Suffering for Doing Good – 1 Peter 3:13-16

1 Peter 3:13 makes the simple point that no one usually attacks people for doing good things. As he stated in 2:13-14, people generally do not suffer insults and persecution for doing good things (although there are always exceptions). It is better to suffer for doing good even if it is unjust, than suffer justly for doing wrong things.

The verb “zealous” may have been chosen because at this point in Judea the Zealots were beginning to coalesce into an armed resistance against Rome. Even if the “zealous Jews” were rebellion against Rome Sufferingin Judea, Peter tells his readers to channel their zeal into a quiet life that is worthy of respect.

But Peter knows that “strangers and aliens” are not always fairly treated, and it is likely that they will be attacked unjustly (v. 14-15a). The syntax of verse 14 is very difficult, the ESV’s “even if you are persecuted” expresses the optative verb well. It is not that the readers are already facing regular persecution, but the sorts of slander that outsiders usually face when they live in another culture.  The verb is a present active optative from πάσχω, the verb Jesus used to describe his suffering in Luke 22:15, for example, but it also appears frequently for Christian suffering (1 Peter 2:21, Phil 1:29). Peter may allude to the teaching of Jesus when he says that the believer will be blessed when people persecute them. In Matthew 5:10 Jesus says much the same thing (in the form of a beatitude).

The one that suffers for Christ’s sake has no reason for fear or trouble, probably an allusion to Isa 8:12-13. This is a significant because the original line in Isaiah referred to a time in Judah’s history when Jerusalem was threatened by the politics of the larger world. Isaiah is warned in 8:11 not to walk in the ways of the people of Jerusalem, who are afraid of the nations that threaten the city. In contrast, Isaiah is to not fear the things that the people fear, but rather to honor and fear the Lord alone.

The readers are living as strangers and aliens, among people that suspect them and will eventually begin to hate them and physically persecute them. The quote functions as an encouragement for the readers to fear what really needs to be feared, the Lord and him alone.  Fearing persecution is not necessary since the Romans cannot really harm the believers (Matt 10:28). Peter has just said this specifically to the wives in 3:6, now he repeats the command to the whole congregation.

25 thoughts on “Suffering for Doing Good – 1 Peter 3:13-16

  1. I personally think that it is very interesting the implications that Peter is making with this quote. We know for certain that Christians will suffer persecution, Christ said that those who follow him will be hated by the world (Matthew 24:9), so does that mean that being a Christian is a bad thing? I should think not, for even if the persecution is unjust it would still be better than if we did the wrong thing to avoid the persecution. I would also like to reference the intriguing aspect of how aliens to countries will face persecution because of their differences. This is almost exactly how Christians should be treated in regards to the mildest forms of persecution, due to the fact that Christians shouldn’t fit within the natural order of the world. John mentions how the world love darkness and so turned away from the light (John 3:19), and as such they should turn away from us as we are supposed to be mirrors to reflect the light that is Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). In this way the world should turn away from us as it turned away from Christ. It is in this way that we should suffer persecution, that the world rejects us the same that it rejected Jesus Christ. However, no matter how much persecution that befalls us we should not be afraid, for God looks after his flock and makes sure that we have what we need when we need them, and there is nothing that he cannot provide (Psalm 95:1-7).

  2. Being able to tangibly bless those who insult you is a terribly difficult deed. However, as you have mentioned, the bible has a multitude of examples of the Leaders of the Church telling Christians to do exactly that. If it was not important than Jesus Christ would not have spent the time preaching it when he had such little time on earth to preach as it is. As such the first thing that came to my mind when talking about tangible gifts was the thoughts of giving gift basket dinners. Some churches have a great community of cooks that provide meals to people who are having trouble with a new life style change, particularly new mothers, and so wouldn’t it be amazing to take those talents and provide a meal to those who insult the Church? It would tell them that we care enough about you that despite the insults you gave us we are still willing to locate your house and cook your family a nice homemade meal. Another benefit of this would that it would prevent the awkwardness that comes from inviting a person who hates Christianity into a Christian’s home. While inviting those who insult you to have dinner at your house is a good idea, it reality either parties could leave feeling even angrier than before, or the insulting party could just flat out refuse. I guess it would be the thought that counts, but with giving them a gift basket with a home cooked meal inside it avoids the problems of refusal and is much more work intensive than a simple phone call. It requires a person to make a special meal, than locate the house, and then drive there to hand it off. All of these are reasons why I think that gift basket meals would be a great way to tangibly bless those who persecute Christians.

