1 Peter 3:14-17
But and if you suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are you: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;…
There is a play upon the words in the original which it is difficult to transfer into English. "Be always ready to give a justification to those who ask you to justify the hope that is in you," or, "to show a reasonableness of the hope that is in you to those that ask you a reason for it." The Bible is a book of hope. The gospel is a glad tidings of hope. The religion of Jesus Christ is preeminently a religion of hopefulness; it differs in this respect from other religions. Now and then a glimmer of light shines from ancient philosophy, as in the writings of Socrates; but, for the most part, the religions of paganism, though they may be religions of reverence and of duty and of fidelity and of conscience, are not religions of faith or of hope. Now, the message of Christ enters into the world bright with hope. It comes to men as a ship comes to shipwrecked mariners on a desert island; it comes as the bugle blast comes to men starving in a beleagured city; it comes with the same note of rescue in it that the besieged at Lucknow heard in the Scotch pibrochs sounding across the plains. Now, Peter, recognising that the Christian religion is a hopeful religion, and that the Christians are to walk through life with the brightness of hope shining in their faces — Peter says: "You must have a reason for this hope; it must not rest merely in your temperament. You must have a reasonable ground for your hope; and when men who have not a hopeful temperament, and men who have a wider view of life than you have, and see the evils that infest society and life — when they come to you with their dark vision, and their dejected spirit, it is not enough for you to say, 'I am hopeful'; it is not enough for you to say, 'Look on the bright side of things'; you must be prepared to tell them what reason you have for hope, what is the ground of your hopefulness." Let us see what are the grounds for our hopeful ness for ourselves, our families, or nation, and the world. In the first place, then, we believe in God. We believe that He knew what He was about when He made the world; and that He made the world and made the human race because the product of that making was going to be a larger life, a nobler life, and therefore a more blessed and a more happy life; that in the very beginning, when He sowed the seeds, He knew what kind of harvest was going to grow out of it, and He was not one that sowed the seed of tares, but one who knew that the wheat would over balance the tares in the last great harvest. We believe that He is a God of hope. He understands life better than we do; He understands the tendencies that are at work in society and government better than we do. With all that understanding, with the clear vision of the dark side of things as well as the bright side of things, He has an invincible hope for the future, and we borrow our hope from His hopefulness, and, because of His hope, we, in our ignorance, hope also. He has given definiteness to this hope. He has put before us unmistakably in human history not only what He hopes, not only what He desires, but what He expects, and what He means the human race to be. We look upon humanity and we say, "What is man?" And we go down to the savage, and look at him: "No, he is not man." And we go to the prison house: "No, these are not men; they are the beginnings of men, they are men in the making, but they are not men." We look out upon society, with its frivolity and its fashion and its pride and its vanity and we say, "No, this is not yet man." We look out into the industrial organisation, and see men hard at work for themselves and for one another, and we say, "This is not our ideal of man." We go into statecraft, but we do not find our ideal of man in the politician and statesman. We look along the paths of history; it is not to be found in the general or the monarch. It is not even in the father and the mother, though we come nearer to it then. And finally we come to the New Testament, we come to the life of Christ, and we say, "This Jesus of Nazareth was above all others the Son of Man." He stands as the ideal of humanity. He is the pattern and the type of what God means man shall be. And then we hear the voice of God saying, "You also are to become as He was, sons of God"; and from all the radiance of Christ's face, and from all the glory of Christ's character, we borrow inspiration and hopefulness, because this is what God hopes we shall become. Moreover, we see — dimly, it is true, and imperfectly, but we see — by faith, more and more, God entering into human life; we see Him moving upon human souls, and we see Him shaping them according to His ideal and according to His purpose. We look on human life, with its carnage, with its wrestling, with its battle, with its selfishness, with its corruption — ay, with its grave and its decay; we see civilisations perishing and literatures perishing, we see nations buried deep, and yet we say: This is but the carboniferous period; this is but the movement of the chaos; there is a God that is brooding on this chaos; there is a law in all this antagonism and battle of life; God is in human history, as God is in human hearts and lives; God is bringing order out of the chaos, and a new-created world will spring up at His command. Oh, our hope is not in princes or potentates, or leaders or politicians — it is in a God that is at work in humanity! Churches, creeds, nations may disappear, but human character will grow and grow, because God is begetting men and working out His own conception of manhood, because all these things are the instruments through which He is accomplishing a definite creation — not moulding men from without, but entering into men and fashioning them from within. And so we believe God is not only using all these outward instruments environing man, but He is entering into him and lifting him up, as the mother lifts the child, little by little. But this, you say, is hope for the world at large. "How about myself personally? How about my little life? How about my baby and my cradle? I do not care so much about the universe, as I do about my cradle and my baby." There are no large things with God, and there are no little things with God. There are no large things in life, and there are no little things in life. It is a small rudder that directs the course of the ship. And we believe in a God that is not merely brooding over the whole globe, but that is determining the fall of every leaf and the shaping of every limb; in a God that not merely deals with nations in the mass, but that broods and watches above every cradle and every soul. Some one of you will say, "How can you believe this? Looking out into life, and seeing what it is, can you escape the conclusion that many things are going wrong, and much is running to evil?" Ah! I do not think you see what life is. You are just in one room of the great school; you are just watching one episode of the great drama. Can you tell me what are the resources of the Infinite Mercy?
(Lyman Abbott, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;