Tag Archives: 1 peter 3:13-17

What to do when talking about faith is scary or difficult

8 Aug

Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

Have you ever been made fun of for your faith?  It can feel awful, making you want to crawl into the closest hole and hide.  That feeling of shame is often so powerful that it gets stuck inside us, and we fear talking about our faith ever again.  What should we do about this?

Instead of responding negatively, Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15 we should, “In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.”  This is crucial.

I was convicted about this idea this week.  I would say I try to set apart Christ as Lord, but it hit me, how often do I talk about Jesus?  We talk about what is important to us. We’re excited about it. I’m in week 11 of 18 training for a marathon, so I have been talking about running a lot lately.  Mostly it is complaining about being tired, hungry and sore all the time.  Here’s what convicted me: I say Jesus is way more important to me than running, yet I rarely talk about him.  How about you?

Peter says in verse 15 that we should always be ready to talk about Jesus.  “Always be ready to give an answer to those who ask you to give a reason for the hope you have.”  When you have set apart Christ as Lord, when you are in close relationship with him, thoughts about Jesus will be filling your heart and mind, and you’ll be ready to talk about the hope you have in him.

Will people ask about this hope, though?  Peter says we should be ready when people ask us to give the reason for the hope we have.

Peter is not just saying we need to wait around and be quiet until people ask that specific question.  He is talking more broadly.  He is talking about being prepared to share the good news of Jesus at any time.  That would apply in many different situations.

Also, I love that Peter talks about the hope we have.  Peter’s is a wonderfully positive model for how we should talk about Jesus.  Think about it: we believe in good news!  “For God so loved the world!”  And because Jesus gave his life on the cross for the sin of the world, and then rose again to new life, God wants all to have that same new life, both now on earth and in heaven, when we choose to believe in him and follow him.  That is hope!

How about you? How did you come to know that hope?  One practical beginning step is simply to tell your story.  Get the details down.  Write them out or type them.  Or maybe you prefer talking.  Meet up with a trusted friend or spouse and share the story with them.  A great way to “always be ready” is to first become familiar with your story of hope in Jesus, and writing it or talking it out with a friend can really help.

Then look for ways and places to share it.  Always be ready.  Of course Peter is not talking about blurting it out in every single conversation or encounter you get into.  But we do need to be ready.  As I said before, in a culture where hardly anyone will ever ask, being ready can mean actively looking for ways that our story of hope will fit into a conversation.  When Jesus is Lord of your life and you have an active, thriving relationship with him, conversation about him will naturally and joyfully flow out on a regular basis.

Are we doing this?

For those of us at Faith Church, our denomination’s name is Evangelical CongregationalEvangelical is a word that has taken on a very political difficult meaning over the years, and that’s why we removed it from our church sign last year.  But historically, evangelical means “to proclaim good news.”  That is a huge part of the mission that God has given to us.  We are people who proclaim the good news about the hope we have in Jesus.  That is what Peter is talking about here.

We Christians are people who believe the good news about Jesus, and then have chosen to follow his way for life.  We have hope of new life!  So again I ask, are we talking about the hope we have?

At at recent meeting, I asked a small group of people from my church what they thought about how people in our church family are doing sharing the hope we have on an individual basis in our community.  The general consensus was that we could do a better job.

Of course, there are roadblocks that deter many of us from telling our stories of hope.  Fear of wanting to say the wrong thing, fear of wanting people to get the wrong impression, fear of ridicule, fear of being unprepared

But Peter says in verse 14, “Do not fear!”

I am convinced in my own life, that I need to be more vocal.  I would say that I am ready to share the words.  But if I am ready and never actually share the words, what does that say about me?  I will admit to fear.

Do you need to be more intentional and proactive in telling the story of the hope you have in Jesus?

Are Christians in America being oppressed?

7 Aug

This week we are studying 1 Peter 3:13-17.  As you turn there, remember that the backdrop of this letter is that the Christians were being persecuted for their faith.

You might remember three months ago when we started this series, I talked about the situation that these Christians found themselves in.  They were being persecuted.  So when Peter says in verse 13, “who is going to harm you?” he knows there is a real possibility that not only had his Christian friends already been persecuted, but more could be on the way.  It was not a widespread persecution like the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews.  It was much smaller.  But the Emperor in Rome, a kinda crazy guy name Nero, did sanction some persecution of Christians.  It is likely that both main leaders of the church, Peter and Paul, were killed by Nero.

Most of the persecution these Christians were facing, though was small, as I said, and in their own towns and cities.  So what Peter is saying here is that if they are eager to do good, it is less likely that they will be persecuted.  That is common sense.

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  Very few people.  That is a principle that is true today.  If you are a loving, kind person, people may disagree with your decision to follow Christ, but it is unlikely that they will harm you.

But it is not a promise.  Jews during the Nazi Holocaust, even if they were amazingly good, were being rounded up and exterminated.  In many places throughout history, and still today, there is persecution simply because of ethnicity, nationality, gender, politics, religion.  Even if people are good, they can still be persecuted simply because of the color of their skin, or because of their beliefs.

Does this apply to us Christians in America? Are we American Christians persecuted for our faith?

On the books, because the USA has freedom of religion, persecution and discrimination based on religion is illegal.  If persecution would happen, there is legal recourse that we can take. Just because it is illegal, though, doesn’t mean persecution doesn’t happen.

