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  • Writer's pictureLou Hernández

19-05-24 - IN STEP LIVING IN AN OUT-OF-STEP WORLD 1 Peter 2:18-24

MESSAGE BY PASTOR ROB INRIG FROM

BETHANY BAPTIST IN RICHMOND, BC.

James Pearson’s reconnaissance team stepped carefully as they made their way across the field of landmines separating them from the enemy.  The mines had been placed and marked for their safe passage, as they moved to the other side of the field, then into the woods to scout out German positions.


They’d not advanced far when machine gun fire opened up, trapping them on the ground, leaving them unable to advance or retreat.  Hours went by and by mid-afternoon, the skies turned grey under a snow blizzard.  As snow grew heavier, visibility was becoming nil so the platoon leader decided to retreat under the cover of the storm.  However, when they reached the edge of the woods and looked across the minefield, the snow had grown so deep that all the indicators where they had planted the landmines were gone. 


Sensing that a German offensive was imminent and that his unit would be wiped out by the enemy’s advance at dawn, the commander decided to cross before darkness enveloped them.

Calling the men together, he informed them, ‘I will lead and you are to follow single file, 30 yards separating each of you.  You are to place your boots exactly in the imprints left by mine.  If my steps are wrong, I alone will be killed.’


Miraculously, they made it back to their position, only to discover later that some of their footsteps were only inches from disaster but following the Commander, all made it safely home.


I can’t imagine the stress these men felt as they put one foot in front of another but I assure you, not a step was taken without giving full attention to where they placed their feet. Not for a second did they forget who they followed, knowing the dangers if they were even slightly out of step.  


As Christians we are often far less attentive to the footsteps we are to follow.  Unaware of surrounding dangers, we get deceived by paths others take, ignoring that these paths differ from where He takes us but we go because there are no signs of an enemy we’re told is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.  And with no enemy in sight, we approach walking in Christ’s footsteps, like a journey of choice not necessity. So we walk on, living the life - fun, adventure, risk.  


Against that, our call to walk ‘in Jesus’ steps’ often putting us ‘out of step’ with those around. When what we’re asked to do is hard, steps larger than we think possible but as followers of Jesus, we are called to ‘in step’ living; following Him in the things we will encounter and mirroring Him in how we are to respond to the things we encounter.  


Last week we considered how our faith is to look in places that challenge us, specifically how we relate to those who have been authority over us.  We were reminded that without a firm focus on Jesus, that journey will be difficult. But our focus must do more than just get us through, it is to change us. When God makes us new in Christ, He gives us a new heart where He wants to reshape our attitudes, reshape our priorities, and reshape our actions.  In other words, the Holy Spirit, let loose in us to transform - not making us different just in who we are but making us different in how we are – in actions and in thought.  


We are given a picture of that life in Gal 5, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.      The Holy Spirit creating a people in attitude who are thankful, forgiving, joy-filled - who see the best in others.  People who actually demonstrate Christ-likeness.  


A reshaped people with reshaped attitudes transformed by God’s Spirit working within, His Spirit works with us not independent of us.  That means obedience - loving whether love is returned or not; forgiving whether forgiveness is received or not; submitting whether we think it deserved or not. Stepping into the footprints Jesus asks us to follow.


Nowhere is this matter of how we are to live put before us more clearly than what we have here in 1 Peter 2 where Peter returns to his theme seen last week, this time focusing on the workplace. Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.   For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.  For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.  He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.


As we considered last Sunday, submission doesn’t come easy to us but it’s where Peter settles in on his call to us regarding footprint living.  Interestingly, Peter doesn’t use the common word for servant, ‘doulos’ which conjures up images of nameless slaves out in a distant field tilling soil, identity unknown, contributions unacknowledged.


No, in this passage, he uses the word okotai which describes a household servant.  In other words, this was a person in close proximity - known, seen.  But the okotai was more than that.  It could also be used of a doctor or the supervisor of the land.  Someone in the employ of another.  It’s to these he writes, “Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect.”


You, in the employ of another, respect your masters, your bosses – those in authority over you.  Respect – without qualification, without an exclusion clause that if our employers are good, then we’re all in, but if not, respect? - not a chance.  BUT the life God calls us to is not based on response, it’s based on choice.  


In the time Peter writes, a slave was considered to be no more than a piece of property.  Aristotle said, “Master and slave have nothing in common: a slave is a living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave.”  The Roman nobleman Viro, said, The only thing that distinguishes  a slave from a beast or a cart, is that a slave can talk.   


It’s under masters like these, who demean and oppose, Peter writes, “You may suffer”. Under masters like these, where you work or where you go to school, ‘you may suffer’.  When that occurs, Scripture states - endure - without retaliation or complaint. 


The life Peter speaks to, lived out in the nitty gritty of the marketplace - submitting and giving respect in places that are tough, sometimes unfair and on occasion, downright difficult.  A 2000 Gallup Poll, stated: 80% of workers feel stress on the job, 25% say their job is their #1 stressor. 42% reported yelling or verbal abuse. 14% admitted wanting to strike a co-worker in past year and 18% said they received threatening or verbal intimidation. (Attitudes in American Workplace VI)


In this arena, giving respect because Jesus is the One we serve.  That He has placed us in this workplace, at this time, for His purpose. Our attitude not conditional but volitional – what we CHOOSE – and more importantly, relational – reflecting the One who has our heart.


