“Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” (1 Peter 3:13–17, NASB95)
There is a general principle among men that if you do good you will suffer no harm as a result, but if you do harm you should expect no good consequence in response. This is a basic premise of our criminal judicial system. Those who obey the law have nothing to fear from the law, but those who break the law should expect to suffer the consequence of their transgressions. The problem with a general principle is that it is not an absolute. This is particularly true when the laws of man conflict with the laws of God, and man is forced to choose between them. It is also true when the predominant faith of a region conflicts with the individual faith of a smaller group of people. Today in our world we have countless examples of both. We see the persecution that happens in predominantly Muslim countries where Christians are being tortured, arrested, raped, and even put to death. We even see persecution in our own country when in the one-sided name of “anti-discrimination” business owners are being sued and even losing all that they own because they choose to stand for their Christian faith and values.
Peter encourages us to do right when right even when right is not easy, popular, or maybe even approved. Generally speaking in doing right things will go well with us. But even if they don’t, we should never let escaping persecution be an excuse for cutting a right corner. Our God will bless His people. We may not see it in tangible ways, but He has His ways of making His blessing incredibly evident. Peter makes the bold statement, “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed.” I love the tense of the blessing. It is a present condition. Sure, we have a future hope, but we never have to wait to know that we are presently pleasing to God and in receipt of His constant watch care and blessing. We can know His peace in the midst of turmoil. We can know His approval in the face of the world’s chastisement. We can know that we are right with God when everything around us seems to be going wrong.
The Greek word used here is “makarios,” and it is the same word that Jesus used in His beatitudes of Matthew chapter 5, where there is a continual focus on the blessedness of the individual who responds properly in the face of various trials.
““Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:3–12, NASB95)
Jesus ended His words with, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great….” Blessing is not found in the abundance of things or in being lauded by man. Real blessing comes from God, and He is incredibly generous to those who seek Him and walk according to His ways.
Peter tells us not to be intimidated by man, but to sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts. “Sanctify” is the same Greek word “hagiois” that we have looked at repeatedly in this letter. We are set apart as God’s holy ones because of Christ, and we are to continually recognize Christ as our Lord. There is no human power that can even step on the scale in comparison. Christ, the Son was present in creation and all things that exist came into being by Him, and, as we read in Colossians, it is Him who holds all things together.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” (Colossians 1:15–20, NASB95)
He is Lord and we are to be continually mindful of this truth when people try to puff themselves up. We have no reason to be intimidated or to be troubled. Things might be troubling and our hearts might be heavy over the wrongness of them, but all things are under the sovereign authority of our God, and He will work His good. “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NASB95)
Knowing His firm hand, we know that we are made to stand. We are to take our courage in Him, and because of Him we can give an answer to others concerning the hope that we have. When someone comments on how we are walking through something, possibly adding that they don’t know if they could, we have the opportunity to speak of about Christ. We don’t have to get riled up at the injustice, but we can in good conscience with His peace speak boldly about the assurance we have in Him in the face of the injustice. We can work for right, but we aren’t to get exasperated and lose hope when right does not seem to prevail. Our hope is in our Lord and not the success of our plans of the consequence of our actions. Therefore, it is better to suffer for doing right before Him than to suffer for wrong. We may gain the pleasure of man when we seek to please man, but man is not our judge neither are man’s ways our perfect guide.
When the world is lashing out around us and maybe even at us, our confidence in God will be even more evident when we don’t return insult for insult or evil for evil (v. 9), but with internal peace respond with grace as we stand on His truth. We are to evidence our hope through our gentleness and reverence of response as we keep our conscience clear before God and man. They may say lots of things, revile us for our stand, and lash out at us in response, but what really matters is the hope we have in Christ and the certain knowledge that we are doing things His way no matter what man might do. In this we know that we are approved by Him and are truly, truly blessed.