“For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Peter wrote to a group of believers who were facing unjust suffering. He wrote to them to offer them encouragement to keep on in their faith in spite of the things they were enduring. His message was and is so powerful that 1 Peter is still a favorite book of the Bible among people who are facing persecution today.
There are many ways he could have encouraged them in their faith journeys in light of their circumstances, but the one he chose is significant. He called them to face their persecutors with grace and love after the pattern of Christ. They were not to seek to respond with violence or retribution, but with compassion and integrity. If they were to face persecution, it was to be explicitly because of their good character and their faith in Christ.
In all of this, the people then (and us today) sit in very good company. This was the kind of thing Jesus Himself experienced. He faced terrible and unjust persecution and yet did not once try and defend Himself or fight back. He entrusted Himself entirely into God’s hands and kept to the path of character He had been walking the rest of His life.
For us too, when we face persecution–and all cultural signs suggest that it is something we will likely begin to experience in greater and more intense amounts than we have yet seen–we have the choice in how to respond. We can respond with violence and self-defense, or we can respond with grace and humility and a reflection of Christ’s own character. The former might get us out of the persecution, this is true, but it will not likely advance the kingdom or grow our dependence on our Savior. The latter will no doubt bring greater physical risk, but it will leave a testimony (in Greek martyretos) that will point others to Christ. That is the greater thing in the end. It goes wildly against the assumptions of the world, but the kingdom of God does not work like the kingdom of the world.
I realize that there is much room here for more conversation and there are many specific situations and circumstances that will warrant different approaches which are still honoring of God and advancing of His kingdom, but our basic question here needs to be this: Which response will bring the most honor to our Lord, keeping in mind His own response to persecution? This may not be the one we would first choose on our own, but if we’ll take it, our faithfulness will ultimately be honored and bring honor to Christ.