“Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.” (1 Peter 3:13 – 16)
Peter is preaching now. Or, to my eyes/ears/spirit, he is preaching about preaching and giving testimony. One of things I know about myself is this – I have the habit of giving advice and direction when it would be better to remain silent. I am not referring to preaching and giving testimony as much as when I am in the role of adviser and counselor. Sometimes it is better if you let the person you are working with figure out things on their own. (Thankfully I have learned how to keep my own “counsel” when counseling others.) It is the difference between being gentle handed and putting for your own notions trying to supplant the others ideas and thoughts. This is one aspect of the “gentleness and reverence” that Peter is referring to. Let us move on to read more of what Peter is saying.
“For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.” (Verses 17 – 20)
In my readings of Lent and Easter meditations, Jesus’ descent into prison – or hell, as one writer put it – was done so that Jesus might make his Divine presence known wherever we might be or end up. It is the type of hyperbole that many of those writer construct their reflections from. Even those condemned to hell might yet hope to escape its sentence and clutches. . . hmm. But, I speak to the living, so again let us re-focus our attention to Peter.
“And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you–not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.” (Verses 21 – 22)
This is a view of Jesus I had at one point in my life, appealing to God at the Lord’s feet at the Mercy Seat. Continually saying that his death redeemed and renewed us . . . individually. I mean, I envisioned Jesus not giving carte blanche to everyone but bringing us to the Divine’s attention each time we did something that would be “sin”. I told you, beloved reader, it was not easy being so aware of my sinful faults and flaws when I was young; of course it is not easy now. But my assurance is more secure. Also, I realized and incorporated a more Triune understanding of the Divine, and recognized that one aspect of the Lord God Jesus Christ would not need to appeal to another aspect. Maturity, beloved reader.
I guess all of us, all of humanity, follow in the same sort of footsteps that the disciples did. Their faith grew and matured as they listened and followed Jesus. When Jesus died, their realization of the eternal and divine nature of Jesus grew. When the Holy Spirit came upon them, their learning and understanding advanced. And as they traveled and preached, their experience and expertise directed their thoughts and actions. And so they preached, gently and reverently accepted what suffering that brought. May we, beloved reader, be resolved in continuing to follow in their path. Selah!