“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, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
~1 Peter 3:15b-17 (TNIV).
There is a lot in this passage but it is set around a certain context.
Notwithstanding the context there are some broader issues that beckon to us some real reflection.
Just some thoughts...
I’m not sure we think of this much, but we should. We should be working out our salvation in fear and trembling as Paul exhorts us in Philippians 2:12. I think this is also what Peter is getting at. This is not about being ‘scared’ of God, but it is about being in a state of awed respect for not only God, but for the life—and the responsibilities—that we have due our salvation (if we’re saved).
When we’re coming from this position of awed respect of God and life and our responsibilities, we take things in a more circumspect seriousness and we’re very personally accountable.
This is where God wants us... maturing, accountable, respectful, and able to suffer some inconvenience and discomfort for others to do well.
We do this and we have our conscience set so clearly, it gleams—and our commensurate confidence (or “boast”) is in God and nothing else.
It doesn’t matter what other people say about us; our very respectful responses will have them seen as a laughingstock. But we’re not interested in that at all. We want one thing and one thing only; the truth of God to be known, in and through us.
When we’re in this frame, suffering is hardly the point. The pain of suffering matters less.
What matters more, certainly, is gentleness (the beautiful notion of the Greek: epieikes) and respect.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.