The way that Christians deal with those who do not share their faith or worldview is often to sling back the mud that is slung onto them. This morning, I was reading a post from Erick Erickson. It detailed the lies the Democratic party has trotted out in the past couple of days concerning the Republican party. When we read 1 Peter 3:8-17, we see how Christians should respond to slander.
(I love how Peter starts this passage with "Finally"....and then goes on for 2 more chapters after this one! Like some preachers I've heard, lol!) Today's passage is a summary of the previous instructions I've been "exegeting" (informal verb form of "exegesis") from 1 Peter 2. Hence, the "finally" at the beginning of the passage.
Now, the list of adjectives that follow are to describe the believer who is engaging a culture hostile to the Lord. The first one is "harmonious" or, in some translations, "like-minded". This obviously does not enjoin the believer to adopt the false beliefs of the world. This is referring to how believers interact with one another. A quarreling, schism-ed, fractured Church is a poor testimony to the world. We must be careful to always adhere to the teachings of the Word of God, as opposed to the false philosophies of the world. If we do that, we can be "like-minded". But, on matters of preference, such as what instruments to be allowed in the worship service, those types of quarrels are just silly. That kind of behavior causes the world to think that we are ridiculous.
The other adjectives (humble, compassionate, affectionate, sympathetic) can (and should) characterize interactions with both believers and non-believers.
The other day I read a Facebook post/link from a prominent theologian and humanitarian, a man I greatly admire. In the post, he used a derogatory name for another prominent figure. It went right over my head, really, until I read a comment on the post. Essentially, the comment was that we do not further the cause of Christ by treating others in an un-Christlike way. The commenter was exactly right.
In verses 14-17 of today's passage, we are told that we are not to be intimidated when opposed and slandered. Although our first instinct is often to "sling mud right back", and while that can be both entertaining and satisfying, it is not godly. For instance, applying this passage to a political race - - - the candidate who wins is often the one who inspires the people, not the one who slings mud (false accusations delivered haughtily) at his or her opponents. Similarly, as Christians, we are to resist that temptation in our responses.
Rather, our truthful responses should be delivered with sympathy, affection, humility, courtesy and respect. Although the least effective weapon, mud-slinging is also the one most close at hand.
That should not be the case!
Today, too many of us are spiritually ignorant, which is often why we respond to attacks by slinging mud. When we are confronted with a false worldview or philosophy, we are not able to refute it because we have not studied. What a disgrace it is when Satan's followers are able to make us look like ignoramuses or, worse, to lead our (biological and/or spiritual) children into deception, because we have not prepared either ourselves or them!
How can we combat error with truth, if we are not prepared? In verse 15 Peter warns us to arm ourselves with the truth (the Word of God) and always be ready to share it in a Christ-like manner. We find this echoed by Paul, in Ephesians 6:16-17 - - -
Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately.
Wielding the Word of God is much more effective than mud-slinging. Is it possible to wield the sword with humility, compassion, sympathy, courtesy and respect? Of course it is! The key is humility. Look at 1 Peter 3:15 more closely.
But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess.
Do you see it? Before making a ill-considered response, we are to pray and re-establish Jesus as Lord in our hearts, get our puffed-up, arrogant selves off the throne of our hearts, and prepare to answer in humility. Come on now! Can I get an "amen"? There is a huge difference in riding off into battle with the confidence that comes from the Holy Spirit, or riding off in arrogant, sinful pride.
Finally (haha!) don't expect God to approve you when you ride forth as a mud-slinger. Peter notes that if we suffer for "doing good", we are blessed! God hears the prayers of the righteous! But, God's face is against those who practice evil. That includes mud-slinging, my Friends!
Lord Jesus, this passage so convicts me. My tongue is often my worst enemy when it could be used by God as a mighty weapon. I ask you to forgive me for the times I have slung mud, under the guise of "contending for the truth". Clothe me in holy beauty, humility, compassion and remind me that even my "opponents" are souls for whom You died, who desperately need You to save them. In Jesus' name, amen.