This week’s lesson in Sue Edwards’ 1 Peter: Finding Encouragement in Troubling Times is based in 1 Peter 3:13-4:6.
I must admit, the first two questions frustrated me when I began the lesson. But, by the end of the lesson, I came full circle to a completely different understanding of them. First, allow me to share the verses those questions were based on.
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, 1 Peter 3:13-14
The questions on these two verses seemed almost idyllic, indicating that our good behavior would automatically make everyone around us respond well. My cynicism arose immediately, leading me to comment in my notes that there are plenty who would harm us for doing good and living a Christ-centered life. That’s why we need to focus on the reality that our blessing is not based on the response of people in this world, but on a reward they could never understand.
I continued moving through the passage and the study, and as I did, my perspective was challenged greatly.
In all honesty, this perspective challenge is not a new one to me. It’s simply one I’d obviously forgotten. It is the challenge to view whatever I receive from the hand of God as good. And it is the further challenge to understand that everything I encounter in life is received from the hand of God.
Our lesson closed with the story of Blandina, a second century martyr who had been tortured and abused in many ways that should have been lethal before she was finally killed by sword. In the midst of such horrid torture, she stated, “I am a Christian and nothing wicked happens to us.”
How could someone whose body had been broken over and over again in ways that would normally kill a person possibly say that nothing wicked ever happens to Christians? By believing firmly that her entire life was lived in the hands of God, and everything from God is good. Even if it means pain here in this earthly life.
Now, apply that to the rest of the passage. The focus of this week’s passage is the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we are living focused on the goodness of Christ, constantly ready to share the hope that lies within us because of Him (1 Peter 3:15), what a testimony we have! What a power we possess to make Him known in this dark world! This world doesn’t want to know how we live a perfect, isolated, untroubled life. This world sees our inescapable troubles. They see their own inescapable troubles. They don’t want to see us pretend those troubles don’t exist. They want to see how we deal with them. They want to know how we could possibly see everything – even the troubles – as goodness from the hand of God. They want to know how they can live through those troubles with peace. They hunger for hope. And they can only see it if it is existing in us no matter what our troubles.
So, yes, the first couple of verses of this week’s passage might seem a bit idyllic at first because reality is that we will face harm if we prove zealous for what is good. But, if instead of perceiving it as harm we perceive it as confirmation that the gospel is alive and well in us, then what hope we share with the world around us! Oh, may we be able to say with Blandina that “nothing wicked happens to us!”