“And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. 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” (1 Peter 3:13-15 NKJV).
Given the frequent headlines of terroristic violence in numerous locations in recent weeks, the question posed at the beginning of the quotation at the head of this article may seem naïve at best. Hundreds, even thousands, of presumably innocent people have been victimized for no other reason than to make a political or religious statement for the benefit of fanatics.
Yet Peter’s point is that such violence against good people is not the norm. Most people respect those who display moral and ethical values in their lives. But what he goes on to say is that exceptions do happen. Faithful Christians in his time were already being jailed, beaten, and killed, as, for example, his fellow apostle James, the brother of John (Acts 12:2). Sometimes evil persons target the good, and cause them harm.
But notice the appropriate reaction he suggests. First, we are to recognize that the good are blessed even when they are mistreated and to be grateful. No doubt he remembered Jesus’ words in the beatitudes: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).
The second response to unjust suffering is to emphasize one’s faith. “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” (1 Peter 3:15).
The Christian has a system of faith and values that determines his actions and reactions. We know what to do, in any situation, and further, we know why we are to do it. We do not stand alone. God is with us, supporting and encouraging us. Whatever the believer must suffer, he knows that he will receive strength to endure it. He also knows that his reward is far greater than his losses.
Those without such faith are puzzled as to why disciples of Jesus would expose themselves to hazard by traveling to places where persecution and other kinds of violence are prevalent. The answer is simple. Jesus came to earth to suffer and die to save sinful humans from eternal destruction (1 Peter 3:18). We are commanded by him to carry on that same mission (Matthew 28:18-20). Further, we are honored and blessed to be counted worthy to suffer for him as he has suffered for us (Acts 5:41). Finally, we have no need to fear because God is with us in all that we do (Romans 8:31). He has promised to care for us in all situations. That is enough.