1 Peter 3:13-17 ESV
“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
Zealous for What is Good
We cannot take this first sentence here out of context and assume by it that no harm will ever come to us if we are zealous for what is good, for Jesus clearly stated, and so did his apostles, that the Christian life is a life of suffering, and that we will be hated and persecuted for righteousness’ sake by the world, which includes the worldly church, too.
[Matt. 5:10-12; Matt. 10:16-25; Matt. 24:9-14; Lu. 6:22; Lu. 21:12-19; Jn. 15:18-21; Rom 5:3-5; Php 3:7-11; 1 Pet 1:6-7; 1 Pet 4:12-17; Jas 1:2-4; 2 Co 1:3-11; Heb 12:3-12; Rev 3:19]
Actually, this first verse here in 1 Peter 3:13 refers back to vv. 10-12 where Peter was apparently quoting from parts of Psalms 34 (paraphrased):
*If we desire life and to see good days we are to keep our tongues from evil and our lips from speaking deceit. We are to turn away from evil and do good. We are to seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to our prayers. *
So, Peter is not saying that no harm will ever befall us, but he is definitely saying that the Lord has his watch over our lives, and that he listens to our prayers, and he does protect us from evil. He doesn’t necessarily protect us from all evil waged against us, but he does protect us from the effects of that evil on our lives, when we are zealous for doing what is good.
And “good” is always defined by God, not by the world, and not by the flesh of humans. For good is always in line with God’s divine and righteous and moral character. So “good” is all that is holy, righteous, pure, honest, faithful, obedient (to the Lord), and submissive to Christ as Lord. There is no evil included in this “good.”
So, if we are following the Lord Jesus with our lives, and we are walking in his holiness and righteousness, and we are doing what he says to do, and we are being who he has called us to be, not necessarily in absolute perfection, but as a matter of our life course, our practice, consistently and continuously, the Lord is watching out for us.
All Things Under God’s Command
So, even if he allows us to go through times of suffering, which he will, which is for our good, we are blessed. God is doing something good in our lives, and he will use it for his glory. For he is completely sovereign over our lives. Nothing escapes his notice. He has all things under his command, and he is working all things for good for those who love (obey) him.
So, we are not to fear what other humans may do to us or even what anything may do to us. For example, for the past month my husband’s and my apartment has been infested with mice. We didn’t know this right away, for we were busy helping someone else and we weren’t home much. But then we discovered the feces and then my husband found a mouse.
The mice were getting into the food in our pantry, so we had to take everything out of the pantry and throw it away, for the pantry was loaded with mice feces. For the past several weeks we have been cleaning, patching holes, putting down traps for the mice, contacting the apartment management, and doing everything we know to do to rid us of the mice.
Nonetheless, they are still in our heating and air ducts, and when we ran the air conditioning, I could feel that it was doing damage to my lungs breathing all this in, so we eventually had to turn off the AC and go to natural air. Still, there is a danger here lurking, because mice and their feces carry diseases, at least one of which can be fatal.
So, daily I have had to acknowledge the sovereignty of God over my life, to quote the words above where it says he has everything under his control (even mice), and that he is working all of this out for my good. I have had to surrender this situation over to the Lord, pray for wisdom to know what to do, and then I am leaving it in his hands, and I am trusting him with it.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are to honor (esteem, reverence, worship) Christ the Lord as holy. And this means that we submit to him as Lord (owner-master) of our lives, and we follow him in obedience, and we forsake our sinful practices in favor of walking in his holiness and righteousness. And it means we trust him with our lives and with our circumstances, and that we don’t give way to fear. We trust him fully! We believe him.
Be Ready to Give a Defense
We are going to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake. We are going to be opposed for our walks of faith and for our devotion and dedication to our Lord and to his service, and for our commitment to his divine will for our lives. And we will be persecuted and opposed for our stand on the truth of God’s word and for sharing the truth of the gospel and for opposing the lies.
Some people will oppose us, and some will bring into question what we believe, and so we are to be prepared to make a defense for the hope that is in us, which is a defense of the gospel. But we are to do this with gentleness, but not in weakness, and not in backing down, but with gentle strength, which expresses power with reserve, but not with cowardice.
For, Jesus was meek, but he never compromised truth. He didn’t water things down to spare people’s feelings or to make things more comfortable and acceptable to human flesh. He always spoke the truth, and sometimes he spoke it strongly, like to the Pharisees, but it was always with love, with genuine concern for people’s souls and that people not be led astray.
When people speak lies to us, especially those who know the truth, but they are speaking the lies to excuse away their sinful practices, or what they feel is their right or their liberty to continue in sin, then we must speak truth to them in return. We must put on that armor of God, and get out that sword of the Spirit, and use it to oppose the lies and to claim the truth.
But we are not to be haughty or prideful thinking we know everything or that we know more than everyone else. But on the flip side of that, it is not being haughty or prideful or self-righteous to teach the truth of God’s word and to oppose the lies, though some people will accuse you of such if you are indeed proclaiming the truth and if you are opposing the lies.
So, it all really comes down to the fact that we need to read all Scripture, and we need to follow all teachings on how we are to approach various subjects, and we should follow the models of Jesus and of his New Testament apostles, though they were surely not all perfect all the time in how they said things, either, except for Jesus.
And in this way we can speak the truth in love with good consciences, whether we are slandered or not, when we follow the teachings of Scripture, and when we follow these biblical examples, and when we follow the leading of God’s Spirit, and we don’t follow our flesh, and we don’t just say what our flesh tells us to say. Always we need to stay in tune to the Holy Spirit.
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
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