Facing opposition and hostility
Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. 15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. 17 Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong! 18 Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. (1Pet. 3:13-18)
We are living in a hostile world. To be a true follower of Jesus, with Him as Lord and His word as your guide and truth, means we are going to run completely against what the culture believes. As our society has seemingly rejected true Christianity and embraced the spirit of the age, we find ourselves to be the objects of opposition and hostility. If you have not encountered this, then you are probably a closet Christian or not one. The reality is the world hates us and what we stand for – God’s righteousness and God’s justice (not man’s). Living for Jesus comes at a price - Jesus said it would (John 15:18-24). In this world we will have trouble (John 16:33). The letter Peter writes to these Christians is clearly a letter encouraging People of The Way who are facing major opposition and hostility. As we have seen, persecution is rampant, and believers were forced to flee the severe persecution under emperor Nero. Today’s passage is a very practical one for enduring and persevering through a world that hates us, our message, and our Jesus. I see three key encouragements to survive the hostility of our age, even the ever-increasing persecution of God’s people.
Number one, do good…be eager, zealous to do good (vs. 13). “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). As Peter has already said, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us” (1Pet. 2:12). Do Good! Love your neighbor; get involved in serving your community; stay away from criticism, gossip, negativity which will just sour your soul. Focus on that which is lovely and pure, and praiseworthy. We want to be attractive to the world, not ones who add fuel to the fire. We want to keep a clear conscience so that all they can really criticize is our good behavior (vs.16). It is easy to find fault with Christians when they say and do stupid things, but it is much harder for the world to criticize us when we are doing good, and serving as Christ did. Let us look for opportunities to be a blessing to others, and give of ourselves and our time to lend a hand, and minister God’s love to a hurting world.
Number two, don’t get wrapped up in fear, even fear of what they may do to you (vs.14). “Let not your hearts be troubled” by what the world is doing, even if they want to kill you. “To live is Christ to die is gain!” The whole New Testament, yes even the Old testament, is the story of God’s people living in relationship with their God as His chosen people, special possession, a holy nation, living in a world that hates God’s people for this very reason. We are different, set apart! For that the world already hates us. We are distinct, a peculiar people. We have not a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind. Do you see, we are heaven bound, not of this world. The more we live in and for the world, the more we have to fear because we will be afraid of losing our possessions and comforts. But if we have the attitude of an alien passing through this world, then our hope is reaching our destination in the next world, even heaven, and life eternal. With our eyes on our future inheritance, we look forward to death and suffering, since ultimately that is what will translate us to the next eternal life, which is far better than this one. Where our treasure is, that is where our heart is. Fear God not man, not the persecutor, or destroyer. We want to be with Jesus, where our eternal home is. If you want to kill me for what I believe, go ahead! I’ll just see my reward sooner, even Jesus! “Fear Not” God told Joshua – “be strong and courageous”, I am taking you into the promised land!
Thirdly, set apart Jesus as Lord of your life (vs. 15). If He is Lord, you live for Him, not earthly things. See, if He is Lord, you have already counted the cost of following Him, which is to lay down your life for Him anyway. We count all things lost compared to knowing Jesus – we have sold all to have the pearl of great price. We have nothing left of value except Jesus. If He is Lord, He is Master, and we live only to serve Him, not ourselves. We are His slaves and are willing to die for our Master anyway. That is the call of a true follower; the cost a true disciple pays. If we love the world and the things in the world, then Christ is not Lord, and we will want to hang on to our possessions, which will lead to compromising faith – exchanged for a few pieces of silver. Is Jesus Lord of your life? Are you willing to die for Him? Then you will be able to defend your stance before your accusers. So, if they ask you the basis for your hope, you say, “because I know in whom I have believed and given my life; and I look forward to seeing Him soon” (2Tim 1:12). My hope is in Christ. I’m not afraid to die, because that just means I see Him sooner and my hope is realized! With gentleness and reverence, we proclaim Christ, the gospel of hope: salvation, redemption, eternity in heaven, etc. Our eyes are ever on our Savior who set an example for us to follow. He was not afraid to suffer at the hands of His persecutors because He set His sights on the future glory of eternity with His Father. We ought to have the same attitude as He. Jesus went around doing good, preaching good news, and for that they killed him. The world loves to hate…its deeds are wicked. WE love to love, and our deeds are good. They will persecute us because we belong to Christ, and they see Christ in us. Ultimately, it is not us they hate, it is Jesus in us. If we don’t reflect Him to the world, then we have nothing to worry about. But if we live as we ought, as ambassadors of Christ, then the world will hate Him in us, and want to do away with us. Friends, we are witnessing many falling away from the faith embracing the spirit of the age. But, we are also seeing more and more followers of Jesus solidify what they believe, take a stand for biblical truth and morality, and dedicate themselves to enduring the persecution for the cause of Christ. We overcome the enemy by our stand, our defense of the truth. Peter is saying here the same as John says, “they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die” (Rev. 12:11). Know Jesus and the gospel; don’t be afraid to share the hope of the gospel; and don’t be afraid to die if that should be the case. That is the calling of every believer in a world filled with opposition and hostility. Where do you stand?
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