Eagerly Do Good, Readily Represent: Finding Your Story in 1 Peter 3:13–17
That’s the question Peter addresses in part in his first letter to the churches of Asia Minor. Dennis Edwards explores this same question in his new 1 Peter commentary (Story of God Bible Commentary). In his exposition of 1 Peter 3:13–17, Edwards offers this guidance:
[W]e Christians need to be eager to be agents for good, and to be prepared at all times to represent Jesus with respect toward others. If we do so, at least some of our accusers will be brought up short by the voice of their conscience. (149)
Using the three-part scheme every Story of God Bible Commentary uses, Edwards unpacks Peter’s exhortation to eagerly do good and readily represent—for God’s glory and the world’s good.
Listen to the Story
“We in the North American church may not face outright persecution," Edwards writes, "but we see a range of opposition, from snide remarks all the way to organized actions to suppress Christian witness…Furthermore, some of us adopt an arrogant tone with unbelievers in a way that is unbecoming of those who claim to be followers of Christ” (149).
Therefore, we need to listen to Peter’s exhortation here, which echoes other texts:
- Proverbs 25:22 reveals how doing good to those who harm us “will heap burning coals on his head”
- Isaiah 8:12–13 cautions us to fear and dread the Lord alone, not our cultural circumstances
- Jesus reminds us in Matthew 5:10–12 that we are blessed when we suffer all forms of persecution.
“Christians must remain steadfast, no matter how much abuse they take. But they must also be able to make a case for the validity of their faith through their deeds and their speech” (150).
Edwards outlines how Christians can do this with an in-depth explanation of God's Story.
Explain the Story
Peter exhorts Christians to do two things: eagerly do good, readily represent. Both are crucial, because “By doing what is good in the world, they have an opportunity to silence their critics. And when questioned, they are to explain respectfully why they follow Jesus” (150). Our motivation for both is Jesus himself.
First, Edwards restates Peter’s logic in vv. 12–13:
“God looks favorably upon the righteous but rejects the wicked. Who, then, is the one who will harm you when you are doing what is good?” The answer to this question is now, “Certainly not God!” (151)
This is why Peter urges believes to purposefully do good, not merely by accident. With an allusion to Isaiah 8:12, Peter offers our motivation: “Instead of fearing their enemies, believers are to revere Christ as Lord” (151).
The same motivation should sit at the heart of readily representing Christ, too. “Any justification for the Christian faith must be made with gentleness, which is something like the humility described in 3:8 and is also an attribute of the Lord Jesus himself…” (152). And a cool-headed, respectful response shows the believer has pure motives.
Such representation must be further bound by a clear conscience. “A Christian whose conscience is shaped according to the virtues of Jesus will know what is a righteous response to criticism.” Which in turn may make bullies “feel twinges of guilt for tormenting people who have done nothing wrong” (153).
Live the Story
Finally, how do we live 1 Peter 3:13–17? First, we should eschew the trite maxim “random acts of kindness” by taking cues from both our Christian ancestors and non-Western believers. “Their contexts require Christians to be agents of good not from a position of relative privilege but rather from the margins of society” (155).
Although we may have lost our positions of power, Edwards insists we should still work for the common good:
To live with this perspective requires deliberation and not just random acts of kindness. The strategic witness of the Christians working together for good can carry great weight in our culture. (156)
Such a lived experience should co-mingle with a second approach: Christian apologetics, “the attempt to defend a particular belief or system of beliefs against objections” (156). Exploring how such a defense might work in our postmodern culture, he quotes Myron Bradley Penner: “The proof of Christian witness is always in the pudding. The pudding in this case is our lives as witnesses—our overall pattern of action and behavior” (157).
Though he agrees, Edwards argues, “we should adopt a both/and approach, offering rational arguments for the faith when possible while always living in such a way as to demonstrate the authenticity of Christian faith” (157).
In verse 17, “Peter offers a summarizing maxim to explain that if suffering must come then it is nobler to suffer unjustly than to be denounced for genuine wrongdoing. After all, that is the way of Christ.”
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