Easter 4 – 1 Peter 2:11-20

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            It has been said about Christians that we are not good citizens. Saint Peter calls us sojourners and exiles. He also urges us to keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. The apostle’s words just spoken should put to rest that Christians cannot be true to our heavenly Father and a loyal citizen. This is why Christians have been persecuted as enemies of the state in times past. Though persecution of Christians is no longer sought in our time, there are still a few enemies of the faith around who says Christians hinder the welfare of the state.

Consider the recent debate in Springfield about same-sex marriage. Our district president joined the other two Illinois LCMS districts, as well as other religious leaders (including those outside of Christianity!) urging our legislature not to pass legislation allowing same-sex marriage. Here we see where Christians may speak up properly about an issue to the governing authorities. It was interesting to see comments on the Internet about Christians doing so. Many made the comment that the Church should shut up, mind their own business, and leave government to the government. That is what we seek to do: leave governing to those elected to serve. Nevertheless, Christians have every right as sojourners and exiles to speak up about particular issues. The problem comes when Christians place more trust in government than in God’s holy Word.

So let us consider how we baptized Christians prove ourselves to be good citizens because we regard ourselves as strangers and pilgrims in this world. First, we abstain from fleshly lusts that children of the world indulge. Saint Paul tells the Christians in Colossae: Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Hebrews chapter 13 says: Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

If you grew up with siblings around your age, you know that you are not always going to get your way. Even if you are an only child, mom and dad made sure you had what you needed, but you didn’t get all that you wanted. Those who get everything they want tend to be conceited. They expect everything to go their way. When matters do not go their way, they erupt in anger and do everything in their power to make it so. A sojourner and exile in this world looks at how everything seems to favor children of the world and, because of the sinful nature, becomes haughty. Why can’t things go my way just for once! Why does it seem that no one listens to me or listens to God’s Word?

Listen again to Saint Paul in Colossians: Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. This doesn’t mean that we are to withdraw from the world and ignore what is happening. This also doesn’t mean that we should try to set up a theocracy, a God-government in this world, believing that we can make this world look like heaven. What Paul drives at, and what Peter also drives at in the Epistle, is that we live a way of life that attracts the attention of children of the world. We live that children of the world look at us and say, “Boy, those Christians live as they believe. They have conviction. Maybe there is something about them that is honorable and worthy of praise.”

We live a way of life that attracts the attention of the children of the world not to earn our salvation, for Jesus Christ has earned forgiveness of sins and eternal life by His innocent suffering and death. We live as sojourners and exiles in order to give glory to Christ. We live this way to shut up the naysayers who wag their tongues about how Christians are “Sunday morning believers” only to live like children of the world the other 6.5 days of the week.

We prove ourselves as good citizens of the world when we are subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution. This means we pray for President Obama, even if we did not vote for him or even if we litter our Facebook page with anti-Obama invectives. Remember that our heavenly Father has given us government for good order in the world. It does a Christian no good to destroy our neighbor’s reputation…and President Obama is our neighbor, as is Governor Quinn and Mayor Porter and all public servants of the government. Yes, we live as people who are free. But no, we do not use our freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

It has been said of Christians in days of old: “See how they love one another.” This love is not merely given to other Christians. Love is shown to all people, especially to those of the household of God, but also to those who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ. Children of the world act as if there is no other person in the world but themselves. Let others fend for themselves; I have my own life to live. Not so for a Christian. Even though we are sojourners and exiles in this world, we honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. But I don’t like my neighbor, and she doesn’t like me. That’s not an excuse. Your neighbor, whether or not he or she believes in God, is someone for whom Christ died.

Christ died for your sin too. Consider His conduct among the Gentiles. We heard how Jesus conducted Himself in last week’s Epistle. We will fall short in living as sojourners and exiles in this world. We will not live as our vocation, our calling in life, expects us to live. Christ’s perfect obedience is appropriated to us by faith in Him as the Savior of both Jew and Gentile. We fall short in nothing, we lack nothing, when we are in Christ and Christ is in us. The enemy that desires to vanquish us and trample us underfoot now lies vanquished and trampled underfoot in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave.

What does it matter if the world continues to grow worse? What does it matter if children of the world mock and revile us for holding to convictions that are unpopular? What does it matter if our favorite candidate loses? What does it matter if the world ends tomorrow? We are sojourners and exiles. We live as dutiful servants of all. We pay our taxes. We pray for our leaders. We aid our enemies when they need our help. We are free, but we do not use freedom as a license for sin. We walk in the footsteps of Jesus, following His pure example. When we fall, not if, but when, He picks us up, forgives our sins, and bids us walk with Him through this pilgrim land.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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