Ready or Not
Yesterday was Military Appreciation Day and we celebrate it today in the church. This is a day where we celebrate the spouses and family of military members. We typically forget to say thank you to them for the sacrifices they make while their loved one is deployed. Let me say thank you to all those spouses and families whose loved ones are serving our country. Your sacrifices and love do not go unnoticed.
In fact, I almost used the motto of one of the branches as my sermon title but that would have given away the theme behind this sermon. Even knowing where my sermon title comes from and what my theme is, I have two things that come to mind. The first is a song, Ready or Not by Fugees which is a Reggae band from the 90’s. The other is hide and seek as a child because after counting to 10 or whatever number the person seeking says, “Ready or Not here I come.” The hide and seek version is the closest to the overall theme of the sermon. I looked at the lyrics to Ready or Not and realized they had nothing to do with my sermon theme.
Let’s look at the scripture and then we will return to Hide and Seek. Our scripture today comes from 1 Peter 3:13-22 and this is the NRSV translation.
Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? 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, 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; 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. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. 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, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 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. 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, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
I don’t know if you caught it but verse 15 talks about being ready. When I read that my theme came to me but for some reason the title took a while to generate. After reading back through it and ready popping out each time, Ready or Not was born. Then I started thinking about Ready or Not and what Peter is saying in the scripture and how this applies to us.
To understand this, we must first look at the scripture and what it is saying. So, in verses 13 & 14, Peter is telling us, Ready or Not, you will face turmoil. Peter is telling Christians that we will get push back when we are trying to spread the love of Christ. Non-believers will not be completely willing to accept the message that we are trying to deliver.
The people we are reaching out to do not have the same reference point that we do. They may know who God is but they do not know the love we know. They may be more focused on worldly desires than they are on the desires of God so they don’t understand what we are saying. For some, when we talk about worshipping God that means they have to leave what they desire behind. They risk losing all respect they feel they have gained through their actions.
Ready or Not, the persecution has been and will continue to happen till Christ’s return. But, there is rejoicing in persecution. Jesus was persecuted for his ministry. Jesus was persecuted for talking about loving one another. This is the message that we have which means we should be filled with love, while those who don’t know Christ aren’t filled with love.
Those who do not know Christ are filled with fear. They fear what tomorrow holds for them. They do not have hope found in the second coming of Christ. When we take hope to them they are confused and tend to lash out in fear of something they do not understand. They attack our beliefs and attack us personally. Fear becomes hate and hate turns to persecution. But, we are filled with the love of Christ which has replaced the fear we had before with peace and courage. We do not recognize the things of the world as our lord but we recognize and acknowledge Christ as our Lord.
This means we will have a different frame of reference from those we are taking the message of Christ to. This frame of reference is the image of God or Imago Dei. As Wesleyans, we understand this image to not be a replication of God but reflecting the love of God on to the world. It is a reference that we work towards throughout our journey to salvation. But, to start that journey we must accept Christ to dwell within our hearts.
This means our life’s will be different from those who do not have Christ in their life. We will act differently than what they are used to. Are goals in life will be different from theirs. This is difficult to understand, for both sides but especially theirs. They are following what society is telling them is important. They hear it all the time and see people striving for their same goals because it is all over T.V. and newspapers. Then we, as Christians, talk about something media does not. We introduce them to ideas that society pushes against. This is confusing for them and the going into a defensive mode.
But we have to be ready for this. We have to be prepared because it is going to happen. If we think about hide and seek and the seeker saying Ready or Not. I mean the seeker really doesn’t care if you’re not ready because that will make it easier from them to win. I’ve never really understood why we give the warning when we are seeking because it allows the person hiding to find a quick hiding space in order to defeat the seeker.
That is the point of this scripture from Peter, is to be prepared no matter what. We must be prepared because we will not get the warning of Ready or Not. When we take the message of the Gospel into the world we need to be prepared for all scenarios to happen. We need to be prepared to be persecuted for our beliefs. We need to be prepared to say Christ is our Lord and to defend our belief in the heat of the moment.
But we must be careful. I say this because we need to be sure we are doing this with gentleness and respect for the person or people we are talking to. What good does it do for bringing someone to know Christ if we are heated in our discussion? What good does it do to be angry? If we are heated and angry are we sharing the love of Christ?
There’s a saying, kill them with kindness. How many of you have heard this saying? I was hoping to see a lot of hands. This is something that as Christians we should practice on a regular basis. Now, of course we know we are not actually killing a person but we can defuse a situation by being kind. We can kill someone’s anger or persecution by being kind in our reaction to their hateful language. Because, if you respond with love and kindness, you have a better chance of winning that person for Christ than if you were to respond with the same language they are using toward you.
Now, this means we need to be in discussion with each other in order to be prepared for these persecutions. If we can defend our beliefs to other believers with kindness and love then when we can do the same with non-believers. We have to practice and study the word constantly in order to be prepared or we will be caught off guard and we will respond in a way that won’t show Christ to the person we are talking to.
So, follow the Boy Scouts motto, Be prepared. Or better yet, follow the United States Coast Guard motto, “Semper Paratus” or always ready. The coast guard is always ready for anything that they face. Those who serve in the Coast Guard must be ready for anything to happen on land, water, and air. They must be prepared to rescue, defend, and attack, no matter the time of day or night. We have to follow this example when it comes to bringing others to know Christ. We must be Semper Paratus. So, Ready or Not, it will happen so it is better to always be ready than to be caught off guard.