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1 Peter 2:9-25 

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.


 

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 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.


 

Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.


 

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. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (ESV)

Disagree Without Being Disagreeable

Thursday of Pentecost 6

9 July 2015

Professor Kurt Marquart said any number of memorable things during his productive career as a professor of theology. One that has particularly stuck with me was his dictum, "Disagree without being disagreeable." In these days, when the church seems to be under attack we should remember this. This has been a difficult thing for me to learn, because I am handicapped by a passionate nature. I defend my views with far too much vigor on occasion and will sound disagreeable. In my ministry, I have tried, although not always successfully, to say the right things in the right way at the right time. We want to live at harmony with all people as far as we are able. We cannot control the reactions and passions of other people. We are not able to force others to like us or to respond in temperate and pleasant ways toward us. But we are able to reply in kindly, pleasant, and constructive ways toward other people. Sometimes a temperate reply will get you a hearing when a passionate or angry response will cut off any possibility of a discussion that will be helpful to both parties.

 

Our Lord Jesus calls on us to love those who hate us and even to rejoice in the blessings of God, despite their hatred. In our feelings-centered society this is a significant rebuke to us. If every time we are rebuked, or even hear any bad news, we are sent into a tailspin of depression, or lash out by pointing out the weaknesses and failings of whomever is rebuking us, we will hardly be able to order our lives for the sake of Christ's gospel. This is an infantile way of managing our relationship with our neighbor. In it we are modeling the typical responses given by politicians when called to account for their profligacy or bad behavior, "The other guy did far worse than this." It would be like arguing in a court of law that armed robbery should be overlooked because it does not rise to the level of out and out murder. When rebuked by the other we must take the rebuke, refuse to be angered by it, express our love and appreciation for our neighbor and keep harmony with him. We must not stand to defend our poor hurt feelings, but place ourselves under the cross of Christ, who when reviled did not revile in return (1Pt 2:23). Even when unjustly treated we must not bite back. Jesus even loved those who opposed his gospel message and hated Him personally, campaigning even for His death.

 

Of course, we must stand up for others, when they cannot defend themselves, even at great cost to ourselves. We do this, for example, when we speak for the unborn by pointing out that killing humans who cannot defend or speak for themselves is wicked (Pro 31:9). We should fight back on behalf of the divine truth when it is challenged, for then we are not defending ourselves but confessing and defending what belongs to God and is His. He confers on us the stewardship of His Word and truth, therefore it is our duty to speak up for it and defend it. Will this make others angry at us? Probably. But we must not prize outward harmony more than the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jud 1:3). It would be unloving to do otherwise. Unloving toward God and unloving toward our neighbor, who needs this divine truth more than he needs outward harmony.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"'If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all' (Rm 12:18). Paul is reinforcing what Jesus says, 'Let your light shine before others' (Mt 5:16). We are not to live for vanity, but are not to give those who have a mind for it a cause for complaint against us. Therefore, he says in another place, 'Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God' (1Co 10:32).

 

"Paul limits his meaning well, by saying, 'If possible.' For there are cases in which it is not possible. For instance, when we have to argue about the faith, or defend those who are wronged. Why be surprised if this is not possible in the case of other persons, when even man and wife break the rule? "But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so' (1Co 7:15). Paul means: 'Do your own part, and to none give occasion of conflict or fighting, neither to Jew nor Gentile.' But if you see the cause of the faith suffering anywhere, do not prize harmony above truth, but make a noble stand even to death. And even then do not be at war in your soul, do not show your temper, but battle the issues only. For this is the import of 'so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.' However, if the other will not be at peace, do not fill your soul with anger, but be friendly in mind. But, as I said before, without giving up the truth on any occasion." 

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 22
 
Prayer

Almighty God, You have given us mouths to bless and not to curse. Help us to use our mouths to bless our neighbor by delivering your blood-bought mercy to him. Keep us from being angry or letting our passion get away from us and impairing the very love and peace we wish to share. Galvanize us to witness to the truth so that we obey You rather than men, when called to account for the hope that is ours in Christ our Lord, through whom we pray. Amen.

 

For all pastors and teachers of the divine Word, that they might be patient with their interlocutors and the Word might be set free

 

For all musicians, that they would both find joy and give it to those who delight in their gifts

 

For Cantor Janet Muth, who has a call to St. Peter's Lutheran Church, Hemlock, MI, that the Lord Jesus would be with her as she considers this new opportunity

Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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