For the purpose of review, we return to the verse that started it all. In I Peter we read, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 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; yet do it with gentleness and respect., having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (I Peter 3: 14-17 ESV)
Following exegetical comments by J. Ramsey Michaels in Word Biblical Commentary, let us investigate the key words “gentleness and respect” as they apply to our relationship with God. He translates the words as “humility and reverence.” It is evident that the Godward meaning stands out. Michaels observes that the word reverence has primarily to do with our relationship with God. He also asserts that the word, humility, is primarily a reference to God, not one’s neighbors. He recalls “Blessed are the meek . . . ” in the Sermon on the Mount. Both terms are primarily about a proper stance toward God; but, they also apply to our relationship with others. (J. Ramsey Michaels, I Peter, vol. 49 Word Books: Waco, Texas, 1988, p. 189.)
Our relationship with those outside of the Christian community is always and everywhere informed by a proper relationship with God. We people of God are to show forth conduct that accords with God’s will. We compromise our defense of the Gospel if our conduct towards others fails to reflect what God expects of us; but, even more, fails to reflect a proper relationship to Him. By serving God in humility and reverence toward Him, we put to shame the slanderer who reviles the good behavior of Christians.
We must never forget that we witness on behalf of God in Christ. A misunderstanding of the nature of our relationship with God compromises proper behavior toward others, especially in our defense of the Gospel.
July 9, 2022