How to Honor Christ When the World Dishonors You
1 Peter 3:8-17
Preached at Main Street Church on February 17th, 2019
1st Peter is a letter written by one of Jesus’ most well-known disciples: Peter. Peter wrote this letter to Christians in the region of Asia Minor, or modern day Turkey just a couple decades after the earthly ministry of Jesus. The reason he wrote it was because those Christians were being slandered, ostracized, and vilified by their neighbors and the people in their society. Peter summarizes his encouragement to them at the very end of his letter in 5:12 when he says, “this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.” Which is why we have entitled this series: ‘Standing Firm in Shaky Times.’
The title of today’s sermon is: ‘How To Honor Christ When the World Dishonors You.’ In Chapter 1 and the first half of chapter 2 Peter reminds us who we are and what God has done for us—that we have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and as a result we are a new kind of people; we are different; we don’t fit the world. Then in the second half of chapter 2 and into chapter 3 Peter applies that reality to different situations. He says, “Here’s what that means for you as a citizen, as a servant, as a sojourner, as a husband, as a wife.” Then, in our text for today—3:8-17—he makes a universal application for all Christians, no matter your station in life, and in he tells them, “Here is How to Honor Christ When the World Dishonors You.”
Right after they shared the Last Supper together, Peter made a promise to Jesus. He said, “Lord, though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away…even if I must die with you” (Matt. 26:34-35). I am convinced that Peter really meant that, and that he truly was ready to fight to the death for Jesus. The reason I think this is because of how we see Peter act just a few hours after he said it. While Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane, a band of religious officials and Roman soldiers surrounded Jesus and his disciples with lanterns and torches and weapons. They came, led by Judas Iscariot, to arrest Jesus.
Put yourself in that setting. It is the middle of the night and there are no electric lights, everyone should be sleeping. Then in the distance you see torches flickering in the darkness, and they are approaching you. You hear the clattering of swords and armor as the group grows closer. In keeping with their military training the Roman soldiers cut off all exits. Adrenaline starts coursing through your veins, all your senses are heightened. The hairs on the back of your neck are standing on end. Fight or flight. But there’s no way out. You’re surrounded. There is no flight option here, only fight.
Peter knew this day would come. He was ready. He was prepared to defend his Lord, even to death. The words he had spoken were still fresh in his mind, “I will never fall away…even if I must die with you.” This wasn’t combat at a distance that simply involved pulling a trigger, this was hand to hand engagement. He might have been scared, but he was no punk. He would stand by his word to Jesus, even if that meant killing for him. Peter was the first to take action: he drew his sword and swung it at the nearest man’s neck. He made contact, but the shadows had obscured things and the man had dodged the lethal blow, but he was wounded. Peter had cut off his right ear.
Before anyone had time to react a voice pierced through the darkness. “No more of this!” (Luke 22:51). It was Jesus. John 18:11 says, “So Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its sheath;” Jesus was arrested. The disciples scattered. And just a little while later in a courtyard around a charcoal fire, with a bloody sword and rebuke from Jesus hanging in his mind, Peter denied his Lord.
Peter tried to honor Jesus by swinging a sword. He tried to honor Jesus by attacking those who were about to dishonor Jesus. I think if we’re honest, when the world surrounds us with torches and weapons, ready to put Jesus on trial, too often our reaction is to unsheathe our sword and swinging it at the nearest target. Like Peter, we’ve made a commitment to Christ, and we want to stand by it. And in the midst of the torches and weapons on social media, and at protest rallies, and amidst political discussion, and in blogs, and books, and barber shops as Christians draw their freshly sharpened swords ready to baptize them in the blood of the enemies of Christ, the voice of Jesus today penetrates through all of that darkness and says to the church, “No more of this!”
Far too often, in our attempts to honor Christ in a world that dishonors us for our faith, we make the same mistake as Peter. And in this passage of Peter’s letter he is telling us that when the world dishonors you because of your faith, you don’t honor Christ by swinging a sword. You honor Christ by showing that you have such a great hope that you don’t have to swing a sword.
