1 Peter 3:13-17 (HCSB)
“And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
Whenever we (Christians) are challenged with pushback regarding the Biblical perspective – with, for example, topics such as what a marriage might be defined as, or the self-proclamation of identity regardless of the obvious – an opportunity has arisen for the Christian to not only share the Gospel, but to also mature apologetically (mature in defending the faith) and in attitude. From my own experience, I can certainly say that I have grown in these areas since being aggressively challenged by unbelievers regarding what scripture says about what ought and what ought not be. Such has forced me to grapple with how to respond with the proper, required answers, while doing so with gentleness and respect. It is tempting to just lash out with a clever, hard rebuke and “drop the mic,” but that’s not our calling. We are not supposed to just arrogantly brush off the challengers by pointing out their lack of virtue in not embracing the Biblical perspective; then, embarrassingly expose the inconsistencies in their arguments; followed by us proudly strutting off the stage.
No, there is a better way…
First off, Peter encourages us that we really cannot be harmed, in any real sense, by them. This is a very important thing to remember. Fear can cause us to wrongfully lash back. It reminds me of when Jesus explained to His disciples, “…do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” – Matthew 10:26-31 (HCSB)
We have nothing to worry about. However, if we do suffer for righteousness, according to Peter, we are blessed:
“And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed.”
Second, we are not to fear what the challengers fear, nor are we to be disturbed by them, but to have a proper fear. Solomon made this same point in the Old Testament, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” – Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (HCSB)
How do we avoid a worldly fear?
Peter tells us to keep Christ at the forefront of our grounding:
“Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts.”
Third, we are to not only avoid being shocked and surprised by a Christ-less world, but we are to always be ready to gently and respectfully provide answers when confronted, which will then allow us to avoid the guilt of answering with a poor attitude, then causing the challenger to experience a needed shame for resisting proper virtue and for putting us down in light of how we respond:
“Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame.”
Finally, we are again encouraged by Peter that suffering for doing good is better than suffering for doing evil, and most importantly, we are reminded that it may be of God’s will that such suffering occurs:
“For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
Unless we are engaged in such discourses, whether in person or online, the Gospel will not be heard. Unless we engage with a proper attitude, we will then nullify the message for the hearer. And, unless we realize that God is in control and our suffering is for His glory, we will then have an improper fear and most likely avoid what we are called to proclaim… the hope that we have.
Luke describes how the Apostles modeled for us what the correct manner of response looks like:
Acts 5:41-42 (HCSB)
“So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”
May we learn do the same…
Godspeed, to the brethren!
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