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.”
Generally speaking, if we are followers of the law of the land, and we do good to other people, and not evil, we should not be those who get in trouble with the law or who have other people retaliating against us. But that is not how it works all the time, so this is not to say that we won’t suffer injustices. Jesus did, and his New Testament apostles did, and so did the prophets before them, and due to no fault of their own. For Jesus said that if we follow him, we will be hated and persecuted as he was.
Hated and Persecuted, Jesus’ words: [Matt 5:10-12; Matt 10:16-25; Matt 24:9-14; Lu 6:22-23; Lu 21:12-17; Jn 15:18-21]
So, we don’t have to do any evil to have evil done against us. In fact, often evil is done against us because we are doing what is righteous and holy and obedient to our Lord and to his Word, or just because evil people exist who do evil to other people, often to the innocent, too. And some of these evil doers may be those who profess faith in Jesus Christ and who regularly attend church services and who put on a show of righteousness for the public to see. And some of them could be pastors and elders, too.
But we are to have no fear of evildoers or what they might do to us or against us. We should continue to honor Christ the Lord as holy, even if it means being hated and rejected in return, and even if it means having others who profess faith in Jesus turning against us, too. Yet, we could play it safe and never say anything that offends anyone and join in on the whole watering down of the gospel and saying only “sweet nothings” to people, and then we should be well liked by other humans. But then what about God?
If we are honoring Christ as Lord, then we need to speak the words of God to the people and not the lies which may make them feel good and which may lead them to like us and not hate us. We must share the whole counsel of God and not half-truths spoken out of fear of being rejected. For we must lay down our lives to see others come to genuine faith in Jesus Christ, and that involves us speaking the truth of the gospel to them. And the truth is that we must die to sin daily and follow Jesus in obedience to his commands, for if we do not, we do not have eternal life with God.
So, being gentle and respectful does not equal diluting the gospel message in order to not offend people with the truth. For another word for “gentleness” is “meekness,” which is “gentle strength,” which expresses power with reserve, or is a “gentle-force” (source: biblehub.com). But think with me about this for a moment, for Jesus was meek, but he was not weak when it came to speaking the truth, and sometimes very strongly, too, depending upon to whom he was speaking. Same with Paul and with Stephen who both spoke strong words to those who crucified their Lord.
So, there are occasions when our words need to be stronger, and there are occasions when they can be more gentle, depending on the circumstances. Now this appears to be in the context of being persecuted for righteousness’ sake by other humans, and in the context of them asking us a reason for the hope that is in us. Now they may ask us in truth, or they may not, and they may mock us by their words, or they may try to trip us up with our words like Jesus’ enemies did with him. So, we need to be discerning about how to respond, which sometimes involves us not responding at all.
The main thing here is that in whatever we do or say or how we say it, we are to honor Christ the Lord as holy, and we are not to fear what others will think about us or say to us or about us behind our backs. We have to fear God and not other humans. And we have to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord even if it gets us hated and rejected in return by other humans. For in today’s Christian culture here in America, it will get you hated and rejected if you teach what Jesus and his New Testament apostles taught in their fulness and without compromise of truth and righteousness.
So, if we do what is right in the eyes of the Lord, and we speak the words of the Scriptures in truth, and in love, in the power of God’s Spirit, then we should have good consciences. And then if we are slandered, which we will be, we will have no cause to be ashamed. But those who revile our good behavior should be ashamed. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be God’s will that we should suffer for doing good, rather than for doing evil.
[Matt 5:10-16; Matt 10:16-25; Matt 24:9-14; Matt 28:18-20; Lu 6:22-23; Lu 21:12-19; John 15:1-21; Jn 16:33; Acts 1:8; Acts 14:22; Acts 26:18; Rom 5:3-5; Rom 12:1-8; 1 Co 12:1-31; 2 Co 1:3-11; Eph 4:1-16; Eph 5:17-27; Phil 3:7-11; Col 3:16; 1 Thess 3:1-5; Jas 1:2-4; Heb 3:13; Heb 12:3-12; 1 Pet 1:6-7; 1 Pet 2:9; 1 Pet 4:12-17]
Written by David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager,
Alberto Testa and Tony Renis
I pray you’ll be our eyes
And watch us where we go
And help us to be wise
In times when we don’t know
I pray we’ll find your light
And hold it in our hearts
When the stars go out each night
Remind us where you are.
Let this be our prayer
When shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe.
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