The Main Point of the Passage: Christ Is Our Hope
The main thing that Peter is telling us in this passage is that the way we are to honor Christ is by hoping in Him.
- In 1:3 he tells us that we have been “born again to a living hope”
- In 1:13 he says, “set your hope fully on God’s grace.”
- In 1:21 he says God raised Jesus from the dead “so that your faith and hope are in God.”
- And in our passage today, the key to the whole thing is verse 15: “honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15).
The key that Peter wants his readers to get in this passage is that Christ is honored in our hearts when our hearts are hopeful in him. And because of that, we must honor him when we are dishonored.
Since Christ is our hope, we must honor him when we are dishonored.
So the question is: how? How do we honor Christ when the world dishonors us? Peter is the perfect person to answer this question, since he got it so miserably wrong the first time around, and learned from Jesus himself how to respond when we are dishonored.
Here is what Peter tells us:
- The first way we are to honor Christ when the world dishonors us is by Displaying Our Hope in Christ
- The second way to honor Christ when the world dishonors us is by Defending Our Hope in Christ.
- In order to Display Our Hope in Christ we must 1) feel what Jesus feels, and 2) do what Jesus does
- In order to Defend Our Hope in Christ we have to 1) fear Christ more than people and 2) give a reason for our hope
I am going to go through and attempt to explain how Peter shows us how to do each of these things, and then—as an example—I will give you the reason for the hope that is in me.
- We Must Display Our Hope in Christ (v. 8-12)
The first thing Peter tells believers in verses 8-12 is that in order to honor Christ when the world dishonors us, we must display our hope in Christ.
8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
Everything that Peter is saying here is practical. He is saying: when you are dishonored, this is how you are to act: you are to display your hope in Christ. And he gives two ways to display your hope in Christ 1) by feeling what Jesus feels, and 2) by doing what Jesus does
- By Feeling What Jesus Feels
Look at verse 8: “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”
- First of all, Peter is addressing this to all believers. All believers at all times are called to embody everything that is in verse 8. Just imagine if all Christians displayed these things in their lives.
- The unique thing about this list of five things in verse 8 is that it is not a list of five things to do, but it is a list of five feelings that Christians are supposed to feel.
- This might seem contrary to popular thinking: How do you obey a command to feel? How to do you command someone to feel something?
- The answer is: if God can command Lazarus—who had been dead for three days—to stand up and walk, then he can command us to feel things we don’t feel.
- The same God who gives the command can give the ability to do it.
- If we feel what Jesus feels, the result is that we display where our hope is. Let’s take a quick look at each one of these things:
- Unity of Mind – this word for mind is not limited to just the intellect and the way we think, but also what we feel. So unity of mind means being united in the way we think and feel about things.
- Sympathy – sympathy means to enter into how someone else feels. Here is where we get this wrong a lot: sympathy isn’t about feeling the tragedy, but about feeling the way other people experience the tragedy. If we have unity of mind, this will lead us to have sympathy.
- Brotherly Love – This is the kind of love that overcomes barriers and disagreements because we are family. We deeply care about each other as brothers. This flows from sympathy that is based in unity of mind.
- A Tender Heart – this literally means “good bowels.” It means you feel things in your gut. You don’t have thick barriers up to keep yourself from getting hurt by people, always on the look out for self-preservation, but you are open and responsive to others. This is the result of brotherly love towards others that comes from sympathy that stems from unity of mind.
- A Humble Mind – Again, the word mind is not limited to intellect, but is also emotive. A humble mind puts others first, seeks the best for others and is not self-promoting. Jesus exemplified this.
- All of these feelings are tightly knit together, and the basis of them is Jesus. Peter saw all of these things displayed in Jesus’ life, and he’s saying: “If we are going to display our hope, we have to feel what Jesus feels, and this is how to do that.”
