Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?
1 Peter 3:8-4:6 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. 10 For,
“The one who desires life, to love and see good days,
Must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.
11 “He must turn away from evil and do good;
He must seek peace and pursue it.
12 “For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous,
And His ears attend to their prayer,
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
13 Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14 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, 15 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; 16 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. 17 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. 18 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; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.
4 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. 4 In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.
Today’s text says: 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… We must take great care in how we are zealous for what is good, even if we are zealous for God. Zeal for good and zeal for God have been responsible for many less than righteous acts of man against man. Throughout history and even today there are those who have committed great atrocities in the name of God. At the beginning of today’s text Peter says: all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead. Jesus Himself says: “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) If we are truly zealous for good and for God, this must guide our actions toward people. We must remember, if we are zealous for God, that His desire is that none should be lost. (2 Peter 3:9) We must remember that: our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12) In our struggle against evil, in our zeal for good and God, it is not people we are opposed to. It is the spiritual powers behind people’s actions we oppose. It is darkness and wickedness we oppose.
Hebrews 12:14 says: Make every effort to live in peace with everyone… Romans 12:18 says: If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. In today’s text Peter says: “The one who desires life, to love and see good days, Must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. “He must turn away from evil and do good; He must seek peace and pursue it. “For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, And His ears attend to their prayer, But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” There is a difference between seeking peace with people, in spite of their actions and being at peace with evil itself. Peter says we are to turn from evil. The whole of what Hebrews 12:14 says is: Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. The full context of Romans 12:18 is better understood reading Romans 12:9-21: Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
We are indeed to associate with the lowly. We are to love and bless our enemies. We are not to respond evil for evil or insult for insult. Our love though is to be without hypocrisy. We are to abhor what is evil and cling to what is good. If our expression of love to others includes accepting and condoning what God calls evil, then our love is with hypocrisy. Romans 6:23 says: The wages of sin is death… If we truly believe that and yet love, accept, tolerate and condone the very things that cause death, then our love is full of hypocrisy. True love, loves enough to tell the truth. If we saw someone we love or even a stranger, who was walking in harm’s way, about to be injured or killed, would we not at least shout a warning? Would we not encourage them to change their path? Jesus indeed, loved the unlovely, associated with sinners and outcasts, but Jesus Himself says: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Jesus didn’t seek out the lowly, the unlovely, sinners and outcasts that He would accept, tolerate or condone their sin and certainly Jesus did not participate in their sin. Jesus came to save them, to redeem them from their sin. Jesus came because: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
The world may reject us and our love, our zeal for what is good, for God and what God says is good. In today’s text Peter says: For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God. If we are truly zealous for God, if we truly love without hypocrisy, we will love, bless and pray for those who reject and even persecute us. We will also tell them the truth. We will shout the warning: the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. We will encourage them to change their path, to choose Christ.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit, thank You for Your love, Your grace and Your mercy, that You came to save us and redeem us from sin. Thank You also for the wisdom and discernment, the ability to in our zeal for what is good, to do the will of God, to overcome evil with good, to love without hypocrisy. Amen