In previous verses Peter has given specific behavior characteristics that Christians are to exemplify, he has told us how to behave under persecution, and he has provided some practical applications. Remember that Peter wants us to act in a godly manner regardless of the circumstances so that people will be drawn to us and ask us why we have hope. In this morning’s passage, Peter continues his instructions on how to act in adversity.
Take a look at 1 Pet. 3:16-20.
Peter begins by telling us to stay pure. Specifically, “Keep a good conscious.” Conscious literally means the judgment of the mind respecting right and wrong; or the judgment which the mind passes on the morality or immorality of its own actions, when it instantly approves or condemns them. Some may call that conscious a moral sense. By nature every man approves or condemns his own acts. Today we have what is called moral relativism. This is the idea that there are no absolutes when it comes to morality; there is no standard. What is wrong for you may or may not be wrong for someone else. In the world today, there are people that would influence you to depart from what we know is the truth.
“In describing her view on morality, the President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America once stated, “…teaching morality doesn’t mean imposing my moral values on others. It means sharing wisdom, giving reasons for believing as I do – and then trusting others to think and judge for themselves.” She claims to be morally neutral, yet her message is clearly intended to influence the thinking of others… an intention that is not, in fact, neutral. In a 2002 Fox News column, Bill O’Reilly asked “Why is it wrong to be right?” In his article, O’Reilly cited a Zogby poll regarding what is being taught in American universities. Studies indicate 75% of American college professors currently teach that there is no such thing as right and wrong. Rather, they treat the questions of good and evil as relative to “individual values and cultural diversity.” The problem with this, according to O’Reilly, is that “they see the world not as it is, but as they want it to be.”
So many Christians follow these departures because they don’t know the truth. Some would argue that there can be no absolute truth. Some would argue that the Bible is not relevant for today, not accurate, not applicable for today’s complex society. Our cultural standard says it’s okay to take the life of an unborn child. Society says that deviant behavior is the result of a broken home or a dysfunctional family. Some would say only parts of the Bible are true, that there are many fables contained within it. According to George Barna, 46% of all born again Christians believe that Satan is not real, but is only a symbol of evil. 37% of born agains believe you can be good enough to get to heaven. 35% of Non-evangelical born agains (oxymoron) align themselves with the republican party while 42% percent call themselves Democrats. We have become a church that does not know the truth, does not embrace the truth, and does not live the truth. Remember these sobering words of the prophet Isaiah, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Is. 5:20)
Peter finishes v. 16 by saying, “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.” Notice that he doesn’t say “If” he says, “in the thing in which you are slandered.” Peter is saying it’s going to happen. People will speak evil against you. Slander is not a good word. In no context can it mean anything but ugly, mean, and hateful. Slander is an untruthful oral (spoken) statement about a person that harms the person’s reputation or standing in the community. Slander is always a lie. Someone who would slander you does it with the intention of causing damage to your reputation. No one likes to be talked to or treated in a disrespectful manner, but people will say things to you because of what you stand for. Matt. 5:11 says, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.” Luke 6:26 says, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.” Look at Peter’s expectation for us. “. . . those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.” Peter expects Christians to act in a certain manner. Remember vs. 8-9 that he just spoke? Those that “revile (assail with abusive language) your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.” They may see that they have misunderstood your conduct and regret that they have treated you as they have. We should expect, if we are faithful and true, that even our enemies will appreciate our motives, and do us justice. They may accuse you of insincerity, hypocrisy, dishonesty, or anything else, but the time will come when they will see their error and do you justice. Don’t focus on what they appear to be getting away with. The Psalmist provides some comfort in Ps. 37:5-13. I hope you’ll take time to read it and let the peace of the Scriptures wash over you.
We need to stay pure and we need to stay focused. Peter writes in v. 17, “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.” It is better, more advantageous, to suffer when we do right. Peter is talking in the context of doing right in Christ. There is no honor in suffering for doing wrong. You cannot claim the glories of the Lord when you are punished for doing wrong. Sometimes we suffer or are persecuted for doing what is right. This is what Peter is talking about. When you take a stand on the truth and suffer some type of ill consequences, Peter says it is better. There are effects accomplished by affliction that can be achieved in no other way. Some of the happiest results on the soul of a Christian, some of the strongest character traits are the direct result of trials we endure. What doesn’t kill us will make us stronger. James says is this way, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (Ja. 1:12) Could the Lord give us a life free from pain, suffering, affliction, hardship, trials, and temptations? Sure He could, but how would that help us to relate to people who suffer? How would our faith grow stronger?
The hope we have is found in Jesus Christ. I hope you’ll turn to Him for your comfort and your peace.