Jesus that He spoke on the day He rose from the dead:
ďPeace to you.Ē ďPeace
to you,Ē He said. He
fought the war to end all war on the cross and by bearing the anger of
God against all sinners He established peace between God and us.
We have peace with God and peace of conscience and peace of mind.
We have received mercy. Christ
has removed our sins from us. He
has led us into a freedom in which no one can judge us because God
Himself has judged us to be righteous for the sake of the innocent life
and sacrificial death of Jesus. All
this St. Peter teaches us in two little words, ďAs free.Ē
We live as free Christians.
We live under grace. The
forgiveness of sins from God to us is not merely a pious hope or an
uncertain wish. It is the
bedrock reality upon which our souls rest and find their peace with God.
Nobody in all creation can enslave us again. We are free!
And it is precisely because we are free before God
that we can submit to every human authority.
We do it for Christís sake.
Arbitrary rules, unjust laws, unfair taxes, and incompetent
people in positions of power cannot master us or dominate us or drive
us. We are Christians.
We are free. We can
obey stupid rules; honor those in authority even when they ought not to
be in authority; put up with unfair criticism and even abuse.
We can do it because we have lost nothing when we do it. We have nothing to lose.
Weíve already lost it. We
lost our lives when we died with Christ and the lives we now live by
faith are the life of Christ Himself.
He is our life.
Why do people fight?
They fight because they think thereís something worth fighting
for. People fight for bad
reasons such as revenge, pride, and money.
Or they fight for noble things such as honor and love.
St. Peter encourages us not to fight at all. No, heís not teaching us to embrace pacifism.
Heís not telling us to become Mennonites and to swear off every
use of force against evil people. After all, he tells us to submit to the human authority that
punishes criminals by means of violent force!
He tells us that God Himself appoints the government to punish
evildoers. If God works
through the sword it can hardly be sinful to take up the sword in a just
cause. Policemen, soldiers,
and even the executioner are all servants of God.
What the apostle is saying is that we can and
should submit to authority Ė even when it is unfair and unkind Ė
without complaining about it. Jesus
suffered patiently. Jesus
was abused and mistreated. And
it was in the worst miscarriage of justice in the history of the world
that Godís mercy triumphed over justice by meeting its demands.
It is because we are joined by faith to the crucifixion of Jesus
that we are free. It is
because we are joined to the cross of Christ that we always see true
justice fulfilled. The boss shows favoritism.
The policeman is a bully. The
government official is an officious and incompetent bureaucrat who
steals our precious time. The
parents donít understand our problems and the teacher is completely
unfair. There are so many
things to fight, to oppose, and to complain about.
What does the apostle say?
Honor all people.
Love the brotherhood. Fear
God. Honor the king.
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only
to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.
They donít need to deserve your respect.
You honor them because you fear God.
You donít fear them. You
fear God. This doesnít mean you are scared of God and want to run
away from Him. It means
just the opposite. It means
that there is nothing you fear more in life than losing the favor of
your God. And this means
that you treasure the gospel of the forgiveness of sins that Christ
bought for you so dearly and gives to you freely.
It defines who you are. It
sets you above any human authority as a lord and master.
God sees all sin and judges all sinners and does His will as He
sees fit without consulting any human authority.
He answers to no one in heaven or on earth for His decisions.
He establishes and overthrows all kingdoms and nations of this
world and sets the boundaries for every human exercise of authority.
He answers prayers and He loves and protects and sends His angels
to defend the smallest and weakest among us.
This is the God who has chosen to love us with an undying love.
This is the God who has chosen to send His dear Son to take upon
Himself all of our sin and guilt and to take it away on the cross.
This is the God who, for Christís sake, sees no sin in us and
neither judges us nor condemns us.
He is our God. We
are His and He is ours. As
St. Peter writes immediately before our text:
But you are a chosen
generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people,
that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness
into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the
people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
(1 Peter 2:9-10)
This, then, is the context for St. Peterís
encouragement in our text to put up with what is unfair and unkind,
taking it patiently.
Sometimes we suffer specifically because we are
Christians. Christians get
a bad grade or lose a deserved promotion simply because they confessed
the truth when the truth needed to be confessed.
Think of the Christians who have really paid a price.
Persecution and murder from the pagan Romans, the Muslim Turks,
and the atheistic Communists remain unavenged to this day. Meanwhile, Christians are blamed for every crime in history
while the great contributions to charitable institutions from Christians
But what we do as Christians is never ignored.
Just as God treasures us as His holy nation He also treasures
what we do as Christians. We
donít need to fight and beat an unfair system.
There is nothing to be gained in fighting for our sinful and
foolish pride. We died to
sin. We were crucified with
Christ when we were baptized. We
rose again from the dead and spiritually ascended into heaven there to
commune with Christ Himself. Thatís
our identity, our goal, and our purpose in living.
What do we have here? As
St. Peter reminds us, we are pilgrims here.
We are only traveling through.
And as we travel through, we put to silence the
ignorance of foolish men by submitting to human authority.
The ignorance that is silenced is the attacks against the gospel
that Christians confess. When
we honor as Godís servants those who are in authority over us we
silence critics of our Christian faith.
The apostle says to fear God, but to honor the king.
We donít fear the king. We
honor him. He has no power
over our lives. Our lives
belong to the One who set us free.
When we submit to human authority we do it as free Christians.
No human power can hurt us or control us.
Itís amazing how much status means to people.
Children learn at a pathetically early age to judge each other by
the kind of clothes they wear or the social status of their friends.
Rank, status, and human approval are so very precious to the
flesh. But, in the end,
they are utterly worthless. We live here as sojourners and pilgrims.
Our citizenship is in heaven where perfect justice and perfect
mercy combine to bring us perfect love and perfect joy forever and ever.
It was for heaven that Jesus bought us and it is to heaven that
He leads us. We are free! No earthly power can bring us this freedom and no power on
earth can ever take it away.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus