Saved… to give an answer for the hope that you have
1 Peter 3: 13-22 (NIV)
13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
If suffering is coming your way, then you need to make sure that you are suffering for the right reason. Suffering for your own stupidity just shows how stupid you are. But suffering for doing good reflects how stupid the person persecuting you is. A bit like that song in the musical ‘Wicked’: “No good deed goes unpunished”. It’s a cruel truth. Jesus’ suffering was for good as the passage reminds us. His suffering brought us life, freed the oppressed, offers all redemption. A suffering which is honoured through his place at the right hand of God. So, the model is there. Do good and if you suffer, then however much it hurts, it’s a suffering that does not harm you in the end. Indeed, even if it kills you, you will rise to new life.
I think the suffering church, the persecuted church must understand this more than me, God. I believe in an armchair church. A teacup church. A polite church. Never talk of religion and politics, that’s private! But you call us always to have an answer for the hope in us, God. Always to speak of the hope which lies at the heart of your Gospel. To gossip about love. To shout out your praises on the streets. Forgive me, Lord, when I am willing to allow you and the persecuted church to suffer in my silence.