A Reminder of the Christian’s Example
Peter wrote to Christians who were facing persecution. In his exhortations, he points Christians to their ultimate example of Jesus as He was abused and put to death:
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:21-23)
Notice, in particular, these points about how Jesus responded:
1. When Jesus was reviled, he did not revile in return. To be reviled means that one is vilified and abused. If Christians vilify and abuse others (whether verbally or in writing), they are not following Christ.
2. When Jesus suffered, He did not threaten. If we resort to threats, we are not following Christ.
3. Jesus entrusted Himself to God who judges justly. God is the Judge. If we must go through many tribulations to enter the kingdom (Acts 14:22), then we must leave judgment up to God and entrust ourselves to Him. If we are called to suffer, then let us have the attitude of Christ and His disciples who rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (Acts 5:41). Teaching must go on. (Note: one of the values of studying Revelation is that it helps us see this perspective better.)
We are not saying that Jesus never called out sin or that we should not do so. We are not saying that we should not care about what is going on in the world or this nation. We certainly do not want Christians to suffer. Caring about what is happening and speaking up for righteousness and against sin does not change the point here. Suffering for Christ, while not something we desire, is often what Christians are called to do (2 Tim 3:12). This is part of counting the cost of being His disciples.
Peter provides, in this passage, a commentary that explicitly calls Jesus our example in these areas. We are not to revile when we are reviled, and we are not to threaten when we suffer or are threatened.
Let that message sink in. If we want to follow in HIs steps, we will take this seriously—no matter what else is going on in this world.
The Need for Kindness
That message from Peter speaks volumes to Christians who are concerned about how to engage a culture that is increasingly hostile to the Christian’s faith. Responding to insults and unfair criticisms can be challenging and tiring. Even so, we are called to a higher level of engagement that does not resort to carnal and ugly tactics.
The arrogance of a culture can be known by how unkind the people are toward one another. Social media has unveiled a great deal of arrogance over time. We would expect as much from the world, but, sadly, sometimes the world has more influence over God’s people than we may want to admit. We are rightly concerned about how much worldliness gets into God’s people when it comes to moral behaviors. Yet we ought to be just as concerned in this area of how we communicate and the attitudes we display. Are we acting like the world or like Christ?
Kindness, tenderheartedness, and love are attitudes that anyone can show if they try (including unbelievers), but they should come more naturally to Christians who are conforming to the image of Christ. It takes humility to be kind, a spirit that does not seek itself first and is careful in actions toward others. It takes arrogance to be rude and unkind, as it displays a self-seeking attitude that does not care for fellow human beings. “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back” (Prov 29:11).
This is a significant concern because the way we communicate with each other speaks volumes about where our loyalties are found and what we think about others. James put it this way regarding the tongue (3:9-12):
“With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.”
If we can’t learn to walk in love, it won’t matter what else we get right or wrong (1 Cor 13:1-3). Venues of communication like social media seems at times to rip open many wounds, and the cost has been high. The Christian’s credibility is at stake in the way we seek to communicate to others (see Col 4:2-6).
What have our actions and words revealed about us?