Does persecution for being a Christian happen in the USA?  The simple answer is “I don’t know.”  I don’t have comprehensive knowledge of everything that happens in the USA.  No one does.  So my guess is that persecution, in some form, does happen.  By that I mean that there are probably times when Christians in America are persecuted for their faith.  Possibly even physical, bodily, painful persecution.  But my suspicion is that it is extremely rare, as Christianity is by far the majority religion in every single state, and that persecution is against the law.

Also I think it is important to note that there is not any systemic, government-sponsored persecution in a physical bodily way against Christians or any other religion.  Sometimes, though, we Christians can act like there is a conspiracy against us, like the picture at the top of this post suggests.  But it is simply not true.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is wrong for American Christians to act like or think or declare that we are oppressed in the United States, when there are millions of Christians around the world, living in countries where it is actually illegal to be a Christian, and where they daily face physical bodily persecution.

As you can see on the picture, most persecution against Christians takes place in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The newest issue of Persecution magazine came out recently.  I urge you to check it out and learn about what is happening around the world.  Just reading that could make you extremely grateful for the freedom of religion that we have in the USA.  And it could encourage you to pray for Christians around the world who are, right now, being persecuted.

So what persecution do we face in the USA?  We do, from time to time, face ridicule from those who disagree with us. What that means is that we are affected by our Christianity.  As we should be though, right?

We Christians hold to the way of Jesus, and even in free society, there will be people who think believing in God is ridiculous.  They might have all kinds of ways to make fun of us, belittle us, or marginalize us.  We should not be surprised when this happens.  Think about what happened to Jesus.

Photo by Christop Schmid on Unsplash

One author I found said, “We can’t stop people from shooting us down, but we can stop giving them ammunition.  When we respond with anger, bitterness, revenge, we give people ammunition to tear us down.”

Is it persecution when a company takes a stand on an issue and people who disagree with the company’s stand decide to boycott? Should the company say they are being persecuted?  Or should they just say “We took a stand for what we believe is right, and we knew that not everyone would agree, and maybe we’ll lose a lot of income.  But we’re willing to accept those consequences.”

If people treat us illegally, of course we have legal means to pursue getting justice, because in our country there is freedom of religion. But Christians have another way to respond when we are simply insulted or made fun of.

Peter is saying in verses 13-15 that when we are mistreated, we can absorb it, because Jesus is our Lord.  We don’t have to be afraid.  Furthermore we can know that when we are mistreated, Peter shockingly says in verse 14, we are blessed.  Jesus taught that to Peter.  In Matthew 5, Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.”

So instead of responding negatively to criticism or insult, look how Peter says we should respond in verse 15, “In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.”  This is crucial. And tomorrow we’ll talk about how to set apart Christ as Lord.

A story about what happens after people die

6 Aug

Photo by Ashim d’Silva on Unsplash

What happens after a person dies?  My uncle recently sent me this story, author unknown, that tries to answer that question.

On the outskirts of a small town, there was a big old pecan tree just inside the cemetery fence. One day, two boys filled up a bucketful of nuts and sat down by the tree, out of sight, and began dividing the nuts.

‘One for you, one for me, one for you, one for me,’ said one boy.  Several dropped and rolled down toward the fence.

Another boy came riding along the road on his bicycle. As he passed, he thought he heard voices from inside the cemetery, so he slowed down to investigate. Sure enough, he heard, ‘One for you, one for me, one for you, one for me…’

He just knew what it was. He jumped back on his bike and rode off. Just around the bend he met an old man with a cane, hobbling along.

‘Come here quick,’ said the boy, ‘you won’t believe what I heard! Satan and the Lord are down at the cemetery dividing up the souls!’

The man said, ‘Beat it kid, can’t you see it’s hard for me to walk?’ When the boy insisted though, the man hobbled slowly to the cemetery.

Standing by the fence they heard, ‘One for you, one for me.  One for you, one for me.’

The old man whispered, ‘Boy, you’ve been tellin’ me the truth.  Let’s see if we can see the Lord!

Shaking with fear, they peered through the fence, yet were still unable to see anything. The old man and the boy gripped the wrought iron bars of the fence tighter and tighter as they tried to get a glimpse of the Lord.

At last they heard, ‘One for you, one for me. That’s all.  Now let’s go get those nuts by the fence and we’ll be done.’

They say the old man had the lead for a good half-mile before the kid on the bike passed him.

That boy and the old man had a very interesting view of God and what happens after people die!

While we might take issue with their theology, we can agree with them that something does after to people after they die.  We believe that there is an eternal destiny for all.

Therefore, a significant element of the mission of God’s Kingdom has been that Christians tell the story of hope that we have because of what Jesus has done for us.  We don’t have to look at life beyond the grave with fear because we have hope in Christ.  Additionally, Jesus said that the hope we have in him matters before we die.  We believe that becoming a disciple, a follower of Jesus, gives us hope for eternal life after death, and gives us hope for best possible way to live now.  We believe that God is preparing a place for us in heaven, and he is seeking to transform society now!  Eternal life in heaven, abundant life on earth.  That’s how we summarize this amazing Kingdom of God.

As Peter continues teaching the Christians in the Roman Empire around the year 65 AD, he now teaches them about how to live out this mission of God’s Kingdom among people who might be antagonistic or atheistic, agnostic or apathetic.

So please read 1 Peter 3:13-17.  This week we’re going to see how Peter instructs Christians to talk about this hope they have.