  3. This is an interesting way of looking at persecution. I personally have never truly spent much time thinking about what persecution would be like or just fearing it or anything along those lines due to the fact that at this time it is not present in America at the moment. However, this does bring encouragement to the fact that faith is stronger than any persecution of people who are not in Christ’s favor if you will. I find this encouraging because of the fact that you mention not having to worry about fear of persecution but only fear of the Lord and it just reminds me that faith is stronger than anything man can do because our God is greater. Although Christians do stand out in some cases we still have faith in God and that is more powerful than any man made persecution could ever do to This is encouraging because Peter discusses not being afraid of people but only of the Lord and that is the way we should always strive to live.

    • I have to agree. Persecution is not really present in America. We may suffer a loose kind of emotional persecution, but it is simply not the same thing. Like the passage in the third chapter of 1 Peter says, Jesus similarly challenges societal norms by saying “”Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). What should we really fear if we ultimately can’t suffer any kind of eternal torment as professing and believing Christians? I think Peter suggests that to fear God is our role as believers. We should respect and fear God as the only one who can truly change and shape our eternal destiny. I find that Peter’s writings tend to address persecution in much the same way that a pastor might address persecution today. Jobes writes that the pluralistic society of 1st century Rome was quite quick to adopt new gods while rejecting the monotheism of Christianity. After all, what’s one more god, right? Similarly, we should respond in the 21st century by rejecting the pluralism of our day and singing bright as luminaries in our own context in a way that best fits our own challenges.

  4. To be able to have this encouragement from Peter and also to have the words of Jesus from Matthew 10 at hand is/probably was a great reminder to Christians back then and today. If something Jesus said maybe didn’t quite fit in the specific situation that the Christian found themselves in, then they could look to Peter’s ideas and explanations of the same thing in his letter. Taking this together with the whole Hebrew Bible, God’s plan to encourage those who stand up for Him seems evident. Honoring God and suffering for doing right has always been better than doing wrong. What great encouragement for believers back then! and even now too! i am encouraged by the constant promise of God’s care over me in all i do, especially if i were to be persecuted for being a Christian. But this brings me to my other half of my comment. Persecution just doesn’t happen in the same way in America as it would have happened back then. This is one thing that separates modern readers from the principles in the letter, but it nonetheless is still true.

  5. I believe that most of the suffering that people endure in their lives are due to the poor decisions that they make. I also think that suffering is a poor word for that, more like the due consequences of the actions taken. Suffering done on behalf of Christ is always because of the character of Christ in the believer. I once heard a pastor preach that if a professor of faith isn’t going through some kind of godly suffering that the believer isn’t living right – the devil doesn’t waste his time on the ones who aren’t living according to the Book . This was an expounding of 1 Peter’s strangers and aliens section. The point was that if we as believers aren’t living in such way as to stand out from those around us, then we aren’t reflecting our true identity and there is no need for the enemy to level attacks at us for we have no chance at making a difference in the lives we interact with. But if we are living differently then we will invite suffering just for being different.

  6. There is much to take from the light of what God says to each of us. But this is the case where he is speaking to us through others, having them explain why we have to help the ones who need it most and suffering for it is fine. You should not worry over your sufferings on earth but to worry about what you will cause God to suffer if you refuse his good will. People of the church are being asked to continue there service of the poor and needy just as they had done as Jews. And those who are not Jews are being asked to start participating in the helping of the afore mentioned.
    On earth we know what we are going through and so does God but even so we often forget him and think only of ourselves. We are actually in todays society to do so and we have also become able to allow the world to trick us into thinking that helping people and feeling good about it is wrong. God never spoke of us not taking pleasure in his will but to understand and honor that it is his will in which we are doing it for. Respect or fear of the lord is the same thing in most cases.
    You will respect someone who has power over you but it doesn’t mean what they ask of you will not be able to enjoy as well. You must shy away from what others tell you and focus on is words asking throughout the bible to help others, you must do it even if it makes no sense to you or the other people watching because if you do not you are denying your lord. The best way I can explain what I understand about it is this:
    You must do what he asks even if it means you could lose friends and people will hate you for it, you must do it even if it means giving up everything you hold onto, and you must do it for God and take joy and peace in that and not allow others to change the way in which God is leading you.

