A Clear Conscience

May 17, 2020


1 Peter 3:8-22

In the reading from the letter of First Peter it says, “Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?”

Eager to do what is good.

We should always be eager to do what is good, and not for our sake. We are eager to do good so that those around us will see our good deeds and glorify God. We do good for God’s sake.

The letter of 1 Peter is a letter of encouragement and guidance to Christians who may be tempted to give up. The letter is filled with motivation to Christians who live as exiles in the world around them. It tells Christians to continue in the ways of Jesus Christ, to continue to be devoted to the Lord, and to resist conforming in order to find comfort.

So, 1 Peter tells us over and over again to prepare your minds for action, to discipline yourselves, to not conform to your former ways. 1 Peter tells us to rid our-selves of all malice and guile insincerity, envy, and all slander. We should be eager to do good.

Now, in verse 13 where it says, ‘eager to do good’, the word translated as ‘eager’ could also be translated as ‘zealous’. We are to be zealous to do good.

In the time of the early church, during the time when this letter was written, there were people in Judaism who were called zealots. These zealots were activists who were eager to free Israel from Roman rule. These zealots were willing to do anything to free the Jews from Roman control. They were even willing to be violent. They were fanatics, who would engage in terroristic acts to resist the Roman occupation.

But the Bible tells the Christians not to be a part of this activism, not to take part in these revolts and rebel-lions and violent uprisings.
Instead, it says be zealous for doing good. There is a contrast between the eagerness, the zeal, of those who want to fight the power, and stir up dissention, and the eagerness and zeal for doing good.

It says, “Who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?” In other words, if you are eager like those zealots, seeking to stir up trouble and even commit violence, then of course the Romans are going to put you down, but if you are eager and zealous for good, then who will harm you?

Christians are not called to take up arms and fight the worldly powers. They are called to humbly and meekly pursue God. Christians are called to accept the authority of every earthly institution. 1 Peter even says to honor the emperor!

So be eager, be zealous, for doing good. And Peter tells us what this goodness is. Because it is easy enough
to say, ‘do the right thing,’ but it is very difficult to know exactly what the right thing is in every situation.
So, Peter gives some guidance: have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

Trinity seems to be good at this. I see a great deal of mutual affection and people find great unity in this love for one another. We call this the Trinity family, where we find warmth and welcome. The people of Trinity really like each other. They have that sympathy, love, and tender-heartedness.

Now the challenge is to take that love and tender-heartedness and extend it to those outside the Trinity family, to other Christians here in town, to Christians around the world, and even to people who are not Christians. We have found peace and comfort among ourselves; now can we share that peace and comfort with those around us?

Who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?

It also says, “Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct may be put to shame.”
Keep a clear conscience. Of course, this is very difficult to do.

A clear conscience is difficult and even impossible be-cause we fall all the time. We are constantly making mistakes, doing things that we know are wrong, and succumbing to temptation. We are constantly hurting other people.

It is hard for me to keep my conscience clear. I easily lose patience with my children. I raise my voice at them. And far too often, I complain about their behavior. I am not always humble and tender-hearted toward them. My con-science is not clear.

And I am not always diligent in my duties as a pastor. I am always tempted to let my mind wander off into day-dreams, thinking about my next project around the house, instead of eagerly and zealously studying the Bible to prepare sermons and Bible studies. I am not always eager to reach out to people, to make phones calls, to stay connected.

We are told to keep our conscience clear, but this is hard to do. We fall all the time
But the word of God does not stop there. It goes on to say that baptism saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience.

It says that Christ also suffered for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.
Keep your conscience clear, that is the command and call of God, and then Jesus gives you that good con-science, that is the grace of God.

As I said, 1 Peter is a letter of encouragement and guidance and the greatest encouragement you can receive is the very grace of God, that Jesus suffered for your sins once and for all, in order to bring you to God.

During this continued COVID-19 crisis, cling to this good news: Jesus suffered for your sins to bring you to God. You are saved by baptism in Christ, as an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Be eager to do good. Be zealous in your humility and sympathy, but do not rest on your good deeds. Instead, rest assured that Jesus has suffered for you, has died for you, and that united to him, he gives you that good conscience and that resurrection life. Amen.