Bless those who hurt you

Some of you may remember a situation in which a Christian celebrity tried to ‘reach out’ to non-believers by posting a passage of scripture on social media that focused on God’s law – revealing the condemnation awaiting those who refuse to repent. Although his post included words of Scripture, do you think it was a good approach to evangelism? Why or why not?

The reality is God’s law has never been popular, not even in the church! None of us like to be told our actions deserve condemnation, even when we know it is true. So simply quoting God’s law to unbelievers is not likely to be well received.

St Peter wrote his first letter to an early Christian community which knew a lot about surviving in a culture that was hostile to their message.

Read 1 Peter 1­–3. His letter contains deep wisdom when it comes to how to engage in mission today. So what is his approach?

Firstly, he makes sure the Christians truly know who they are.

Read 1 Peter 1:3–5, 18–19; and 2:9–10. According to these verses, what status do Christians have in the household of God? Where does Peter say their confidence lies? Why can we be confident of this regardless of life’s circumstances?

The challenge for these Christians was that they were despised by those around them. And while these Christians might have been tempted to proclaim God’s wrath against the unbelievers who persecuted them, Peter calls them to act in a most unexpected way!

Read 1 Peter 2:1–5, 11–25; 3:1–2, and 7–9. What kind of behaviour does Peter encourage from these Christians who are being abused and despised?

When they bless those who do them evil (2:9) and suffer for simply doing good (2:17), what kind of response would you expect from the non-believers around them?

While some might think the Christians are ‘nuts’, most would be intrigued and begin to ask, ‘Why do you act this way?’ ‘Why don’t you return evil for evil?’ ‘Why do you stick around when your slave master is so cruel?’

To Peter, every one of these questions is the beginning of a mission conversation. He calls his readers to ‘be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:15).

Peter encourages Christians to live in a manner consistent with our calling as God’s holy people and to be prepared to suffer injustice quietly, knowing that our hope lies beyond this current age. When people eventually ask why we don’t repay evil with evil, he says we should be ready to tell them the reason for the hope we have.

We should share with them the good news that, despite our sin, shame and the condemnation it deserves, we have the sure hope of life with God forever because, while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us. Give it a try. God might surprise you!