I heard someone ask the question one time, “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict?” Strong question, right? Often times this question gets asked, not out of a spirit of love, but out of a spirit of legalistic condemnation. It comes across as, “if you don’t hold to my narrow version of what it means to be a Christian, then you must not be saved.” You know the tone, right? Well, regardless of the misused tone of the question, at its core, the question is a legitimate consideration for us.
Over the past couple of weeks we have spoken about the way that the Gospel compels us to love our neighbor. We talked two weeks ago about the statements of what to do and last week about the affect the Gospel takes on our responses. In each of these, we find that the Gospel presses us to love first and foremost. Our love for God and the love we receive from God is the fuel for how we love others. But, why does it do this? Why should this be the mark of who we are as Christians? Why is every day a new day to love our neighbor?
Simple…The righteousness of Christ turns us from evil.
Back to 1 Peter 3.8-12.
Peter quotes Psalms 34.12-15. Some might try to say that Peter now turns to a works-based form of righteousness, but what he demonstrates is that one of the beautiful benefits of the Gospel is how we are able to turn from evil. His illustration from the book of Psalms helps us see that the affect of the Gospel on us is the righteousness of Christ that will turn us from evil. It guards our tongue. It shows us to seek peace. It turns us from evil.
Left to ourselves, we cannot do this. We will turn to evil. I know, I know…you’re a “good person”. In light of the righteousness of Christ, all of the “good” that you and I do on our own is still filth. It doesn’t count for anything. It would be like taking your bar of soap to the pig pen for a bath. Sure, you used a soap and wash cloth, but are you actually clean? Washing ourselves with our own work doesn’t produce any level of righteousness to celebrate.
So, what does this have to do with loving your neighbor?
- We cannot pursue peace and be silent in the face of injustice. Martin Luther King stated that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” His point is rooted in the understanding that the Gospel has placed God’s people in a position of properly seeing and addressing injustice. There is no peace when our neighbor truly experiences injustice.
- We cannot turn a blind eye to evil when it is convenient. We do it in entertainment. We do it in politics. We do it in “civil” engagement. I do not expect the world to operate with a biblical worldview or under a biblical understanding of morality and evil. I do expect the church to operate as such. However, where we are called to turn from evil and when we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to turn from evil, we passively promote and celebrate it out of preference.
- We cannot keep our tongue from evil but not our fingertips. Social media will kill your effective witness of the Gospel if you let it. Your text threads will kill your effective demonstration of love if you let it. This takes us back to our response and reaction we addressed last week. I am not your mom, so I cannot boss you around. However, I am your pastor and I am your shepherd. That means that I have the unique responsibility of calling you to view things differently. Christians cannot blanket share everything on Facebook or Twitter without due diligence of fact checking. If we are called to be purveyors of truth, then we are also called to ensure that what we are putting out on social media and through messaging apps is also true. It is not loving to share something that is false…even if it does line up with your political views.
- We can turn the Lord’s face. Right, we believe that God does not change. He is eternally God. He is eternally holy. He is eternally righteous. And, He is eternally loving. Many other attributes of God that we can offer. So, how do we turn His face. Verse 12 ends “The face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” You can change that for your neighbor. Love your neighbor to Jesus. Love your neighbor to the Gospel. They will then have the ability to turn from evil. God’s face will no longer be against them. You can do this!
Each day brings us a new opportunity to love God and refuse evil. Love your neighbor enough to do it!