SERMON FODDER: Above Reproach

The scripture I am preaching on this week is the lectionary epistle 1 Peter 3:13-22. The letter is addressed to Christians in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) who are suffering. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are suffering from the vast Roman persecution of Christians–though that is present during this time in that geographical location–but there is suffering being addressed by the author (a follower of the apostle Peter). The text addresses how Christians respond in these times of trial.

The author of this particular commentary–Paul Achtemeier in the HarperCollins Bible Commentary–makes a very important statement. He says:

Most important of all, Christians must never give others a justifiable reason to accuse them of evil

Why is this important? Our very human impulse to react in kind when someone treats us unfairly is natural–but wrong. It goes to Jesus’ command to “turn the other cheek.” This text tells us to stand firm in upright living in the face of trials by any force. This imagery brings up thoughts of those being trained for civil disobedience in the 60’s and learning to not retaliate when being brutalized by law enforcement and other officials.

However, this call to not give anyone a reason to accuse you of evil is a command we need to live by in any circumstance. It is reminiscent of the call in the book of Titus. Clergy are to live “above reproach” so as to not give anyone reason to question their teaching or leadership. This is a call that is upon all Christians, not just clergy.

But let’s be honest, not even clergy–me included–are going to ever attain that ideal. The key is to always be striving for it. When you do stumble, do not let your impulse to give up override the faith you have in the One. That One is working in you to transform you into what he wants you to be. You may stumble, but how you get back up is more important.

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