Today’s Daily Manna from the Net gave me 1 Peter 4:14-17. I went to Bible Gateway to learn the passage’s context and had to search back into chapter three, verse eight, to pick up the thread.
8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Here is both the what and the why of Christian living. The what is the first verse-and-a-half, while the why covers the balance. The next verse asks an important question:
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?
The next few verses answer in detail.
14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 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, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
Verse 14’s blessing comes from the supernatural peace we enjoy when we know and trust God’s faithfulness, not to deliver us from suffering, but to work all things for your ultimate good. Verses 14 and 15 are completely unreasonable demands for anyone who doesn’t possess God’s Holy Spirit.
What does “honor Christ the Lord as holy” mean? Holiness is separation from the corrupt, world system. So, honoring him for being holy means much more than simply praising him for his holiness, which in itself is a good thing. It means we must fight for him in spiritual, not worldly, ways. How? By always developing and maintaining readiness to defend your hope in Christ to anyone who challenges it, but with respectful gentleness as befits a Christ-follower.
Why must we fight Christ’s battles with gentleness and respect? Why can’t we argue as the world does, with sarcasm and name-calling?
Because that’s not Jesus’ way!
Aren’t we supposed to follow his example? Didn’t he whip the Temple money-changers and call the religious rulers “white-washed tombs?”
When he did those things, he used infinite restraint. He could have far more easily blasted them with fire from heaven, as his disciples wanted to do to the Samaritan village, or sliced and diced them with the double-edged sword of his mouth. He is, after all, the very Word of God that spoke the universe into existence. He called us, not necessarily to do what he did, but to do what he wants. And he revealed his will for us through the pens of his anointed Bible-writers.
Apostle Peter mentioned in the above passage, “good behavior in Christ,” not simply good behavior. The world will laud those who perform good works in the flesh, but doing them in Christ raises a lightening rod for criticism and, yes, persecution.
This theme continues in chapter four:
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And
“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
Verse thirteen implies a somewhat less-than joyful response when Christ’s glory is revealed, from those who don’t share his sufferings. The next verse paints a picture of a sort of spiritual umbrella when we suffer as a Christian: “the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” That’s one umbrella you can’t buy at Target.
Verses fifteen through eighteen form one thought: Don’t bring suffering on yourself by doing wrong, and this doesn’t mean, “Don’t get caught.” The list of sins in verse fifteen includes meddling, which is the “approved” sin we find way too often in churches. Of course, meddlers view their sin as simply enforcing God’s will and standards, and helping those who are done wrong. If such religious folks want so badly to see right done, why do they ignore all the Scripture passages against taking up someone else’s offense against an assumed, dastardly doer?
Verses seventeen and eighteen drive it home. You could say they are the “penalty phase” of the trial. If they haven’t jumped out to grab you, maybe you’d better read them again.
Verse nineteen provides a last word of encouragement, if we “suffer according to God’s will.”