1 Peter 3:13-18
And who is he that will harm you, if you be followers of that which is good?
1 Peter 3:13-18 (part).
Suffering for righteousness.
I. THE FACT THAT GOOD MEN SUFFER, FOR THEIR GOODNESS, FROM THEIR FELLOW-MEN. Though Peter used the word "if," it was not because such suffering was unlikely or infrequent, but because it was not universal, and because the reflections on which he had been dwelling seemed calculated to make such suffering impossible.
1. For it might seem as though the promised guardianship of God would have ensured the security of good men. But no.
2. Or it might have seemed that an upright benevolent life would have evoked nothing but kindness and gratitude from one's fellow-men. But no. "Who is he that will harm you?" read in the lurid light of persecution, cannot mean, "Who is he that will have the Will to harm you?" However mysterious it may be, it is an unquestioned and unquestionable fact that men suffer for righteousness' sake. It was so from Daniel to Peter, from Moses to Paul. "If you would follow the Church's history," it has been too truly said, "it is by the track of her blood."
II. THE INSPIRED DIRECTION FOR MEN IN SUCH WRONGFUL SUFFERING. "Fear not their fear;" that is, the fear their threats seek to awaken. "Sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord;" give him the shrine of worship. "Ready always to give a reason." Be, in Newman's sense, ready with an "apologia." "Having a good conscience;" that is, one keenly alive and free from reproach. "That they may put to shame them that revile." Wear the silver shield of innocent lives, so be "defenders of the faith."
III. THE LOFTY PRIVILEGE OF THOSE WHO SUFFER FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS' SAKE. "Blessed are ye." Here, again, as often in this Epistle, is an echo of the sermon on the mount. All the Beatitudes pledge you blessing. "Better, if the will of God should so will, suffer for well-doing," etc. God wills suffering. God wills suffering for well-doing. But there is no element of reproach in that, not to say of remorse. Suffering is of service, and it is "better" the suffering (which all need) should not come from our sin. "For Christ also suffered for sins, the Righteous for the unrighteous." Fellowship with him is ensured.
IV. THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF MEN WHO SUFFER IN THIS SPIRIT BEING REALLY INJURED. "And who is he that can harm you?" Canon Mason says this form of inquiry, beginning "and," has always in it a ring of scornful assurance. Here is the "charm" for Christians to wear - " a good conscience." Then to all wrongful treatment of malign men you can say,
"Strike! you cannot harm.
Strike! you may embarrass my circumstances, undermine my health,
maim my limbs, rob me of reputation, take away my life;
but strike! you cannot harm me.
Such a man
Can the darkening universe defy
To quench his immortality,
Or shake his faith in God." U.R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?