Responding to Persecution
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, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and 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. 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. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
1 Peter 3:13-18
Persecution has been a common experience in Christianity ever since the apostles first proclaimed the message of salvation. Even in places that have been blessed with a long period of peace and prosperity, there is no guarantee how long that will continue. And though we may never face severe repercussions like imprisonment or death for our beliefs, we’ve probably all felt the sting of rejection or ridicule. Whatever form the harassment may take, we should all be prepared to suffer for Christ.
Peter wrote to a group of believers who were treated harshly because of their faith. His goal was to offer encouragement and a reminder to follow Christ’s example: Though sinless, He suffered in our place to bring us to God. And while the crowd at the cross mocked Him, He never responded harshly. Instead, He patiently suffered in full submission to His Father, “entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21-23).
Without this perspective, we could quickly descend into self-pity or angry resentment when we’re mistreated. But Peter reminds us that we are blessed when we suffer for the sake of righteousness. Not only will we receive a reward in heaven (Matthew 5:11-12), but we may also have an opportunity to gently and reverently be a witness for Christ.
A wise response to persecution flows from an accurate understanding of God’s ways. Unfair suffering is sometimes a part of His will for us, just as it was for Christ. But we can trust our Father, knowing that He can work every situation for our good and His glory.