Now before proceeding, a necessary pause to emphasize a critical point – in this place, Peter is NOT talking about the relationship between husband and wife. As we’ll see in coming weeks, the marriage relationship is to be characterized by a serving, forgiving, honoring love that is nothing less than a reflection of Jesus.  We’re told what this looks like in Phil 2:1-4, Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion…  the emphasis to this point? – what you have received encouragement, love, comforting assurance, the reality of sharing God’s Spirit, tenderness, compassion.


SO - THE COMMAND live it out…then make my joy complete by being like-minded, HAVING THE SAME LOVE, being one in spirit and of one mind.  The NLT renders it this way:  


Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from His love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You MUST HAVE the same attitude that Christ Jesus had  Phil 2:1-5.


I reference this here because you cannot use what Peter has just said - endure sorrows while suffering unjustly to the marriage relationship.  The Bible speaks of marriage demonstrating Jesus’ relationship with His people – He the Bridegroom, we the Bride. That alone makes it clear, this idea of ‘suffering unjustly’, the recipient of abusive behaviour or words, should NEVER be present in a marriage.  The standard of the relationship between husband and wife is on an entirely different level than the master - slave, employer – employee relationship.  So with that distinction made, let’s return to what we are looking at. 


The truth is there are bosses who are difficult, unpleasant and opinionated, like these assessments that are taken from actual employee evaluations:


Some drink from the fountain of knowledge – he only gargled


Slipped into the gene pool when the lifeguard wasn’t watching.


Gates are down; lights are flashing; but the train isn’t coming.


This employee is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot.


Catchy - yes. Charitable - not so much, especially if the one referenced is you. 

The truth is, some here this morning are in a very difficult place, no doubt with bosses far worse than I’ve ever had to deal with.  That said, I have had to deal with a boss who was difficult.  She took over senior leadership from a series of bosses who were very skilled and well liked, bosses with whom I had positive relationships.  But such was not the case with her.  She resented the influence I had with my previous bosses and so, she did what she could to sideline me, either by disregarding what I had to say or demeaning any contributions I tried to make.  If I were in meetings and began to speak on areas I led, she would interrupt and tell me to shut up, that she didn’t want to hear from me.  Needless to say, serving under her leadership was not pleasant.


Now I know, my experience pales in comparison to some of yours but I want you to notice what :21 says, “For to this you have been called”.  That the situation under which you serve is not the result of bad timing, or a bad vocational choice.  It’s a calling made by God.  

Wasn’t this the case with Joseph who was imprisoned, not once but twice, because of the testimony of a faithful life?  Wasn’t it this calling that compelled 3 young men, at the risk of an excruciating fiery death, to choose to honor God rather than obey a king’s command?

 

Listen, I am not saying you’re to remain in situations that are difficult and in some cases, abusive.  Without question, when necessary, remove yourselves and if actions done are illegal or immoral, report them. More often than not, this may be a situation where you need to seek employment elsewhere.  But while you serve where you do, serve, ‘with all respect’.  Don’t demean. Don’t avenge. Don’t check out by delivering the bare minimum. Don’t form a rump group that bickers and complains. Instead, serve your Master. Serve Jesus as the One for whom you clock in and clock out. Be Christ’s transforming presence in your workplace.  That’s what the Paul was saying when he wrote, You are our letter, known and read by everyone. You are a letter from Christ, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God.”  2 Cor 3:3.


That said, as Christians we should be known for being the best employees in the organization, delivering our best for those who cut our paycheck.  Known as people who: don’t cut corners, don’t extend coffee breaks, don’t surf the internet looking for Amazon deals on company time.  


In other words, Christ’s Ambassadors, whose work ethic and integrity are undeniable examples of people who are different because we deliver respect in what we do just as much as what we deliver in what we say.  


The name Stradivarius is well known, both by seasoned concert goers and those who wouldn’t recognize a violin from a trumpet.  His violins sell for millions and a rare viola valued in a 2014 auction at $45 million.  Stradivari was a craftsman who would not allow his name to be placed upon his creation until he had done everything humanly possible to perfect it.  But in truth, he was motivated by a higher name than his own.  He said, “God needs violins to send His music into the world.  And if any violins are defective, God’s music will be spoiled.”


Stradivari understood that in his work, he was God’s messenger.


Martin Luther wrote: “The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays – not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”


In the time Peter writes, a Roman soldier had authority to demand others to carry his equipment for one mile. The Jews hated to do this, and they bitterly counted each step. At exactly one mile, they dropped the load.  But Jesus requires a higher standard for His followers. He said, “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”  Mtt 5:41  

I wonder am I a one mile worker?  A one mile student?  Doing the expected and no more? Or do I go the 2nd mile and leave the mark of excellence on my work?  People will always remember 2nd mile work.  Here’s the challenge, 2nd mile workers are a small group.  By nature they tend to go it alone.  Often those who should - won’t or don’t notice your contributions. Frequently what’s done goes unacknowledged or unappreciated. But 2nd milers don’t go unrecognized by God.


