When They Speak Against You
It was a distinct moment of realization, a head-slapping, should-have-known-it nugget of truth that I had just heard. Dr. Mohler, at the 2018 U.S. Banner of Truth Minister’s Conference, made the simple point that we, as Christians in modern America, should not be at all surprised that our doctrine and faith is under attack. He laid out that since the ascension of Christ, yea even while Christ was still walking on this earth, the truth of the Gospel has been maligned. Dr. Mohler spoke of the fact that Christians in America have been lulled into thinking that our experience of freedom of religion, specifically to proclaim truth openly and unashamedly without push-back, is a normal one in church history. In reality, we are the anomaly. I had not considered this before, at least not quite with this level of clarity.
Yet Peter in his first epistle makes this point abundantly clear. He says, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” Notice the assumption that Peter by inspiration of the Holy Spirit makes here: when they speak against you as evildoers. That’s not an if, but a when. Christians who follow after Christ and who live by the truth of God’s Word will be called evildoers. It’s a guaranteed fact. And this is what we are now seeing in Western culture. As societal values move further and further from Biblical values and the divide grows, Christians are more and more being labeled as evildoers. As we reject the values that society now upholds as important, we are labeled as intolerant, as bigots, as haters, and other assorted names and adjectives. Peter makes it clear however that this is the expectation. We should not be surprised by this. He makes several important observations then in light of this expectation.
First, we must conduct ourselves honorably, which he immediately clarifies as ‘good deeds.’ Simply put, the Christian is not called to return evil for evil, but to overcome evil with good. Or as Peter says later in his epistle, love covers a multitude of sins (4:8). Rather than getting angry at the world for calling us evildoers, Christians are called to still go about Kingdom work, of loving those around us, showing mercy to all, having compassion as those who know the truth and have been changed by it. The advent of social media has made this even more acute, where a 140 character response unseasoned with grace and love can ruin a reputation. The Christian, according to Peter, must remain honorable in speech and conduct. We are not greater than our Master, who like a lamb before her shearers is silent, endured willingly and silently the humiliation of the cross. We must follow His lead in how we conduct ourselves in the face of being called evildoers.
Secondly, Peter points out that our honorable response in the face of persecution is evangelistic. He says, “so that they made may glorify God.” One of the purposes of enduring persecution in an honorable way is evangelism. Whereas the natural man will respond in kind, repaying evil for evil, speaking harshly and critically of an opponent, the Christian will not. And this is a true and good witness to the change in the human heart wrought about by the grace of Christ being poured out through the Holy Spirit. A loving response in the face of being abused and maligned is a testimony to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And in our current and highly politicized moment in history, the difference will be all the more apparent.
Finally, Peter points out that our honorable conduct is eschatological. All of this is done with an eye to the glorious return of our Savior, or as Peter puts it, the day of visitation. Peter through the first two chapters has referred to the Christian as an exile, someone who is not in their home country. The implication is that there is a better country we look forward to, as did Abraham. There will be a day when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ. And so we would be foolish to respond in a way that only reflects our earthly citizenship. As citizens of heaven, we must be ambassadors, as Paul says, God making His appeal through us. And what is that appeal? Believe, for there is a day when Christ will return in judgment. We, as Christians, citizens of heaven, live life with a view toward eternity, making decisions about our speech and conduct based on His imminent return and not on what may satisfy our lustful desire for vengeance.
May we in 21st century western civilization, uphold the truth of the Gospel honorably.
Keith Kauffman attended University of Maryland (B.S.) and Capital Bible Seminary(M.Div.). Keith currently works at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, working in the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases studying the immune response to Tuberculosis. Keith serves as a elder at Greenbelt Baptist Church.