1 Peter 3:13-16 says: “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.”
Suffering? No one wants a piece of that. So why does Peter speak about being blessed in this way? Let’s consider the context. In verse 13, he asks, “Who is there to harm you if you are zealous for good?” These believers in Asia Minor would have said, “Lots of people will harm us – our neighbours, our city, the trade guilds, the temple, the Romans. We are vulnerable!!” Why are they vulnerable? Because they were taking a stand for their faith, refusing to bow down to the pagan culture around them. So Peter wrote these verses to encourage them.
In verse 13, Peter then tries to reinforce behaviour among Christians that will lessen any misunderstanding and endear God’s people to the wider culture around them. No one, he says, persecutes people for being gentle, kind, loving and caring. That is the kind of behaviour that he is talking about here. The culture you live in may misunderstand your faith, but if you can become known as people of graciousness, then you will be half way to bridging the divide.
By the way, that is still important today. Nothing is so disarming as a person who forgives their enemies, looks for opportunities to bless others, volunteers in social endeavours, and looks for ways to encourage others. These kinds of attitudes open the door for the gospel. That is the first step to building bridges. But where Christians are seen to be ungracious, the size of the moat grows larger, and the way to the castle – to the gospel – is uncrossable. Then Peter adds, “even if you suffer for righteousness sake…”
The grammar here suggests that in the unlikely event that people do persecute you for being gracious, don’t be discouraged. You are in fact blessed. Peter is quoting Jesus in Matthew 5:10: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” Peter also encourages them to “have no fear,” or to not be intimidated. How is it that in an increasingly hostile culture, you can be free from intimidation? Because, says Peter, in your heart you are regarding Christ as Lord.
That is – He is fully equal with the Father, He is the second person of the Trinity, and He rules over all. As ruler, all things are subject to Him – even the hostility of your culture. But of course, Peter is not just telling us to regard Christ as Lord, but to regard Christ the Lord as holy. What is he trying to communicate? The key to understanding this is found in Isaiah 8:13, which says, “But the Lord of hosts, Him you shall honor as holy. Let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.”
If you are going to fear anybody, fear God, fear Christ, regard Him as holy, and let your fear be of Him alone. If the truth is told, there are some believers who are actually intimidated by the world. If that is you, you might think that the best thing to do is to believe in the gospel, but keep it private. You have been flying under the radar, so to speak, and until now, very few of the unbelievers with whom you interact know you are a believer. Or, even if they do, you have never entered into a dialogue with them because of fear! But if you learn to regard Jesus the Lord as holy, it will give you courage to enter into the arena of discussing your faith openly with others.
APPLICATION: Are you willing to “suffer for righteousness’ sake?” Let’s reflect on the importance of honouring Christ the Lord as holy. Ask Him to remove your fear of man, and learn to fear Him alone.
IF YOU LEARN TO REGARD JESUS THE LORD AS HOLY, IT WILL GIVE YOU COURAGE TO ENTER INTO THE ARENA OF DISCUSSING YOUR FAITH OPENLY.
Dr. John Neufeld
Back to the Bible