Suffering for Doing Right
8Finally, all of you should agree and have concern and love for each other. You should also be kind and humble. 9Don't be hateful and insult people just because they are hateful and insult you. Instead, treat everyone with kindness. You are God's chosen ones, and he will bless you. The Scriptures say,
10 “Do you really love life?
Do you want to be happy?
Then stop saying cruel things
and quit telling lies.
11Give up your evil ways
and do right,
as you find and follow
the road to peace.
12The Lord watches over
everyone who obeys him,
and he listens
to their prayers.
But he opposes everyone
who does evil.”
13Can anyone really harm you for being eager to do good deeds? 14 Even if you have to suffer for doing good things, God will bless you. So stop being afraid and don't worry about what people might do. 15Honor Christ and let him be the Lord of your life.
Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope. 16Give a kind and respectful answer and keep your conscience clear. This way you will make people ashamed for saying bad things about your good conduct as a follower of Christ. 17You are better off to obey God and suffer for doing right than to suffer for doing wrong.
18Christ died once for our sins.
An innocent person died
for those who are guilty.
Christ did this
to bring you to God,
when his body
was put to death
and his spirit
was made alive.
19Christ then preached to the spirits that were being kept in prison. 20 They had disobeyed God while Noah was building the boat, but God had been patient with them. Eight people went into that boat and were brought safely through the flood.
21Those flood waters were like baptism that now saves you. But baptism is more than just washing your body. It means turning to God with a clear conscience, because Jesus Christ was raised from death. 22Christ is now in heaven, where he sits at the right side of God. All angels, authorities, and powers are under his control.
A Christian view of the world encourages high standards of conduct. It demands a refined conscience and a keen sense of appropriate behaviour. The lists of do’s and don’ts do not spring from rigid rule-making, but, rather, from a desire for relational harmony. “All of you should agree and have concern and love for each other. You should also be kind and humble” (v 8).
Not everyone is eager for harmony, of course, and the early Christians who received these instructions were particularly hard done by. How does Peter advise them to respond to the hard times, difficult people, opposition, antagonism and unfairness foisted on them?
He did not say to strike back, to return in kind. To the contrary, he urges Christian believers to model a better way. “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better” (Richard Rohr). Maintain unity in your community. Have empathy for those around you. Be loving to all – friend and foe, social superior and inferior, men and women, rich and poor, one and all.
As Christian believers, we are to go about our business peacefully and joyfully, ready to explain ourselves when asked – without being jerks about it.
We do well to let the winsome righteousness of our ways stand in welcome contrast to the corrupt behaviour of our tormentors. They are the ones who should – who will – feel the shame. Let their own willful waywardness lead to their downfall. Or perhaps they might even turn it around. That is the redeeming part of the living hope Jesus’ followers lay claim to – divine forgiveness; complete restoration.
Gentleness and reverence are to be the hallmarks of Christian conduct and community, even when persecution and suffering are their lot (3:16,17). We are to cultivate tender hearts and humble minds, and to trust that God’s perfect justice will sort things out in the end.
O God, when someone does me wrong, help me to respond in a way that honours your command to love. Help me to forgive, as you are willing to forgive me. Help me to be positive and joyful, not bad-mannered and vindictive. Preserve me from my fragile ego. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.