15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.1 Peter 3:15-22
“Passion never counts the cost” is a phrase from TobyMac’s praise song “Scars.” The simple words express our willingness to give and give to do something we care about. The words are a fitting description for events like man walking on the moon, Europeans crossing the Atlantic to discover the “New World,” the silk trade connecting East and West, constructing the Great Wall of China and the pyramids, etc. The phrase can also describe events like a toddler’s first steps or asking your high school crush out on a date. The words speak about desire and our will to do something, but they also correctly identify that something must be given up when working for something we care about.
One example of a person’s passion not counting the cost was shared with me recently. It happened during a Bible Study when someone shared something they had read in a book about a married couple. Marriage certainly is a relationship that takes passion and keeping that desire for one another comes at a cost. And, it is a cost worth giving. The book shared the account of a Christian wife and an unbelieving husband. The husband did not share the wife’s faith but was willing to watch her get up on Sunday and go to church. And, though the wife longed for her husband to have faith, she did not force it on him. Instead, the wife would set out her husband’s suit on the bed each Sunday and when she returned home from church, put the untouched suit back in the closet. The wife did this for her husband for decades without seeing the suit move while she was gone. It would have been very easy for the wife to give up putting out the suit or lash out at her husband, but her passion did not count the cost of all the hours spent laying out and putting away the suit, or all the Sunday mornings spent separated from her spouse as a waste. Instead, it was worth it.
When passion outweighs the cost, great things can happen. There are many examples in life of great passion achieving great goals at great cost. God also has showed his great passion for us achieving great goals at great cost. One example of God’s passion for you is your baptism. In 1 Peter 3, we hear that baptism saves us. Peter explained that the washing with water was 21 … “not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” In baptism, we are saved because of Jesus. We have a clear conscience before God because of the great sacrifice of Jesus. Our sins weigh down our conscience and condemn us to hell, but that weight was put on Jesus at the cross and through his death we are free from sin. This is what Peter wrote in verse 18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” Through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, he established and defends the washing away of your sins in baptism as the highest authority over everything as God.
God changed who you are through your baptism. Before your baptism and without faith, you were lost. Your desires came from your own sinful heart leading you to do whatever seemed to benefit you. And, that works out well for people until something comes along that they can’t overcome, which for most stubborn, hardworking people doesn’t happen until they are dead. For many people, death is what makes it clear that they were lost and needed to know God, but by the time you are dead it is too late to hear about God or be baptized.
The good news is you have been baptized. This means you have already died, you have faith in God and you are not walking around lost. In baptism, you have already died as Paul wrote in Romans 6, 3 “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” In your baptism, your sinful nature was drowned and buried with Jesus. Now, death holds no fear for you because you’ve already died and will be raised to life with Christ as we said earlier, baptism 21 “saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” And, the same Spirit who gave Jesus life now lives in you. And, because the Spirit lives in you, you are not lost, but found and a member of God’s family. Jesus shares these wonderful truths with us in John 14, 16 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” By the power of the Holy Spirit, you are a new creation through baptism, not alone, but with God now and forever.
From the faith and new life you received from God in your baptism flow a new way of life. Your baptism not only assures you of a new life in heaven, but Peter described the change in your heart now writing, 15 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.” Since your sins were washed away and you were filled with the Spirit at your baptism, you now have Jesus sitting on the throne of your heart guiding and directing you. You are no longer lost and controlled by sin. And Peter went on to describe what having Christ as the Lord of your heart means for your daily life, 15 … “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” Your life looks different from others as a Christian, and that leads others to ask you questions or even insult you.