  7. I like to think I’m suffering for Christ when simply bored at work or doing homework. Lame, I know. We are not particularly persecuted in America and as such, I question if we can fully grasp the encouragement Peter gives us. If anything, we seem to fear the ostracism that being acknowledged as “Christian” would bring. While losing friends and being looked down upon by our friends is hard. I’d say it is hardly comparable to being imprisoned and unjustly murdered for our faith. In respect to that, proclaiming Christ despite the mere threat of ostracism could be considered easy. All the more so considering our individualistic culture here in America. Jobes brings up that the family units were of huge importance to the Roman and Greek civilizations. I would compare this to several of the modern nations persecuting Christians such as India and the various Muslim nations. Christians there face the usual imprisonment we generally hear about, but also, the communities are far closer than what we are accustomed to. By proclaiming Christ, the person risks alienating themselves from that community, their family, and all of the support that goes along with both. To them, life would become extremely difficult should that happen.

  8. In America, we don’t see suffering as how they suffered in Peter’s time. We view suffering as a form of pain, and something missing from our lives, and we defiantly don’t see suffering as something that is meant to be good. As far as persecution it is something that I have never thought much about, I know it is still happening today, but I have never had to worry about it. After reading this blog it has gave me the impression that persecution is suffering for the good, the good of Jesus Christ.

  9. With respect to the information above, there is no doubt that Christians will suffer for following Jesus. Unfortunately, those who have the freedom here in America do not experience the kind of persecution that our fellow believers in Christ experience in other cultures. However, those that live in the American society know that we will be looked at differently. Like Jobe’s mentions in the section on aliens and residents, we are basically the outcasts. Outcasts in a way that we are aliens to this world because we think and act differently than that of the normal American society. Suffering for Christ is viewed in so many different ways, but the way that the Petrine is describing here is a simple fact that doing the right thing will not bring unjust harm. When we act in a way that is submissive to the authority, we are living out the scriptures that are found in 1 Peter. Therefore, if we do the right thing and are abiding by the authoritative positions we will not endure persecution, rather be looked at different.

    • I agree Trent. Here in America our idea of persecution is when people look at us differently or make fun of us. For us that is the worst possible thing to go through. We do not always take into consideration the real persecution that is going on, on the other side of the world. On the other side of the world people are dying for their beliefs and being beaten. We always want to think that we have it bad when in reality we have the freedom (for now) to belief in and worship God without fear of being beaten or dying. I think that obeying authority is a way to set an example but we need to be smart about what we agree to follow. An example would be the Jews in Germany, they followed blindly the authority of the Germans and a lot of them died for there beliefs.

  10. This blog post somewhat convicted me. I understand that we do not have as much persecution in America as other places. Of course, other countries and other cultures, may be more violent in their responses to Christianity. Karen Jobes talks about the foreigner and how they stand out. She explains a foreigner is someone who comes and stays in an area that is not their own. They might have different legal rights or a lack of. I instantly thought of my dad. My dad is from Belize and he does not have all of the rights that an American citizen has and he definitely stands out. Jobes compares this example of a foreigner to us as Christians. As Christians we are foreigners because we should stand out and if you stand out you will receive persecution. She says, “The Christian as foreigner and resident alien implies ‘a clear distance in relation to society, a distance from its values and ideals, from its institutions and politics” (Jobes, 2011, pg. 336). Are we not being persecuted in America because we are not standing out? Are we not distancing ourselves enough from worldly things? Should we want the persecution that Peter talks about, because then we know we are doing something right?
    -McKenzie McCord-

  11. No matter where in the world you are someone is being persecuted for following Jesus Christ. However, when it comes to all of us living here America we do not suffer as much persecution as others do in different parts of the world. And we especially do not suffer the same level of persecution they did in Peter’s time. Peter’s analogy that we are “strangers and aliens” in this world is actually pretty accurate. Because as Christians it can feel like the world is against us due to the fact we follow Jesus. Which makes us feel like strangers in the world. Jobes points out something interesting stating that in ““Hebrews 11:13 speaks of God’s people as those who were faithful to the end of their lives but nevertheless only saw the promises of God at a distance because they were foreigners (parepidemoi) on earth” (Jobes, 2011). I wonder if sometimes that is how people in other parts of the world who suffer persecution daily feel? That they see God’s work at a distance but do not get to fully experience it because they feel like “foreigners” in this world. I feel we as Christians should not feel like foreigners and that we should stand up for ourselves. Ephesians 6:13 states, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” This verse means to me that we should stand firm in what we believe and that with God’s help we can withstand anything.