But I assure you, there is another group who does notice the 2nd milers and their response is hostile.  It’s a group I’ve seen in many workplaces.  Powerful and loud, left alone, this cynic cluster does its best to shape the world around them.  Critiquing and attacking.  Groaning and complaining.  Recruiting and infecting.  Disrespecting and destroying.   


Disrespect fuels the fires of complaint, conversely, respect shuts off the fuel supply of complaint.  One of Israel’s most consistent sins while in the wilderness was complaint. In fact, it was their complaining that turned an 11 day trip turn into a 40 year journey. Satan in his temptation in the Garden, played the complaining chord that would lead Eve into sin.  Did God say?  In other words, ‘God is unfair. God is unjust. God is keeping things away. It’s not fair, not right.’  


Israel’s complaining caused them to distrust God.  When it came time to step into the promises God had for them, their response was often, ‘too big, too tough’ and so they withdrew from the victories God promised.  Instead they wanted the captivity of the past rather than the freedom and provision of the future.  


But Jesus calls us to follow in His steps, sometimes taking us into some very hard and confusing places.  Verses 20,21 say, But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.  For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you.’  So in the workplace and deep within ourselves, attitudes of respect not complaint. 


Other than some emotional vent, complaining never makes us feel better. If we’re angry, complaining usually makes us more angry. Frustrated - more frustrated, discontented, more discontented.  Complain long enough and that spirit of complaint works itself into our lives, shaping our thinking and becoming the lens through which we see the world.    


That attitude, that critical spirit doesn’t stay confined.  It infects then spreads because complaining is never private.  Parents, if you have an attitude of complaint, don’t be surprised when your children are shaped into little you’s who become big you’s.  That view one day to be taken into their marriages, their workplace, their churches – the gift of your ongoing legacy.  Don’t kid yourself, the spirit of complaint roots quickly and dives deeply in the lives of others.  


Consider the 12 spies Moses selected to spy out the Promised Land, 1 selected from each tribe. The chosen would have been his tribe’s top warrior, selected for their courage and daring.  After all, you don’t send the small and timid into enemy territory. Likely by personality and bravery, these chosen ones were little different than Joshua and Caleb.  But their report? radically different. 2 - Let’s go and 10, Not a chance!  If the story ended there, perhaps 11 days wouldn’t have turned into 40 wandering years but the infected scouting reports of 10 were circulated, infecting the entire nation, That night all members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud.   All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt!”  Num 14:1,2.


Did you catch what is written, ALL the people raised their voices and wept.  That’s the toxic voice of complaint that went from tent to tent to tent  - the sound of weeping and complaint.


I imagine after hearing the ruckus long enough, Moses was probably ready to airlift the whole lot of them back to Egypt so their wishes could be fulfilled with backbreaking work and Egyptian whips.  Their reward?  some leeks and garlic.  Really?


Philippians 2:14 reminds, Do everything without complaining or arguing” and in 1 Corinthians “Do not grumble, as some of them did — and were killed by the destroying angel” 10:10  


Just think how things might change if people were to see us as people who are different than the cluster.  People who give respect.  People who actively look for the good.  Who encourage, who honor.  Who build up.  Just think how our workplaces would be different; how our homes would be different; how our marriages would be different, how our church would be different.


Just think how many people looking on would say, I want to be part of that.   I want to have what they have. 


Am I suggesting remaining silent in the face of genuine concern?  Not at all – but let me ask – how many words of encouragement and edification are you actively, aggressively and regularly giving?  Scripture gives clear pictures of the attitude and behaviour that’s to characterize us,  characteristics that have nothing to do with personality or natural bent. We are to:   


Love one another, Accept one another: Strengthen one another: Help one another: Encourage one another: Care for one another: Forgive one another: Submit to one another: Commit to one another: Build trust with one another: Be devoted to one another: Be patient with one another. 


And I’ve only just begun.  Combine that with the Fruit of the Spirit, ie the life of Christ in us and the life we are called to live is to be powerfully attractive. Life giving not life robbing. 


The connect to what Peter is saying is this, how we respond is far more than putting in the time, or fulfilling our commitments, rather it is a ministry of serving our King.  It’s about our heart and our attitude which in turn will guide our actions.  At work, at home, in our community. 


Do I always come through, consistently living this way?  Sure wish I could say yes but I don’t.  I could deceive myself and convince myself otherwise.  I probably could come alongside you and have you believe the same.  But that would mean never getting too close and being very certain that I live in a world with no mirrors.


Peter closes this section drawing us to a very different reflection, walking in step with our Commander, not 30’ back navigating the landmines in life but walking intimately close with Him.


This is ‘in step’ living in an out of step world, reflecting Jesus who: When they hurled their insults at Him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Pet 2:23-24


Our reminder?  You are our letter, known and read by everyone. You are a letter from Christ, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God


I think it’s time we stop writing our letters in invisible ink and in the places God places us, be the visible representative of Jesus Christ.





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