- Look at what Paul wrote to the church at Philippi. Listen for some common themes in what Paul says in Phlippians 2:1-4: “So if there is any encouragement in Christ…any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition of conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves…Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus.”
- Paul and Peter are saying the same things to Christians here: they are saying if we want to display where our hope is, then we need to feel what Jesus feels in the way we respond to and interact with people.
- All of us need more of every one of these feelings. So here is what we need to do: 1) Repent for not feeling these things like God does 2) Request God to make us feel these things the way he does. Pray that God would give you these things. Pray that God will help you to feel what he feels.
- Here is why it is absolutely necessary to feel what Jesus feels if we are going to display our hope in Christ to the world: If we don’t feel what Jesus feels in the face of suffering and dishonor, we will not do what Jesus does in the face of suffering and dishonor.
B) By Doing What Jesus Does
Look at verse 9: “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless,”
- This is the absolute opposite of human nature. If someone hits you, you hit back. If someone insults you, you insult back. And Peter is saying, don’t hit back. Don’t insult back. In fact, he is saying, do even more than that, in fact, bless them.
- Romans 12:14 says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”
- I want us to see what this really means here. It is one thing for you to simply remain silent when someone reviles you for your faith, but it is a completely different thing to bless them.
- The word bless is the word eulogeo; where we get our word ‘eulogy.’ It means ‘to speak well of.’ And to ask God to ‘cause to prosper, to make happy, to bestow blessings on.’
- Peter is saying, “When people hope the worst for you, you are called to hope the best for them.”
- This is why Peter led with verse 8 and told us that we need to feel what Jesus feels, because you can’t bless those who revile you, and do what Jesus does, unless you really feel what Jesus feels. It won’t be genuine.
- You can’t just say flash a fake smile and say, “God bless you.” That’s not actually blessing them.
- So when society reviles you and speaks evil of you because of your faith in God’s Word, and your views of marriage, and human sexuality, and raising children, and human life in the womb, and human life in the prison system, and how you acknowledge the reality of racism and injustice, and your concern for people with special needs and the elderly at the end of their life, and words start getting thrown at you: bigot, homophobic, transphobic, narrow-minded, old-fashioned, religious zealot, Bible-thumper…
- You don’t unsheathe your sword ready to defend yourself.
- “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless,”
- You speak kindly to those people, you honor them as people made in God’s image, you hope the best for their lives, you don’t wish ill-will upon them, you want their relationships to flourish, you want them to experience joy, you bless them.
And here is the key to why we are to do what Jesus does in verse 9: “for to this you were called, [so] that you may obtain a blessing.”
- Does that make you uncomfortable?
- Is Peter saying there is something we have to do in order to obtain a blessing?
- The answer is, ‘yes.’ And Peter has it on good authority to say such a thing.
- In Matthew 5:7 Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
- In other words, ‘If you don’t show mercy, you don’t get mercy.’ The merciful receive mercy, the merciless go to Hell.
- James 2:13 says, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy.”
- So if you don’t show mercy, you don’t get mercy. And Peter is saying you show mercy to those who revile you and speak evil against you, “for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”
- Not only did Jesus say this in the sermon on the mount, but Peter supports his point here by quoting from Psalm 34: 10 For
“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
- In other words, Peter can argue like this, because the OT argues like this. Peter can say, you are called to show mercy to others, that you may obtain a blessing, because that is what God says in Psalm 34.
- The key here is the word ‘called.’
- The Bible clearly teaches that salvation is not of works, it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8) In fact, Peter has already said the same thing at the very beginning of this letter in 1:3, “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again.”
- Peter is saying if you are a believer, you have been called to do what Jesus does because you have been born again, and the new birth changes you, and that changed-ness is neccessary for salvation.
- You don’t obtain the blessing unless you do what Jesus does, and you don’t do what Jesus does unless you have been born again.
