I have the privilege of preaching tonight at our church for a Wednesday night Advent service. The text I was given is Isaiah 61, the beginning of which reads, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” It will be my honor to remind the church that the favor of the Lord continues to be dispensed through the church, which will remain the case until Jesus’ second advent, when He comes again to bring about the final redemption of all things.
This reality – that while we wait for the final consummation, we are actively blessing the world – lines up nicely with Martin Luther’s commentary on 1 Peter 3:9-10. First, the text from Peter (who also quotes King David):
“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For ‘Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.”
In a world full of evil, we live righteously. In a world for of enflamed vitriol, we speak words of kindness and blessing. In a world full of fractious arguments and warfare, we serve as peacemakers. In a world full of indescribable evils, we seek good, lovely days.
We do this because we know and believe something that the world does not. We know that God is good, and that He is in control. Those who aren’t born again by the Spirit of God will not and cannot escape the bondage of sin. We should not expect people to behave well – exactly the opposite! So, how should we respond when people behave badly? Luther says it this way:
“You have no reason to revile, but to bless. You have received a blessing from God, not only for yourselves, but also that you may be a blessing to those who are still held by the curse. In other words you are to pray for them that they also may also come to faith through your doctrine, patience and exemplary manner of living … you have more cause to pray for your enemies and to have compassion on them than to be angry with them, and the like.”
Luther soberly adds, “O Lord God! How few such Christians there are!”
This Advent, I hope we are all struck once again at the mission God has given us, which we must carry out faithfully until Christ returns. Our best preparation for His second advent is to be fully engaged in the blessings of the first.! “As the Father has sent me, so also I send you” says Jesus in John 20:21 … to proclaim the favor of the Lord on those who would believe! To bring healing to the broken, and compassion on those bound by the curse! Might the “peace on earth, good will toward men” that we all long for during this season pour out of the Church, draw people to Christ, and help prepare them for eternity, too!
Oh…and when we do this, we receive a blessing, too!