Why, in a day when Christians were hunted down and fed to lions for sport, would the apostle Peter teach believers to make sure their Christianity was obvious?
Not obvious in an abrasive, in-your-face, “repent-or-die” kind of way. Rather, in a “be-holy-like-our-God-is holy” kind of way. Standing out like Christ stood out.
I think Peter had three good reasons for his instructions. We’ll get to those in a minute. But first…
I recently listed a few of the things that I believe are mine through Jesus. That is a confession—a statement of faith.
But is it a true confession?
Or will my theology die a lonely death, divorced from my daily living?
Theologian Karl Barth (quoted here), said a true confession would shape my living:
“A declaration may be bold and clear, and centrally Christian… but so long as it remains theoretical, entailing no obligation or venture on the part of him who makes it, it is not confession and must not be mistaken for it.”
Now, here I go pulling you into this with me. You and I: do we feel “obligated” to live out our beliefs? Do we “venture” to do so?
And what difference would that make when we face persecution? (Watch. You’ll see.)
Living Our Beliefs
If we believe Jesus gives life, we’ll live without fearing death.
We won’t trade pleasing God for blending in with a degenerating culture, just to eke out a few more hours of earthly life. Instead, with eyes riveted on our sure hope of heaven, we will strive to obey Jesus, even if no one else likes that. It just might make them ask us where our hope comes from.
If God is love, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
Love comes from God; if we are His children we will love, too. We’ll love God, not the world. Following our leader means we’ll watch His every move (see His biography in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and imitate Him. We’ll serve those in need, we’ll extend grace as we’ve received it, and we’ll use love when we speak the truth about sin.
And we’d better begin with loving other Christians.
“I think that one of the best ways to prepare our hearts for external opposition is for Christians to love one another earnestly even when it’s hard. Certainly, we will never be able to love our enemies when they persecute us if we can’t love our brothers and sisters when they fail us.”
-Tim Cain in Think It Not Strange*
If He is holy, we will pursue holiness.
God said, “You shall be holy for I am holy.” Isn’t it reasonable to expect each of my children to act like an Ingle? Then how much more should God’s children, adopted through blood and indwelt by His Holy Spirit, resemble their Father?
Yet holiness is more than just stepping carefully around sin. Jesus came to “purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” (Titus 2:14) Are we zealous to do good? Or just anxious to avoid evil?
Peter’s Three Reasons for Teaching Stand-out Christianity
Now we come to the point regarding persecution. Why would Peter tell persecuted Christians to live lives that mark them clearly as Christians?
Following Christ is simply what Christians do.
We walk like Jesus walked. Imperfectly, like toddlers at times, but we’re toddling toward Christlikeness, not away from it.
Honestly, if Christlikeness is not our goal, then let’s just skip the persecution. Let’s live like the world. Fit right in. And share its fate.
Righteousness is our shield and our shoes.
Sin makes us stumble into places we’ll regret going. Righteousness gives us a solid footing. Author Kathy Howard puts it this way: “Sin entangles and trips us up… [but] a holy life gives us strength and freedom to run hard after God.”
Christlike lives matter.
When we live flat-out for Jesus, we become “instruments of righteousness“, “neither useless nor unfruitful.” We serve an eternal purpose when we let God write our job description. What earthly accolade could ever equal hearing the Lord of the universe tell you, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?
In this series of posts, we have now circled back to the central point. Live for Jesus. Every day. It’s the way to live, whether persecution flames high or all’s quiet on the cultural front.
Ask people who’ve come to know Christ in places where professing that faith writes their death sentence. They don’t want to die. But now that they know Jesus, they don’t want to live without Him, either.
Remember what we have in Christ. Commit to living holy, just as He is holy. Be zealous for good deeds. With our eyes on the Lord, we will become a fountain of living water, overflowing with joy and hope and love, showering it on everyone around us. We’ll stand out. Some people won’t like that. That’s to be expected. But some will drink deeply and live. And won’t that be worth any price we pay?
What would you add to this discussion?
Are there parts of living for Jesus that you find particularly difficult
—or particularly delightful?
What idea have you taken away from this article that you hope to apply today?
An excellent article by Paula Bolyard on preparing for persecution: https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2015/4/5/persecution-is-coming-to-the-american-church/
Wake-up call to the American church from John Piper:
*(Scroll down for a link to download a free copy of his book, Think It Not Strange, cited above. I highly recommend it.)
Read Peter’s entire letter to persecuted Christians here.