And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.
– 1 Peter 3:13-17 (NAS)
Right from wrong is not an archaic thing. It may seem indifferent to many because right and wrong for one generation is often very different with another generation but make no mistake, everyone has a sense of right or wrong. The basis for deciding what is right and wrong has shifted for many people. Absolutes have been exchanged for relativism and even community “right and wrong” is often driven by special need rather than a consistent community “moral compass”. Right and wrong has become somewhat complicated in other ways: People have strong feelings about what is “right” for themselves and often have very different expectations and rules for others. For some, right and wrong is very fluid depending on personal self-interest. For example, I have run into people who have no problem stealing something from someone else but would be very upset if someone stole something from them. That is a little moronic (in my mind) but it is the way some people operate.
Peter wrote to sojourners of the dispersion about right and wrong. Often living in a place that was foreign to them and not ever feeling settled or even fully apart of the community. They were vulnerable and exposed in various ways and it may have been hard to adapt to the cultural practices of these places. But they needed a way to fit in and yet still learn to do what is right. How do you integrate into a community and yet remain faithful to God’s call? They had to work and be involved if they were to survive. So right and wrong would seem to be a moving target and very hard to figure out how to live in places that were not their home.
But even here Peter drives the sense of “right and wrong”. What is intriguing is that in 1 Peter 3 he anchors this sense of right and wrong in the character of God.
Notice several things about this text:
1. No matter where a Christian lives, the culture, the circumstances of life, conflicts or problems we face we always have a moral compass – God’s righteousness. The biggest challenge is choosing to decide ourselves what is right and wrong instead of basing our choices on His righteousness.
2. Christians ought to be zealous for what is good and right. Sometimes we get ourselves in trouble because of our own bad behavior or the way we talk to others or about them. To be honest when we act poorly we get what we deserve (1 Peter 2:20). The mark of believes is to do what is good and right.
3. We are not to fear others who try and impose their morality on us. Sometimes we will face consequences when we do not yield to the pressure of others but God says our morality should be to please Him not even ourselves. Also remember that we have often been caught trying to impose our morality on others too. It has been a problem for everyone.
4. Most importantly you will notice that the anchor for right and wrong is firmly anchored in God’s righteousness and our relationship with Christ (3:13-17). We need to come to moral conclusions in Christ before we face them or we will often compromise. Most of us use 1 Peter 3:15 as a defense of the gospel or “why we are a Christian” but the real context here is about suffering when you do what is right. We don’t need to spiritualize this – even unbelieves have a conscience that at least gives them a general sense of right and wrong. Keep on doing what is right and good!!