1 Peter 3:13-22 (NRSV)
Verse 13Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? Verse 14But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, Verse 15but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;
Verse 16yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. Verse 17For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God's will, than to suffer for doing evil.
Verse 18For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, Verse 19in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, Verse 20who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.
Verse 21And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you-not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Verse 22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
One of my favorite movies is “Simon Burch,” loosely based on John Irving’s novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany. The twelve-year-old hero in the movie believes that God has a plan for him, that everything in his life is leading up to one saving act. At the end of the movie, Simon dies saving the lives of the other children in a bus accident. His suffering becomes a blessing for others.
In today’s reading, the writer of Peter challenges early Christians not to run away from suffering done in the name of the Lord. He lifts up as example Jesus, who was put to death in the flesh but was made alive in the Spirit. Out of His death came life. To follow Jesus is not to worry about saving ourselves, but to count suffering as part of the privilege of spreading the good news that in Jesus we too have been made alive through baptism in the Spirit.
As I run my race help me to keep my eyes on Jesus. He is pioneer and perfecter of my faith. Amen.