- The new birth makes you like Jesus, and looking like Jesus is what it takes to be saved.
- 1 Peter 2:23 says, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten,” You, Christian, are called to do the very same thing, and if you don’t, you will not obtain a blessing.
So, feeling what Jesus feels causes us to do what Jesus does, and this displays our hope in Christ when the world dishonors us. Here is how this displays our hope in Christ:
- We do not return evil for evil because your greatest hope is that God will not return evil for evil to us.
- Our lives become a foretaste of what we are hoping for — (v. 15 – being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;)
- The evidence that we are born of God and will obtain a blessing is that our lives become a picture of our hope. That displays—vividly—our hope to the world.
- The first Christian to ever give their life because of their faith in Christ was a man by the name of Stephen. Stephen was murdered by a crowd of people throwing rocks at his head. And as he was being reviled, and having evil done towards him, as he was being murdered, do you know what he said? He said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).
- Why would Stephen say that of the people murdering him? Why would he ask God to have mercy on them? Why would he bless them?
- The reason Stephen would do such a thing is because Stephen’s greatest hope was that that was exactly what Jesus would do to him.
- When we bless others who revile us, we are displaying our hope to them. We are displaying a picture of what we hope Christ will do for us.
- You must put your hope so genuinely in the blessing you hope to receive from God in the future that it seeps out into your life now.
We display our hope in Christ by feeling what Jesus feels and doing what Jesus does. That displays an unshakable hope that the world cannot explain.
2. We Must Defend Our Hope In Christ (V. 13-17)
Once we have displayed our hope in Christ, Peter tells us that we are going to need to defend our hope in Christ.
Peter continues in verse 13 and says, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
- In verse 13 Peter is saying that typically if you do what is good and what is right no one is going to bother you, but he knows the reality is that Christians will suffer for righteousness’ sake, and he is saying when you do have no fear of the people persecuting you, but fear Christ instead.
- By Fearing Christ More Than People
So the first way we are to defend our Hope in Christ is by fearing Christ more than we fear people. That is what Peter is telling us.
- In verses 14 and 15 Peter is alluding to something the prophet Isaiah told God’s people. Isaiah 8:12-13 says, “Do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.”
- And here Peter is saying, don’t fear the people who persecute you, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.
- The word ‘fear’ here means, concern, respect, and reverence. Peter is saying “be more concerned of what Jesus thinks about you than what the world thinks about you. Worry more about Jesus’ attitude towards you than the world’s attitude about you. Be more afraid of displeasing Jesus than you are afraid of displeasing the world.”
- So the way to honor Christ when the world dishonors us is to fear him more than we fear people. V. 15, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy,” How do we do that? v. 14, “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,”
- We honor Christ by defending our hope in him, and we do that by fearing him more than we fear people.
B) By Giving A Reason For Your Hope
Peter goes on to say, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;
- Not only do we defend our hope by fearing Christ more than people, but we defend our hope by giving a reason for it. Christ is honored when we defend our hope by giving a reason for it.
- I think probably most of us would be convicted if we asked ourselves, ‘when was the last time someone asked us for a reason for the hope that’s in us?’
- And I think the reason most of us don’t have people asking us that, is because most of us don’t do what Jesus does, because we don’t feel what Jesus feels. The root causes the fruit, and when people see the fruit, they’ll ask about it.
- “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;”
- How does that verse make you feel? Do you feel burdened and weighted down? Or does it make you feel light and liberated?
- I think this verse has been grossly misapplied. Many people think that this verse means that they need to figure out every answer to every question that an unbeliever might have about their faith, that they need to learn every scientific detail of creation, that they need to read philosophy books about human reason and faith, and that they need to learn how to parse worldview and win arguments and that they need to prepare just what to say in any situation they might find themselves in.
- That’s not what this verse is saying.
