The Way You Respond is Important
By: Rev. Joe Kramer
Many people today refuse to go to church because of how they were treated in times past. This is called “church-hurt.” Today we explore, further, how a “Christian” is supposed to react during times of pressure. Why? Because (I know it is a cliché, but it is true) people are watching the way Christians react.
(13) And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? (14) But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” (15) But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; (16) having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. (17) For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
-1 Peter 3:13-17
This passage is reiterating what Peter has stated in chapter two about suffering unjustly. In verse thirteen we find a reminder that God sees the big picture and He is ultimately in control of our lives. We are reminded that this life is not our ultimate reality. There is another reality that will come, that is the inheritance of our souls (i.e. salvation). It is interesting that those that God loves and protects are the ones that end up in persecution without just reasons (i.e. Christians). Just because you are a Christian does not mean that you will not suffer sickness, pain, and death. As a matter of fact, in many parts of the world to become a Christians can mean your death (especially in Muslim countries).
In verse fourteen Peter words this verse in such a way that we are reminded that not all Christians will suffer, but it is a distinct possibility that you will. That being the case, every Christian should be ready to experience suffering but we are told to not worry about it. Christians are told that when suffering happens that they should not fear because though they are going through great suffering, and possibly death ultimately God will reward them and bless them (either in this life or the hereafter). We must remember that the way we behave during these times may win someone to Christ and even in tragedy God is glorified.
In verse fifteen Peter says that we are to sanctify Christ in our hearts. How is this achieved? This is achieved by what he has already written earlier in this letter. (1) We are to sanctify Christ in our lives by loving each other (verses eight through nine). (2) We are to sanctify Christ with our very lives (verses thirteen through fourteen). (3) We are to sanctify Christ in our lives by our witness (verse fifteen). The rest of this verse tells us to have a witness for our faith that is well prepared and logical. This tells us three things. (1) It tells us to always be studied and have an answer for others. (2)This tells us we need to be able to present our beliefs boldly, but gently. (3) When persecution comes (whether in front of a judge/magistrate or anyone else) that we should be gentle and humble in our answers making sure they are presented truthfully, logically, and with all sincerity of belief. Not in a way that is belligerent, which so many have answered that way in times past.
Verses sixteen and seventeen continues to work into our witness toward others. This shows that when Christians are persecuted and do not respond in kind, their way of acting puts the persecutor to shame. It was because of the Christians’ attitude during persecutions that lead to people becoming Christians, and so it is all over the world today! Through this we of behaving God is glorified and people are brought to a changed life in Christ.
How about you today? How do you react when pressure is applied? Is it good or bad? Would God be happy with you today Christian or would is He kind of cringing because of the way you have been behaving? Maybe you need to repent and ask God’s forgiveness. Maybe you need to act different. This is the time to get on your knees and ask God what He would have you to do. The choice is yours.