Preceding this passage Peter had given some instruction for believers. First with the community of believers. And then with those outside that community. He has told us not to respond to evil or insult with the same. Rather, respond with a blessing. Unfortunately, that does not guarantee that those who oppose you will respond favorably. Suffering could still come. And apparently was to those Peter writes to. What do we do then? Most importantly, revere Christ as Lord.
Revere Christ as Lord
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.
1 Peter 3:13-14 NIV
It would seem to make sense that if I am doing good, helping people as I can, others would think well of me. But that is not always the case. Especially when we are acting in the name of Christ. Jesus warned us that the world would respond to us in the same way they did him (John 15:18-20).
So, you might be living the best life you know how. Giving to the poor and needy. And getting actively involved in touching people’s lives for good. Still, some will take offense because you do it in the name of Christ. And they will insult and persecute you. Besides blessing them as instructed previously, how should I respond?
Responding to Suffering
First, consider yourself to be blessed. That is a challenging thought. Considering yourself as blessed when you do good and suffer for it. It sounds like crazy talk. But it is actually a common theme in the Scriptures. Look at the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12; especially the last three verses. Jesus tells us to rejoice and be glad when we suffer for Christ’s sake. Because our reward in heaven will be great. Our faithfulness in the face of persecution will not be forgotten or go unrewarded. While you may not view the current suffering as a blessing. The result of it will be.
Secondly, do not fear their threats. What is the worst thing that they can do to you? They might take all of your material possessions. They might cause you great physical harm. It might even result in your death. But is that something that we should fear? After all, what awaits us beyond this life is better by far than anything that we have now (1 Cor. 4:16-18).
Thirdly, instead of fearing them, revere Christ as Lord. Don’t take matters into your own hands. Instead, determine that no matter what the world may do, you will make Christ the lord of your daily life. Be faithful to him, knowing that he will punish those who harm you, and will reward your faithfulness.
Always Be Prepared to Give an Answer
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
1 Peter 3:15-16 NIV
This passage is often used in support of apologetics; providing a defense for our faith. And rightly so. Apologetics is not just for the professional. Each one of us should be able to explain to others why we have the hope in Christ that we do. Especially to those who are genuinely curious as to why you are different than the surrounding culture.
The folks Peter was writing to were suffering for their faith. And Peter went to great lengths to encourage them in their suffering. This included how to respond to those who were oppressing them. And if they followed his instruction, it was bound to raise questions in the minds of those who saw them. Why do you choose to live like that? And why do you respond the way that you do? It is not natural. What’s going on with you? Peter tells them, when this happens, jump at the opportunity to share with them.
You may not consider yourself an evangelist. I certainly do not. To initiate any kind of conversation with a stranger is beyond me. But I certainly can, and should, be prepared to answer questions that are brought to me about why I believe. From anyone who asks. Whenever they ask.
With Gentleness and Respect
Peter is very clear that as I answer those who question my faith, I do so with gentleness and respect. Unfortunately, all too often that does not happen. All too many believers, when questioned as to why they believe, assume a defensive posture and respond as though they have been attacked. And rather than responding with gentleness and respect, they respond by attacking the motives and beliefs of the one asking.
The consequence of that type of response is generally to close the door to any opportunity you might have had to positively influence the questioner. Instead, you convince them that you are not really any different than others in the world. Maybe even worse since you seem to actually be something other than what you are claiming.
It is true that there will be those who ask you about your faith but have no interest in an answer. Who are only looking for an argument. No answer you give with satisfy them. But even then, respond with gentleness and respect. Don’t allow them to pull you down to their level.
Ashamed of Their Slander
Our enemies will maliciously speak evil against us. We should expect it and not be surprised when it happens. But if I always respond to them in a loving manner I can pull the rug out from under them. We cannot control what people say and think about us. But we can live in a way to demonstrate the falsity of their claims. And by doing so we can make their slander clear.
The world around us may not agree with what we believe. But we should live in a way that demands their respect.
If It Is God’s Will
For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.
1 Peter 3:17-18 NIV
Who wants to suffer? Very few would willingly look to suffer. But if you do. If it is God’s will that you suffer. Let it be for doing good rather than for doing evil. As Peter says elsewhere, “How is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it?” (1 Pet. 2:20). We receive no credit for suffering for evil. But if we suffer as faithful and obedient followers of Christ, there is much to be gained (1 Pet. 2:20, 4:14).
But that raises a question about God’s will. Why would it be God’s will that I suffer? Doesn’t God want me to be happy and enjoy life? Contrary to what many proclaim, I do not believe God is overly concerned about whether or not my life here is successful and happy. I believe he is much more interested in me knowing him and preparing me for the future that awaits me.
And suffering, while unpleasant, can be a useful and necessary component of that shaping process. Look back to the beginning of Peter’s letter (1 Pet. 1:6-9). Here he tells us that our suffering is like a refiner’s fire. A refinement that will result in praise, glory, and honor. I may not always understand why God is allowing specific trials in my life. But I can know that he is using them in my development.
Jesus: My Example
As Peter frequently does, he points back to Jesus and his example. Jesus suffered, not for his own sins, but for the sins of others. He suffered to bring me to God. Jesus’ suffering ended in his physical death. But he was made alive in the Spirit. My suffering may or may not result in my physical death. But regardless, if I am willing to suffer for Christ, then I can be assured that I will also be made alive in the Spirit (Rom. 8:17).
Call To Action
Do good. Be faithful to live as obedient followers of Jesus. That may likely result in some level of suffering. But rather than complain about it and fight back; rejoice. Don’t be afraid of those who oppose you. Rather revere Christ as Lord and commit to him.
Always be ready to respectfully answer those who ask about the hope you have; why you live the way you do.
Christ suffered in his body while here. We should not be surprised then if we suffer as well. Follow his example.
- Why would you suffer for doing good? And if you do, how should you respond?
- Are you living in such a way that people might question why? Why is it that you are faithful in spite of the obstacles?
- Have you ever suffered specifically because you are a Christian? How did that make you feel?
- 1 Peter: An Introduction
- 1 Peter: Because of His Great Mercy (1:3-5)
- 1 Peter: Glorious Joy, In All Kinds of Trials (1:6-9)
- 1 Peter: The Mystery of Salvation (1:10-12)
- 1 Peter: Be Holy In All You Do (1:13-16)
- 1 Peter: Living as an Alien, a Foreigner in this World (1:17-21)
- 1 Peter: Love One Another Deeply, From the Heart (1:22-2:3)
- 1 Peter: A Chosen People, A Royal Priesthood (2:4-5; 9-10)
- 1 Peter: A Chosen and Precious Cornerstone (2:6-8)
- 1 Peter: Living As Foreigners and Exiles (2:11-17)
- 1 Peter: Responding To Suffering (2:18-25)
- 1 Peter: Instruction for Wives and Husbands (3:1-7)
- 1 Peter: Christian Ethical Behavior (3:8-12)
- 1 Peter: Revere Christ in Your Suffering (3:13-18)
- 1 Peter: Imprisoned Spirits and Baptism (3:19-22)
- 1 Peter: Don’t Surrender to the World’s Influence (4:1-6)
- 1 Peter: Life in the Church: to Love and to Serve (4:7-11)
- 1 Peter: Being a Shepherd, a Rewarding Task (5:1-4)
- 1 Peter: Humble Yourself Under the Hand of God (5:5-11)