1 Peter 3:13–17 (ESV) — 13 “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 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, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
I think most Christians would agree that we are living in an increasingly hostile culture. Devoted followers of Christ hold to certain beliefs, such as the exclusive nature of the Gospel and sexual morality. These beliefs are unpopular in our society. As a result, many Christians are being mistreated for their commitment to the truth of the Word of God. This mistreatment isn’t going to go away anytime soon, so how should we respond?
We need to have a Biblical theology of persecution. Instead of having our feelings hurt or freedoms taken away, we are to accept suffering for righteousness as a blessing. We are to be bold in the face of mistreatment. Let us not complain or be fearful, but rather set our hearts to honor Christ in our words and behavior.
Regarding our words and behavior, there is a certain temptation to strike back against those who are seeking to silence or restrict our message. However, the Apostle Peter makes it very clear that we are to give a reason for the hope that is in us with a gentle and respectful spirit. Courtesy is a lost value, but it must not be lost in us as Christians.
Therefore, let us go forth with the Gospel of grace with graceful words and behavior. Let us not back down from the truth. However, let us always exhibit courtesy and good manners in defending the truth. When we respond to mistreatment in this way, people can malign God’s message (to their peril) but not how we deliver God’s message.
“Father God, thank you for instructing me how to respond to those who mistreat me for my faith. I am reminded of the words of Jesus on the cross when He said, hope ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ Please give me the same attitude, that I would interact with hostile people in a spirit of gentleness and respect. Forgive me for my bitterness and harshness to those who oppose the gospel. In Jesus name, Amen.”