Whether faced with interest or insult, your confidence in Jesus, rather than yourself, leads you to share Jesus with gentleness and respect. At the heart of the Greek word for gentleness is the idea of humility. You are humble because all you have as a believer is from God. You have nothing to stand up and boast about. You were lost in the worst possible way facing death and hell, but Jesus saved you in the best possible way giving you forgiveness and eternal life. So, as you talk with everyone around you, you have the common ground of needing God to give you everything. This humility goes hand in hand with respect, which comes from the Greek word for fear, where we get our English word phobia. In this context though, the word is best translated with the idea of having an acute awareness of a situation. When you are afraid, you have an acute awareness of a situation often leading you to run or scream like when facing a spider, snake or heights because you are aware of all the ways those things can hurt you. Respect means you are aware that anyone who would speak maliciously against you because you are a believer comes because they are lost and need to be shown “the way, the truth and the life” to quote our reading from last week from John 14:6. You know they are lost and so you cannot expect them to act kindly or patiently when listening to someone who claims to know a different way, truth and life from their own. You are also the one who is prepared to share Jesus with someone with gentleness and respect because you are a baptized, Spirit filled child of God.
The way to give someone the reason for the hope you have is not complicated. Solomon gave practical advice when faced with questions about what you believe and faced with insults because of your faith. He wrote in Proverbs 15, 1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Your answer to defend your hope Jesus does not have to be a big display of force with yelling or physical retaliation. It does not need creative words or negativity. Your response can be quite simple, as with an example from the life of the Apostle Paul. During on of his mission trips, Paul came to the ancient Greek city of Athens. And, he went to the Areopagus, a place in the city similar to our modern House of Representatives or Senate, he spoke with the leaders of the city in a clear, simple, gentle and respectful way about the one true God. He said that they were very religious, even having an altar in their city to an unknown god, and Paul was ready to tell them about what they did not know. He told them that God is not an invention of man being made from stone or precious metals, but a living God who created us as living creatures. And, in order to have a relationship with the one true God, Paul called the people to repent of their sins as is recorded in Acts 17, 31 “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” Paul made it very simple for the people of Athens beginning with something they could relate to (seeking out truth, covering even the unknown) and ending with the message of repentance and the resurrection of Jesus.
You are a witness by God’s work in your heart, but you need to be reminded and encouraged that you are a witness. You will naturally share Jesus with people in how you speak and act as a believer but being reminded that you are doing this is helpful. It is helpful to be reminded that you are a capable communicator of your faith in Jesus because the cost to share hurts. Peter says that you may suffer for your faith in Jesus, and he says that you always need to be prepared to share your faith in Jesus. And, this is often why we do not share Jesus. It is not so much head or knowledge problem, but a heart and fear problem. So, the reminder to be gentle and respectful as you share Jesus really must start with your heart as our section from Peter 3 began, 15 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.” Jesus is your Lord through your baptism. A reminder of why you needed baptism makes you gentle and respectful. It reminds you that you were sinful and lost. Sinful and lost is the same place all those who ask you about Jesus or insult you because of Jesus are in. They need you to listen to them, even if it means listening to a lot of misguided lies, long drug out explanations and even cursing. They need you to listen and then connect where they are at with repentance and the resurrection. Who you are as a believer is about forgiveness. Forgiveness God chose to show you. Now, go and love others by sharing forgiveness backed up by the one true God who died and rose, who rules all things and will bring you to live with him in heaven. They will see you are not demanding something from them, but giving them something.
Passion never counts the cost. After 30 years, the believing wife who put the suit out for her unbelieving husband found him suited up and ready to go with her to church one Sunday morning. Praise God for his work through her gentleness and respect flowing from one of his baptized children. It may not work out for you like it did for the woman who put the suit out, but passion never counts the cost. Your loving answer to others for the reason you hope in Jesus is given because Jesus rules in your heart. When that moment comes to share, share, not because you know it will work every time, share because of your passion. Tell the devil, sin, unbelief, awkward moments, hurt feelings, fear of a lost friendship or family tie to “BE QUIET!” Jesus rules in your heart and he rules all things, let him flow through you. He put himself in your heart through the gift of faith, the Holy Spirit’s work, your baptism. May God continue to make gentleness and respect flow from your Baptism and the Spirit of truth. Amen.