    • Adam,

      You are on point with your comment here. It does not matter where at, someone is being persecuted for professing their faith in Jesus Christ to the world. It is a sad reality but we do have it pretty easy here in America like you also mentioned. No matter what though, as followers of Christ, we cannot be afraid and worry about what someone else and speak what we believe in. There is a verse that comes to mind that speaks directly about this I feel like. It comes from 1 Peter 4:11 NIV and that reads “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” Again, I enjoyed reading what you had to say!

  12. As stated by other comments above, we don’t see persecution in modern day America the way that Peter and the fellow Christians did at the time. Stoning and cruxificiton aren’t really a concern, nor are we hiding our Bibles. However, although we do not face suffering the way that other people do/have, that does not mean that we do not suffer and that being a Christian is always easy. I did not receive verbal hatred for my faith, but after I committed to Christ I lost all of my friends I had had my entire life. As time goes on, the number of Christians in America lessens. We may become more and more of a foreigner than we once were in America. “When the Son of God cam was a man into this world. he wasn’t born into the lap of luxury. The Son so humbled himself to the extent that he died the death of a slave…” (Jobe’s,p434) If we are called to imitate a life like Christ, although it may not include crucifixion, it will include suffering.

  13. It’s so hard to relate to what our brothers and sisters in different countries go through in other countries as we don’t experience torture, hiding of Bibles or decapitation etc. Similar to what Trent said, I think it was interesting that Jobes described Christians as outcasts to world as we live so much differently and separate from how the world acts and operates. I loved the quote in the article that read “The one that suffers for Christ’s sake has no reason for fear or trouble”. What makes this quote so powerful is that we know suffering for Christ means suffering for righteousness sake. When you are standing up and suffering for the goodness and righteousness of Jesus Christ, the fact that there is no reason to fear or tremble brings me great joy. As a Christian, I have been looked at differently and have lost friends because of my faith. Although those things were very hard to go through, it doesn’t compare to true suffering where blood is being shed.

  14. One thing I have to wonder is how well a good number of us can properly understand this passage. Jobes mentions very heavily the idea that Peter’s audience was likely those who were in a sense foreigners, either literally or more metaphorically. While I certainly have had my share of times feeling like I didn’t belong somewhere, due to my life experience and lineage I haven’t ever really felt like a foreigner in someone else’s land, which I feel somewhat minimizes the impact of this passage. It’s far easier to accept the idea of suffering when you aren’t going through severe persecution, so I wonder if there’s something I’ve lost in all of this.

  15. Annika,

    After reading posts i usually quickly scroll down and read through some comments. I feel hearing about the topic in the words of students help me grasp the overall message even better. As i was reading through the Jobes chapter there was a quote that resonated with me; it was, “It is by engagement with others that one’s faith is tested or stretched or affirmed or weakened, depending on who is involved and in what kind of situation” (Jobes, 368). After reading your comment on how after you committed to Christ you lost all your friends this quote stuck out to me and it is so true. There is no doubt that our faith is tested and the people around you have an impact on your life. Unfortunately, sometimes it is necessary to cut people out of your life. I have had many friends that were not helping me grow as a person and as a Christian. Therefore, i had to give up friendships. On the other hand, being a Christian is not always easy. Like others said in their comments the world has a way of making Christianity seem not the norm. Making Christians sort of the “stranger”. I really enjoyed reading what Peter says on this topic. Overall, i like how he states that when it comes down to it the only fear someone should truly fear is when it comes to the Lord.

  16. As many other people mentioned above I think that it is difficult for Americans to truly wrap their heads around what it means to be persecuted or suffer because of faith. This is an incredible blessing, but it can make passages like this one difficult to understand. I think that we’ve all experienced hardships and struggles with the Lord and defending our faith. As Peter says, and Karen Jobes affirms this is what tests our faith and ultimately makes it stronger.

  17. It’s interesting to me that many people can come to the general consensus that Christian persecution isn’t nearly as present in the US as it is in other countries, where people literally die for believing in God or Jesus, or quite literally anything that doesn’t conform to those who are in power. I would agree. There is, one instance however from my childhood that I’ll always remember as far as Christian persecution goes — and it wasn’t even done to me. Rachel Scott was a martyr in the Columbine shooting who, when asked if she believed in God/was a Christian, she said yes, and was promptly shot and killed.

    I’m not saying that this is the biggest re-occurrence out there. But I believe that at some point in our Christian lives we do come across those who find what we believe in to be “idiotic” or shameful, but I think for those of us who have the freedom to believe what we believe, we suffer as followers in different ways. Jesus never said that following him would be easy, and I think that in a world-wide scope of things that’s still true. I think the bottom line, for as much as times change, is that we should not fear the opinion of others, but only how we are in the sights of God.

