‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ That was a question you were probably asked when you were young. It is also a question which we can still keep considering, albeit slightly altered, at various points throughout our lives. We have a deep down belief that life is a calling and we don’t want to miss out. We tend to think of answering this question in terms of career or occupation but the Bible offers us a more spiritual response. In 1 Peter 3 v 8-22 we see God’s calling to his people is to live godly lives, especially under challenges. Our careers and occupations are just different means for us to carry out our true life calling to live godly lives.
In the passage, Peter is talking about living a godly life and living it under persecution. The people he was writing to were either experiencing persecution or were expecting to have it. He calls God’s people to live harmoniously, with understanding and humility (verse 8) and he quotes from Psalm 34 to show how a good life will generally bring peace. But in verses 9 and 14 he recognises that godly living will also bring resistance and persecution. When trouble arises from doing God’s will, God’s people must bless the persecutors: repay insult with blessing. For us, if someone patronises us for not joining in with ungodly behaviours or insults us for what we believe, we must repay them with kindness, respect and prayer. Our instincts are to fight back: we want to repay insult with a timely put down or an angry retort if we are offended. But Peter, in verse 9, says that we must repay insults with blessings because we were called to this. Our calling involves persecution and suffering and we are to endure it. Our suffering has a purpose: God uses it in ways we cannot see to extend his kingdom. This may by by working in other people’s hearts, our own hearts or even in spiritual ways that we cannot see. By repaying evil with kindness and prayer we are demonstrating God’s kingdom and showing others that we are different.
Jesus demonstrated responding to persecution with blessing. He resisted the temptation to strike back when the soldiers beat him and in response to his suffering on the cross, he prayed, ‘Father, forgive them,’ to those who were causing him to suffer. But Jesus was no push-over. He dealt with the religious leaders very firmly and would not compromise his teaching to suit their beliefs and standards.
Peter also says that those who endure suffering will inherit a blessing (verse 9). Peter 3 v 12 (from psalm 34) says that ‘the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous’ and in verse 14 we are told, ‘if you suffer for what is right, you are blessed.’ We are not to fear the harm that people can bring but (verse 15) ‘in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord’. With Jesus as our authority, we know our future is secure because he has died for our sins, he has authority over our eternal future.
With Christ as our Lord, who is our authority, guide and protector, we should always be prepared to give an answer for our faith. Our conduct should set us aside from other people and that includes blessing those who insult us. It is through our conduct that people may trust us and open up to us and be willing to hear about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. We must also be prepared to speak about our faith and that means thinking through, with the help of the Holy Spirit, how we can explain it to others.
Living a godly life in the face of persecution is an important part of our calling. Our suffering in this life will always be temporary and will never be wasted if we endure it faithfully. Repaying insults with kindness and respect will bless others. God loves to work through our prayers when we are persecuted to bless us, bless our persecutors and extend his kingdom.