In a perfect world you would receive good for doing good. Unfortunately the world is filled with people like you and me so it is far from perfect. There is a band called "Downhere" who sing a song that talks about the world being filled with problems but the problem is not with the world, it's with me. It's a good song that reminds us that we have responsibilities here to love and care for each other, and that if we want this place to be better it has to start with us. Saturday we looked at God's simple instruction to do just that. Then Peter writes:
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? (1 Peter 3:13)
Although we will have a lot less problems by loving everyone around us, the fact remains, we will have troubles. There is a false prince in this world who enjoys playing on our weakness to be jealous and to hate. Just by living according to the nature we were born with we can be mean and nasty. So Peter continues:
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." (1 Peter 3:14)
Here is a repeated phrase from elsewhere in his letter as well as from various other scriptures. Our love cannot depend on sunny skies, singing birds and fields of daisies. That's a Disney world anyway. We have all experienced slammed doors in relationships where we have given and given. We have all been hurt by people after we have given them our best. We have had friends and family turn on us after we have done everything right. Suffering for doing good is common and sometimes our response is to withdraw, drop the relationship, move on, hide away, or curl up in a corner to lick our wounds. Praise the Lord, Jesus never gave up on us even though we trampled all over him when he first reached out to us. Peter reminds us that even if we suffer for doing good we are blessed, and that is exactly how we have to approach our life. Our blessings don't come from people. People are our mission, our business. The source of our blessings is our Father, and he will never turn on us for doing good. No, our attitude in this matter must we a world apart from non-believers:
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. 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. (1 Peter 3:15-16)
Despite what we face we are able to face it with a proper attitude when we keep Jesus in the right place in our hearts. He is Lord and we are doing what he has instructed us to do. We do not own how people receive our kindness, we only have the responsibility to give and to give all the time. With this in mind we should always be able to respond to unkindness with love, to hatred with love, to curses with blessings, to unforgiveness with forgiveness. We should always be gentle and respectful with people, regardless of how they treat us, because the Father loves them as much as he loves us.There is also the matter that the more we do what is right, the more those who hate us will feel guilty for doing wrong to us. Guilt is a good thing in those who are guilty of doing wrong. It allows the Holy Spirit to do his work, to convict people of their sins.
It looks to me like there would be a radical change in our lives and attitudes if we were to follow these instructions. If you thought the notion of "pay it forward" was powerful, imagine living this deeper law. So how can we manage this? Come back tomorrow as we look at the source for just such a life. For today, allow the Holy Spirit to inspire you to do good in the face of evil.