  18. In this day of age, there are still stuffing and persecution still happening to those who follow the word of God. In America, we don’t see the sufferings that other Christians from other countries have to go through. We don’t even see the sufferings that people had to go through around Peter’s time. We have the freedom in America to not go through the persecution that we may see on TV or read on the news. In the book, Jobes touched on the topic about suffering. She said that “To suffer persecution, even the threat of death, and to remain faithful to Christ is a profound act of self-denial and cross-bearing” (Jobes, 342). The threat of death is where we as Americans don’t have to go through. There are terrorist groups that tries to strike fear in our eyes with persecuting Christians but that don’t actually happen in America itself. In John 13:37, Peter failed to be faithful to Christ on the night He was arrest. The story followed that Peter would deny Jesus three times when asked if he was a follower of Jesus. Christ makes a statement that Christians should be willing to die for there faith rather than denying there belief. Christ wants us to die for our faith if question. Through death, he will reward us with eternal life.

  19. Peter calls believers to do something that seems strange to logic. When we are treated unfairly, we the situation to be rectified, especially when we have done nothing wrong. We want to have justice. But Peter tells the believer that they must suffer, and not for doing something wrong, but for doing the right thing. Peter knows that when we do as God commands us, we will be punished by certain people in the world, they will cause us to suffer. This kind of suffering is unjust, but Peter says that this is the way that the world will work for believers.
    Peter then points to Jesus as the example of this suffering for doing good. Throughout his letter, Peter tells us to imitate Christ, and to suffer in the same way. Jesus lived a perfect life, without any sin. He was rejected by men, and then sentenced to death, even though he did no wrong. He suffered on other people’s behalf, suffering an unjust punishment. Peter says that we are to do the same. When we do what God calls us to do, as Jesus did, we will suffer at the hands of this world. We will be doing what is right, but be persecuted for that same reason. But our hope is not that God would take away the suffering on Earth, but rather that when we are with him, there will be no more suffering.

  20. As I read this article, I thought it was unique as the Jews were suffering for doing good. But as I read through this article the end of it really caught my attention. I thought that is was unique in the way that the Jews were aliens in this new place and that they were fearing the wrong thing as well. I think that Peter was able to reach them and point out that the only person they need to fear after is God. They shouldn’t be afraid of death or persecution because it should not harm them or their faith. Peter addresses the whole congregation of this point and as the article says the zealous Jews are trying to act out. But they really need to act and tame themselves to their beliefs rather than their freedom. As God is in control of all that is happening, and they can’t change it no matter how hard they try. This is a good reminder to us to fear after God and not our own fears.

  21. What caught my attention was how Peter puts verse 13 at the beginning of the passage, then the rest follows.
    IF you are doing good, how many people will actively seek you out to harm you?
    Of course it can happen and Peter addresses that scenario also. But first, he asks his readers what they are doing that should cause them fear. Peter assumes that the proper actions of the Christian and of the church are focused on doing good. As mentioned in the class notes and in Jobes, he doesn’t instruct the church to go out protesting the evil around them. He doesn’t tell them to find the most godless person and confront him or her about their sin. The posture, the attitude, of the Christian – even those living in hostile lands – is to be one that is focused on doing good.

    Yes, they will still be ridiculed and so forth, but the chances of getting beat up for passing out cookies vs telling everyone how awful they are are significantly different.

    By nature, humans do not like to stand out from a crowd; we don’t want to be singled out. We want to blend in, to belong. I am reading a fictional book right now. The main character is going to a new school and does his best to act like he’s always gone there, like he belongs. He doesn’t want to be the new kid. It’s a children’s literature book and what strikes me is that this angst, this desire to fit in isn’t something new to kids. The author didn’t have to go into a detailed explanation of why this character is so nervous. He simply puts his character in a bustling, strange classroom in a new school. And all his readers get it.

    This sort of blending in is what I wonder Peter might be getting at. The Christians aren’t going to blend in (nor should they try!) due to their legal status. They are expats, foreigners. In addition, they are of the kingdom of heaven. If they are going to stand out anyways, shouldn’t they strive to be known for good things?

    If, in their pursuit of honorableness they are persecuted, is what Peter addresses primarily. But I find it interesting he doesn’t start there and rather begins by telling them to do good.

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