Read 1 Peter 3
Focus on verse 14-16
I have not to this point made an effort to research world history in an attempt to determine if there has ever been a period of human existence void of human suffering. In terms of biblical history the only period I am aware of is the time prior to Genesis chapter three… and perhaps a short period of time during Solomon’s reign in Israel. Beyond those periods, wherever there have been humans – it would seem human suffering has been an ever present traveling companion.
In recent history, the advancement of science and medicine has been instrumental in reducing suffering to some extent, however, science has also been a contributor to the cause when we have succeeded in militarizing these scientific advances for destructive purposes. When one considers the common denominator in human suffering it would seem that we are in many ways our own worst enemy. While the animal kingdom is ruthless in the way predictors kill their prey, most animals only kill to survive, while some humans seem to get some kind of twisted pleasure out of the suffering of others.
In today’s reading Peter acknowledges that the redemption which we find in Christ does not shield us the physical aspects of suffering. If fact, historically many who have chosen to follow Jesus have done so at great personal risk, often losing everything the world considers valuable. Despite this risk, Peter encourages them to be fearless in giving an answer for the hope they have in Christ.
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. (v. 14-16)
What Peter is attempting to help us understand is that the physical suffering we may be called to endure for the sake of Christ is a small price to pay in light of what we gain through our relationship with Christ. Apparently it is possible for us to find peace and joy in the midst of suffering and opposition. The Spirit of God can also give us the ability to treat those who choose to slander, revile or even persecute us with gentleness and respect. When we are able to do this, it is the ones who oppose us who look bad, and are put to shame. Hopefully that shame leads to repentance rather than rebellion.
The main point that Peter is making here is that we should not consider suffering for doing good, a bad thing. If we suffer for doing wrong things – that would not be surprising, and would likely ruin our testimony – but when we suffer for doing right, this is when God often chooses to use us most powerfully to lead others to repentance, which, I seem to recall is God’s desire so – if nothing else, this alone gives us reason to rejoice in our suffering.