Let us pray: Dear Savior, we’re all surrounded by countless worries and problems of this world that distract us from what really counts: You and our future heavenly reality. At times, they are so distracting that heaven doesn’t seem real and Your unseen world appears only as a faint mirage. Lord, remove all that human junk from our minds by fixing our attention on what really counts—Your love for us and the empty tomb. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR RISEN LORD, JESUS CHRIST!
TEXT: I Peter 1: 17-21
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
We were in 10th grade speech class. We had small break-out groups discussing various topics of the day. Brad, a raw-boned farm boy, started talking about the Minnesota Twins and signing one of their stars to a big contract. He really believed that that player would take lesser money because: “He represents the state and plays for loyalty not just dollars.” I took that tack that such talk was silly. “Baseball is all about the money.” Brad was an idealist, a pie-in-sky dreamer; while I was a realist.
I learned long ago that people are basically idealists or realists. Yes, because we’re human we often mix the two together; but one world view or the other tend to predominate. Idealists believe people are basically good, they just need proper direction. They believe higher taxes will create a more civilized world. They believe humans are capable of a utopian society if left to their own devices. They believe the more education a person has, the more correct their decisions will be. You all know such people. Whereas realists see a very different world. Realists see a world filled with problems—we’ll call them “sin” here. Realists believe in “Murphy’s Law” and that good moral choices don’t go hand-in-hand with educational achievement. Realists “follow the money trail.” Realists see the world as it is, not as they hope it would be.
My college philosophy class teacher was also a very good theologian. One day he was talking about those two pillars of Greek philosophy: Plato and Aristotle. Plato believed in something called “the heaven of the ideals.” That is, somewhere there is the ideal house, car, jacket, anything; and life is all about conceptualizing it and trying to recreate it but never achieving that goal. Sci-Fi afficianados tend to be idealists. Aristotle, however, looked at the world, saw it for what it was, and made decisions based on reality. I pointed out to him that a Platonist could conceptualize the Trinity, but would be forced to reject Christ and His incarnation. Whereas the Aristotelian could accept Christ’s divinity (He was real and people touched Him) but would be forced to reject the Trinity. Then I concluded: “Isn’t it interesting that God encompasses both these systems of human thought.” I think he’s still mulling that one around after 35 years!
Well, I bring all this heady stuff up because today St. Peter, the ultimate realist, writes to us. And right here we see that:
PETER, THE REALIST, MET HIS MATCH IN JESUS CHRIST
I’ve always viewed St. Peter as a realist. We know he fished for a living and worked hard. We know he was probably rather brawny and robust. We know that he was married, as he had a mother-in-law, and no doubt had children, too. He was impetuous, quick-tempered, and a type A personality. Think of him drawing the sword and hacking off Malchus’ ear. Peter had his feet firmly grounded in the here and now. He didn’t solve problems by talking them to death, he acted. We’d say: he’s a very practical guy.
But, then he met Christ, or rather, Christ met him. Suddenly Peter was exposed to miracles that he could not explain. He even walked on water until he looked away from Christ and began to sink. Maybe there really was another reality outside of his understanding?
Now we meet Peter as an old man. He’s looking back on his life and writing God’s wisdom to non-Jewish background people who by-and-large were also realists. These were people who had experienced the two-tiered Roman justice system—one for Romans the other for the rest of the people they controlled. These were people who lived hand-to-mouth where business dealings were all about taking advantage of others. These were people uncontrolled and uninhibited by the 10 commandments. And now, Peter is going to show them a better way of life, the Christian way of life.
“Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”
Just think about what this all means? Peter is saying: “Your ancestors taught you that life is all about power, money, fame, and fortune. They taught you to live in the moment because this life is all there is. Yes, you sometimes pine away for true justice. Yes, sometimes you dream about a life that isn’t so dog-eat-dog. But, up til now you’ve never found it and don’t think it could ever exist because all your life’s experiences say: no way.” And this, coming from Peter, who knew exactly that kind of mindset because he had grown up with it—until he met Christ.
So, Peter also says here that the idealism of life you occasionally dream about really does exist and God proved it by sending you a Savior in Jesus Christ. This Jesus wasn’t corrupted by the harsh realism of this world. He was without any blemish of sin. This Jesus lived here in pure love to save lost sinners like us. This Jesus has overcome the greatest enemy of all: death, in our place. This Jesus has ascended into heaven to prepare a place just for us. This Jesus has given us His guidance for living which elevates us above “getting ahead at all costs” and causes us to enjoy each moment knowing something better awaits. In other words, this Jesus is truly noble—and not just an ideal of nobility, but a practical, boots on the ground, nobility. After all, He got His hands dirty in saving our souls and buying back our bodies from sin, death, and Satan’s grasp.
Peter knew all this because he lived and experienced the power of the Gospel. It changed his life. It gave him strength beyond his body. It opened for him the doors of Godly reality so that each day became a blessing to savor instead of a curse to just get through. Peter, the Realist, met his match in Jesus Christ. And it uplifted him. As you go through the business of living this week making decisions and planning out your life, keep all this in mind. And never forget: “your faith and hope are in God.” In other words, the idealism of Christianity is made real by Christ alone. Amen