“Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.” (vv. 15-16)

1 Peter 3:13-22 Tuesday 6 May 2014


Although religion is not necessarily marginalized in21st-century Britain, census figures tell us that people of faithare in the minority. Popular books portray religion as antiquated,illogical, and responsible for a range of social ills. Sometimes itis hard for people of faith to know how to conduct themselves inthis context. The temptation toward apathy, fear, and evendefensiveness is understandable. The cultural and historicalcontext of 1 Peter is quite different from 21st-century Britain,but the latter half of chapter 3 addresses the question of howChristians should conduct themselves in a setting that at bestdisregards them and at worst publicly scorns them.

1 Peter addresses the struggles of Christian communities in theRoman Empire's Eastern provinces; areas now part of modern Turkey.Christians in this setting were a vulnerable minority. Although theletter does not indicate that the Christians were experiencingviolent physical persecution, it hints at an underlying potentialfor violence. Historical documents reveal physical persecution ofthe region's Christians in the early second century.

Maintenance of civil order in Roman society depended uponeveryone, whether free or slave, fulfilling their duties. Worshipof the local community's patron gods was a duty. But the Christiansaddressed by 1 Peter rejected Roman religion in their acceptance offaith in Jesus Christ and their worship of the one God. Their faithbrought their status as good citizens into question and left themvulnerable to verbal assault. How should they respond to beingmaligned for their faith in Jesus Christ?

The message of 1 Peter encourages Christians to 'do good'. Theyshould remain faithful to God, following the example of thesuffering Christ. They should otherwise be good citizens. If theirindividual behaviour is beyond reproach, then any abuse theyreceive from others will be unjust. The Christian's conscience willbe clear and God will ultimately vindicate them by putting theirabusers to shame. The letter does not encourage passivity orretreat, but "gentleness and reverence". Christians should engagein their community and offer an authentic account of their beliefsthrough their actions and words.

To Ponder

  • For what person, principle, or belief would you be willing tosuffer?
  • How do we do good to those who are not good to us?
  • How might Christians robustly defend their beliefs withoutcoming across as defensive?

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