The Good Life: The Right Reaction
1 Peter 3:8-17 portrays the good life as consisting of three elements: the right attitude, the right action, and the right reaction. The right reaction to what?
Peter’s original audience was Christians facing persecution. He called on them to keep their behavior excellent (2:11-12), to silence their critics by doing right (2:15), to be willing to suffer unjustly (2:18-25), and to pursue peace (3:11).
He asked, “Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?” (3:13). We would like to answer, “No one,” but Peter knew better. He added, “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness . . .,” and then outlined a fourfold response.
1. Remember that “you are blessed” (v. 14a). Jesus said so in the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:10-12).
2. “And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled” (v. 14b). These expressions were taken from Isaiah’s admonition to Ahaz regarding Rezin and Pekah (Isaiah 8:12). Again, remember what Jesus said: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; bur rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
3. “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” (v. 15a). Jesus is your Lord; live only to please Him. Man’s view of you does not matter much now and will be totally irrelevant at the judgment (see 1 Corinthians 4:3-5).
4. “Always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (v. 15b). First, that requires a ready knowledge of what you believe and why you believe it. Peter added that it must be done with gentleness and reverence (v. 15c). Don’t “tell someone off.” Don’t speak with arrogance or pride or bitterness (cf. 2:23). Calmly, humbly explain your faith and conduct. Peter also noted that our words must be supported by a good conscience and good behavior (v. 16). If you suffer, be sure it is for doing right, not for doing wrong (v. 17).
Just prior to these verses, Peter noted one more element of the right reaction: “not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for this very purpose that you might inherit a blessing” (v. 9). Blessing others who wrong us instead of retaliating will please God, make us feel far better, and perhaps even lead an enemy to repentance. That epitomizes the good life.