This article is the next in a monthly series that will examine the theme for this year’s upcoming conference, . As we experience the pains of a perishing, defiled, and fading world, our hope can feel distant or idle. Yet, in Christ, we are born again to a hope that is both living and active. We no longer have to count our trials as foes, but we can rejoice in a hope which does not put us to shame, knowing it is offering us a gift more precious than gold — a tried and true faith. As we survey 1 Peter together, our prayer is that we would have renewed eyes to see that which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us by our living hope!
Join us in Kansas City October 6-8;registration is open now!
I gave my life to Jesus my freshman year of high school. It wasn’t long after that I went on a mission trip to London to participate with a group doing street evangelism. I couldn’t wait to share the good news about Jesus that I had recently discovered for myself.
Standing on a park bench, I began telling my story. Less than two minutes after gaining the courage to stand and speak, a woman approached me, stood closely, and then spit on me.
I was shocked, of course, and I don’t think I continued speaking in those moments, but later in the evening, we read from 1 Peter 3 and talked about suffering for the sake of Christ. Being spat on hardly qualifies as suffering to most of the world, but it was my first experience with any kind of resistance toward what I believed. What we read spurred on hearty discussion about what it may look like to stand up for the name of Jesus as a high school student.
As a parent, one of the greatest blessings in this life is knowing your children are walking with the Lord, but commitment to Jesus will mean suffering for his sake. The level of suffering runs the gamut for every believer, but 1 Peter reminds us of what to do when we are slandered, not if we are. So, how do we prepare our children for contentious responses to their faith in Jesus?
Because it was so meaningful for me as a teenager, I’d suggest gathering your kids and opening your Bible to 1 Peter 3:8-17. After reading the passage together, take a few minutes to discuss some of the principles laid out for believers who will suffer for righteousness’ sake.
Here are some ways to talk with your children:
Trust Fully in the Love of Jesus
Verse 15 says, “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…”
When you give your life to Jesus, people may inquire about the hope that is in you. Do you see how comforting this is? If you are a child of God, you have been saved by his grace, through faith, and nothing and no one can ever change that. That is the hope this verse is referring to. That hope is in us because Jesus loves us so much that he willingly gave his life on the cross that we might be reconciled to God forever.
When hardship happens, whether it’s someone making fun of the fact that you go to church or lashing out because you stand by a truth in Scripture, trust in this incomprehensible love that provides hope. The suffering we face is not random or accidental, but it is purposeful, not because God taunts us but because He loves us immensely and works out all things for our good (suffering deepens our relationship with Jesus), and for His glory (the hope of Jesus in you will shine brightly in this dark world).
Invest in Christian Friends and Mentors
Verse 8 exhorts all believers to “have unity of mind.” This phrase is important in the context of suffering for Christ because it reminds us of the importance of being united with those who are likeminded. To stand firm in our faith and provide a defense for our hope in Jesus, we need to be encouraged by others who also believe in Jesus. Equally important is having Christian mentors who will help us wrestle through passages in God’s Word and show us what they mean for our daily life.
W hen you’re feeling alone in your beliefs, or when you’re discouraged because you had to make a hard choice in order to do the right thing, you’ll find great encouragement in time spent with other believers in Jesus. This is one of the many reasons why weekly youth group is so vital. It’s time set aside during the week when we can exhale stresses and breathe in encouragement from Christian friends and mentors. As we engage with unbelievers in our schools and communities, we need this weekly time of fellowship and teaching to provide us with strength and support.
Be Gracious to All
When we provide a defense for our hope, we should do so “with gentleness and respect” (v. 15). This cannot be overlooked! We should be mild tempered and respectful toward all who are in our midst. Not only should we engage with humility, but verses 8 and 9 give us a list of five ways in which we should interact with others:
- Show sympathy
- Extend brotherly love
- Have a tender heart
- Have a humble mind
- Do not repay evil for evil
Take a few minutes to reflect on each phrase. What does it look like to exemplify these qualities during your school day? What does it look like to “extend brotherly love” during lunch, or “have a humble mind” during soccer practice? And how can you refrain from “repaying evil for evil” when someone makes fun of what you believe? So much can be said about this list, but at the heart of Peter’s exhortations is a sense of graciousness. In the same way that God pours out his grace to us every single day, even when we don’t deserve it, the hope that is in us will shine most brightly when we treat others with kindness through our verbal responses, our written responses, our actions, and even our thoughts. Be gracious to all and the Lord will be glorified through your suffering.
Prepare to Receive Push Back from Some
Even in your kindness, there will be some who slander you and who revile your good behavior in Christ (v. 16). Be prepared for this so that you don’t lose heart and falter in your commitment to Jesus. When you stand firm, the Bible says that those who slander you “will be put to shame” (v. 16), or, as The Message translates, those who insult you will “end up realizing that they’re the ones who need a bath.”
God always sees you. That is a promise. He will give you the words to say and the strength to say them gently. Trust Him in this. It’s better, as this passage tells us, to suffer for doing good than to suffer because of evil that springs from rejection of Christ. Jesus suffered once for all to give His children life that is abundant and free from the bondage of sin. Yes, there will be varying degrees of persecution when you stand up for Jesus, but when we begin to grasp what it is that He has done for us, it becomes a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ.