It doesn’t take long, (watching the news or scrolling through social media), to realize that our society is no longer a Christian society. And while there can be debate whether America ever truly was a Christ-centered society, today more than ever, our values and beliefs are being pushed more and more to the fringes. In a climate like this, how is a Christian to live? Peter answers that very question in 1 Peter 3:8-17. Let’s consider six different behaviors we should be practicing in order to shine the light of Christ in an ever-darkening society.
First, unite those in the Church. Verses 8-9 tell us, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 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.” This isn’t just a behavior we do, but a lifestyle we pursue. Our world is so fragmented today, (politically, socially, racially, etc…). The Church cannot be the same. If we are to live among a post-Christian society, we cannot join them as they continue to devolve into disunity. Rather, the Church must be a place of supernatural unity. Notice this is built on an amazing amount of humility, (verse 9!). Let us actively be a people who help unite the Church.
Second, watch our words. Verse 10 says, “For whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;” Our words matter. As our society continues to use words to degrade, deceive and disunite, the Church cannot join in. Even when someone gets on social media and uses untrue, biased or hurtful language about what we believe. We cannot fight fire with fire.
Third, honor the Lord above all else. Verses 11-12 say, “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 all our pursuits, people must see the Lord. If we are really just pursuing earthly things with some Christian wrapping around it, (money, comfort, fame, etc…), the world around us will believe that we are really no different than them. While we are sinners like our society, we have been sanctified, (which means set apart), and thus must make all our pursuits ultimately about the Lord and His renown.
Fourth, suffer well. Verses 13-14 tell us, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,” While none of us like to suffer, our ability to do so in a God glorifying way will often have the greatest effect on those around us. When we respond to our suffering the way everyone does, (complaining, negativity, etc…), our lives don’t reflect Christ to a society desperately in need of Him. So when we are treated unfairly, (especially as Christianity continues to be pushed to the fringes), our ability to suffer well through it will glorify God and cause others around us to question how we could have such hope in such suffering.
Fifth, be prepared to make a defense with gentleness and respect. Verse 15 goes on by saying, “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,” Two keys to highlight here. We first need to always be prepared to make a defense of our faith. Therefore, we must know theology and apologetics and be prepared to share with anyone who may ask. We cannot pass this off to “professionals” but must be prepared, as the Lord has called us to. Second, we must do this in a way that is gentle and respectful. While those outside the Church may often belittle us for our beliefs, we cannot rebuff in the same manor. Instead, we must show respect to those with different viewpoints and be gentle as we speak into our godless society.
Finally, live a life that convicts those outside the Church. Verse 16 says, “having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” Live in such a way people will ask you questions about your hope. This is a goal of mine and I hope it is for you as well. If we look and act just like our society, people won’t notice the difference Christ has made in our lives. But, when our lives reflect the special relationship we have with the Lord of the universe, it will be impossible for people not to take notice and even ask.
I truly believe that if each of us who call ourselves Christ followers endeavored to live out these six behaviors, we could have a profound impact on the world around us. As our world turns further from God, we have a choice to make. Do we turn with them by watering down our faith? Do we reject the culture as “too far gone” and remove ourselves from it? Or do we push back the darkness with the incredible light of Christ? Let us continue to pursue how best to engage our society by following these insights from the Word of God.