Trials From Without - Lesson 15 - The Defensible Life
1 Peter 3: 8 - 17
8 To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit;
9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.
10 For “The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.
11 He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes Of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
13 Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?
14 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,
15 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;
16 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.
17 For it is better if God should it so that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.
A clear conscience is an invaluable strength when you are being attacked. Peter is writing about coping with trials and attacks that come on you from outside the family of faith. He talks about being strong even when pagans seek to slander and discredit faith and you who embrace faith. He instructs how to live a life that honors God and produces no guilt or shame. A big part pertains to Christian relationships, which are to be established in harmony, support, encouragement, and blessing. You notice that there may be conflicts among believers, but the wounded party will never respond with evil or insult, instead with a blessing. Humility and brotherly kindness must mark church life.
This behavior is not a surface thing; a certain personal aspect of individual lives will produce godly relationships. Verse 10 asserts that life, love, and good days all come from tongue control. Evil speaking or deceit can ruin everything. Verse 11 indicates that doing good while seeking and pursuing peace further supports the best things. Verse 12 brings the Lord into the picture as He looks with favor on righteous people and answers their prayers, even as He is against those who do evil. Peter’s conclusion to the thought is that no one can harm a person who is zealous for what is good.
Yet suffering can come into the picture as enemies of the Cross may attack people living righteous lives. Maybe they are jealous, intimidated, or made to feel guilty; who knows? But such unfair persecution is really a blessing. So don’t be intimidated or troubled, but continue to set Christ apart in your heart, be ready to give gentle explanations for your faith, and keep a clear conscience to come out on top in any situation. By the way, a clear conscience is simply the ability to say that you have not wronged anyone without doing everything humanly possible to make it right. You may encounter these sorts of conflicts in your family. You may have pagan relatives who are critical of your faith and find ways to really hurt your feelings. This is exactly the sort of thing Peter is addressing. Unbelievers can be so uncomfortable with believers and their righteous life that they revile, slander, attack, etc. When that comes from family, it is very painful and confusing because it is hard to know how to respond.
The faith response Peter advocates are founded on agreement with God that it is better to suffer for doing right than for doing wrong. Then, be sure you are humble, not defensive; gentle, not surly; respectful, not sarcastic; loving, not unkind; and very patient as you need to explain yourself. You know that a prolonged attack can raise doubts in your mind.
You can wonder if you really are right and doing the right things or if the accusations are true and you are the problem. This is where you must have a good conscience with everyone in your life so that guilt doesn’t come from some other source and take you down. Pursue the right things, let God conform you to them, and then watch and wait as He works out the conflicts, so you have no shame. You can do this!