Suffering is part of living in a fallen world. Sickness and death are the lot of every human being. For the Christian, however, there is an additional suffering that comes in identification with Christ. Paul tells the Philippians (Phil 1:29): “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” He is saying that just as faith is a gift from God, so is suffering for Christ; hence the disciples rejoiced and counted it an honor to be beaten for preaching Christ (Acts 5:41).
The epistle of First Peter was written to encourage believers in the first century, who were living in a pagan culture that was hostile to their Christian faith. He wanted them to know that their suffering is ordained of God for the strengthening of their faith and sanctification (1:6-7), and that bearing patiently under trials is a testimony to the power of the gospel in their lives, which can be used of God to save their persecutors (2:12). In Chapter 2, he identifies some of the sources of their trials and then gives them guidelines as to how they can suffer well as Christians. The first source he lists is the Roman government (2:13); the second is harsh, ungodly masters (2:18); and the third source is unsaved husbands (3:1-6); and now in our text (3:13-17), society at large.
In verse 13, he gives a general principle that if they are zealous for doing good, it can spare them persecution; but he is quick to say in the next verse that if they should suffer for righteousness’ sake, they are blessed. God’s favor rests on them, and they have a great reward in heaven; then quoting from Isaiah 8:12-13, he says they are not to fear or be troubled as those who have no hope; but rather, they are to honor Christ and reverence/fear Him instead; and they are to be ready to give a defense of the hope within them, with gentleness and respect; all the while, they must be careful to maintain a good conscience, so that when they suffer, it would be obvious to all that their suffering is for Christ’s sake and not for their bad behavior. This will put to shame those who revile them and will bring glory to God.
This epistle has become very relevant for us living in the US today. Although in theory we are supposed to have freedom of speech and religion, what we are finding is that this freedom can only be enjoyed by those who agree with the voice of the majority. If a cake decorator declines to make a cake for a homosexual couple in order to remain true to his Christian beliefs, he is taken to court and harassed in an effort to shut down his business. If Christian deli owners refuse to support BLM, they are harassed and eventually forced to shut down and move their home to an undisclosed location for the safety of their families. May the Lord help us, by His grace, to remain faithful to Him and not compromise when we are faced with harassment.