Act like you know. Make the right decision. Do what is right. Follow the right path. You were raised to do better.
We have all of these directives in our lives. They are often vague. What is right? How do we know what is right? What if we have been raised one way but haven’t actually explored any other way? How do we know we are doing the right thing or even thinking the right way? What if the way we have been shaped has so influenced us that we cannot see past that?
These are all questions that help us to begin to explore doing the right thing. If we aren’t asking the questions, we may take for granted what we know is the right way. We may be missing what it means to be just and kind and loving if we are simply basing our decisions on what someone else has told us.
It reminds me of when I am talking to people about a popular Bible story. I will mention this story and they might mention…yeah, I remember when that happened. What comes after that may not even be correct Biblically. It may not be what is actually even written. We can remember what people have told us in different ways than may actually be true. It isn’t the fault the other person or of us. We interpret what we hear based on our background and circumstances at the time. It may be that we have learned some things completely wrong and have held fast to a notion that doesn’t really exist, except in our own minds. We might be surprised if we took the time to read the Bible for ourselves and search deeply for what God is teaching in his Word. Truly read it without trying to read into it what we think we know…that is the key.
1 Peter 3:13-22
3:13 Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?
3:14 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,
3:15 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;
3:16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.
3:17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.
3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,
3:19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison,
3:20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.
3:21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you–not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
3:22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
This scripture presents for me questions – Where does your hope come from? Why do you have hope? What is it about you that is so hopeful? What is it that makes you different? Why is your outlook so unique?
All of these are based on a couple of things. First, that we have hope. And second, that others recognize that we have hope. Those may seem simple enough but especially in times like these, we don’t often appear very hopeful. We may appear more angry or disturbed. We may appear more entitled or belligerent. We could simply appear anything except hopeful. But as followers of Christ, hope is a part of us. It is a part of our lives. It is a part of how we function in difficult times. But in times like these, we are really pushed. So where does our hope come from? What about the hope that is living in us?
We find genuine hope when we discover Christ. Hope comes through Christ and in him. Hope is found not in our circumstances but in the One who created us, loves us and offers us redemption. We find hope in Christ. He offers us hope because we can have a new life in him. We can find forgiveness when we have gone wrong. We can find joy where we thought joy was no longer possible. We can realize that we are loved beyond measure because he loves us so greatly. This gives us hope that things can be better. This gives us hope that no matter our situation, God is with us and promises us a new way. He did not come in anger. He did not come in spite. He did not come in fury. Jesus came to us in love. And through this, we find hope. It is also how people can discover the hope in us – by the way we follow Christ. We are to be known by our love.
When our hope is genuine, we are often more compassionate because we are not trying to defend something we do not know…something that someone has given us. We are not trying to create something or contain something that is not truth because we know the truth, and he has set us free.
When hope is genuine, we do good because it is a part of us because Jesus is a part of us. We do good by doing what he has called us to do. Good and right are not defined by our standards. Think about it – what I may consider good may be different than what you consider good. What I may determine is right may not be the same as what you determine as right. So to know what is good and right comes from following Jesus. He knows what is good and right because he is. He knows what love is because he is. He knows how hope feels because he is. So to know what is good and right, we follow him – not our ideals or feelings.
As I mentioned last week, good and right does not equal superiority of one person above another. It does not favor a race or an ethnic group. Jesus offers true life to all and he sees what is in the heart, not what we see. So hate, racism, sexism, or any of the like are NEVER a part of what is good and right. If we are going to follow Jesus, we are going to find the good, but it might be in places we would have deemed wrong. Be prepared to have our world turned upside down and some of the truths we have so long held to be taken down in favor of the truths of God’s Word.
When hope is genuine, we will find that we listen. We listen to God and how he is leading us. We will listen to where he is guiding us and when he calls us out for our sins, our wrongdoings and our shortcomings. We will also listen when he calls us his beloved, his child, his disciple. When we listen, we will read his Word with fresh eyes. We will hear his commands to love others with fresh ears. We will live our lives with fresh perspective. We will be challenged to follow what he has for us. It will probably mean we begin to mend fences. It will likely mean we find we have been wrong and ask forgiveness. It may mean we make amends where we never thought possible. We may even be convicted for things we held onto so tightly. We may find we were wrong. But in the end, we will find what is good and right.
I pray that we begin to find hope. May we live what is good and right and may our lives be changed. May others see the hope in us and may we show them Christ. And may it begin with me.