- Jesus told Peter and the rest of the disciples, “You will be dragged before governors and kings…” (Matt. 10:19) “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
- So Peter isn’t telling us to memorize ironclad airtight arguments about the existence of God or the reliability of Scripture or the resurrection of Jesus that are impenetrable to counter claims, he is saying “honor Christ in your heart by hoping in Him, and when people ask you why you hope in him, give them your reason!”
Example: My Reason
- I want to model this for you. A few months ago I met with a person (who had seen the hope in Doug) and they asked me what it was that made us so different.
- I told them that Jesus had set me free to stop trying to find my happiness in things in the world, and let me find my ultimate happiness in God, and in my best moments, all my joy comes from knowing him, and I know it’s real because I’ve experienced it, and I know him.
- There are 5,686 ancient Greek manuscripts for the New Testament, but that is not ultimately the reason I trust God’s Word. It’s because as I read Scripture it is self-authenticating, and God’s Spirit confirms the truth of it in my Spirit and works it’s power in my life.
- And friend, if you don’t trust God’s word, it’s not as though if there were 5,687 ancient NT manuscripts then you would trust it.
- The reason I have hope in the resurrection of Jesus isn’t ultimately because of all the historical evidence recorded by both biblical and extra biblical sources that prove it’s veracity, but I have hope that Jesus is alive because I know him.
- The reason I have hope in the power of the cross of Christ is not ultimately because of scientific data or philosophical reasoning, but I have hope in the power of the cross because I have experienced it’s power to change me into someone who looks, and feels, and acts more like Jesus.
- “Yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
- So when Peter says, “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;” He tells you how you are to be prepared for that, “by honoring in your heart Christ the Lord as holy.” The more you hope in Christ, the more you honor him in your heart, and the more you honor him in your heart, the more you will be ready to give a reason for your hope.
- If you don’t feel ready, if you don’t know your reason, Peter is telling you what you need to do. You need to give Jesus a higher place of honor in your heart, and put more hope in him.
- Ask yourself the question: why do you hope in Christ? What is your reason?
- Is it because in the darkest moment of your life Christ met you there?
- Is it because God broke through the damage of relationships in your life?
- Is it simply that you were reading the Bible as an unbeliever and one day, you met Jesus there?
- You might say, “You’re using spiritual language.” I sure am, because the reason for my hope is spiritual.”
Peter is telling us how to honor Christ when the world dishonors us. If we feel what Jesus feels, that will lead us to do what Jesus does, and when we do what Jesus does we are displaying our hope in Christ, and that honors Jesus. When we display our hope in Christ, people are going to ask us about it, and we will have the opportunity to defend our hope in Him. And when we fear Christ more than we fear people, Christ is honored in our hearts, and that causes us to be ready to be ready to give a reason for why we have such a hope.
Peter concludes by saying, “[Give your reason] with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
- I think when Peter wrote those words, he had Jesus in mind. “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
It is the middle of the night. Torches are flickering in the darkness, and they are approaching. The sounds of clattering swords and armor grow as the group gets closer. Peter’s instincts take over. He swings his sword and cuts off a man’s ear. And what stands out to me as I take a closer look at that event, is that Peter never paid for that crime. He wasn’t arrested, he wasn’t beaten. He wasn’t put on trial. But he tried to kill a man by swinging a sword at his neck. He didn’t kill the man, but he maimed him. He drew blood. But he didn’t suffer for doing that evil.
Luke tells us that the man whom Peter injured was named Malchus, a servant of Caiaphas, the high priest who would be responsible for putting Jesus to death. Luke 22:51 says, “But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched his ear and healed him.”
The last miracle Jesus did before his crucifixion was to heal a servant of the man who wanted him dead. When he was reviled, he blessed. Peter wounded the man, but he was let off to go free. Jesus healed the man, but he would pay the ultimate price.
How do we honor Christ when the world dishonors us? By showing that our hope is that although we deserve to be wounded, Jesus heals.