Suffering before a Perplexed World
In accordance with their ways and their deeds I judged them. But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, “These are the people of the Lord, and yet they had to go out of his land.” But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came. Ezekiel 36:19-21
But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, 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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. First Peter 3:14-16
The persistent idolatry of Israel and Judah brought on their downfall, but did they learn from it? No! They continued to profane the name of the Lord by not admitting before their captors that God was punishing them for their sin. The God of the universe did not fail so that enemy armies overthrew and captured His people. So the captors scratched their heads and asked, “Why did this happen to them?”
Judah received a perfect opportunity to show repentance and to honor their God before pagan nations, but they failed. So Ezekiel declared their guilt to them. We will learn in the book of Daniel that there were at least a few Jews who were faithful to God while in captivity, but they seem to have been the exception and not the rule.
Peter wrote his readers--who were in a kind of captivity in the first century A.D.--that they should accept their suffering for righteousness sake. In other words, they should submit to undeserved persecution and maintain hope and trust in the Lord. He tells them to be ready “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Hope in the midst of unjust suffering is as rare as it is hard to explain. The question they should anticipate is, “Why are these people still so hopeful under all this opposition?”
Think about it
How do we prepare for the possibility of suffering for righteousness sake? Should we prepare little sound bites or memorize trite phrases? Peter told his readers then and us now, to “honor Christ the Lord as holy.” Do not be like the Old Testament Jews who profaned the Lord’s name. Instead, by honoring Christ in your heart be ready to honor Him with your words. Create perplexity in the watching world.
© 2017 John A Carroll Used by permission