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“Better to suffer for doing good”

January 18, 2023

Daily Scripture

1 Peter 3:13-17

13 Who will harm you if you are zealous for good? 14 But happy are you, even if you suffer because of righteousness! Don’t be terrified or upset by them. 15 Instead, regard Christ the Lord as holy in your hearts. Whenever anyone asks you to speak of your hope, be ready to defend it. 16 Yet do this with respectful humility, maintaining a good conscience. Act in this way so that those who malign your good lifestyle in Christ may be ashamed when they slander you. 17 It is better to suffer for doing good (if this could possibly be God’s will) than for doing evil.

As our country remembers the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this week’s GPS is built around six short quotations Dr. King might have used on social media (had it been available in his day) and their Biblical roots.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

1 Peter told early Christians to be ready to explain their faith, and to suffer for it if necessary. In April 1963, Birmingham, AL jailed Dr. King for a week. In a letter to local clergy who criticized his civil rights work, he said, “The early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.” *

  • You may, from time to time, meet people who challenge your beliefs, with a strong air of doubt and skepticism. Many will try to be kind, but like Romans in Peter’s day or segregationists in Dr. King’s, some may not be kind at all. The author of 1 Peter challenged readers to stay respectful and humble in all situations (cf. also Ephesians 4:29). How easy or hard do you find it to remain respectful and humble when someone challenges your faith? For what reasons?
  • Peter said, “Happy are you, even if you suffer because of righteousness!” James 1:2 said, “Think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy.” But they were in the vicious Roman Empire, or first-century Jerusalem’s highly anti-Christian climate. Does their counsel fit for a Christian high-school student, or a Christian worker in a heavily secular, skeptical workplace setting? How can you be fearless about transformation without being hostile and hurtful?

Oh Lord, in my passion to live out my Christian faith, help me to be humble to all I meet. Let your loving kindness flow through me as I represent you to the world around me. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of  Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality, teaching at several seminaries. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. Her latest book (Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness, Abingdon Press, 2017) traces ancient mindfulness practice for Christians today.

Non-violent posting … on Facebook? … on Twitter? What if we applied Dr King’s principle of non-violence to our social media engagement?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called forth a protest movement committed to the principle of non-violence. Only very strong people of faith can exercise this kind of loving discipline in the face of physical attack. Looking back now, it seems a super-human feat as brutally oppressed people stood for justice “with respectful humility, maintaining a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:16).

Interpersonal violence is all too common in online engagement: reactive comments, trolling and escalation of rhetoric. Even our words to describe public discourse convey embedded violence: cutting remarks, stinging rebuttal, eviscerating comments, attack, knock-out, put down. We have come to accept lightning reactivity and verbal violence as inevitable in our online encounters.

What if we today committed ourselves to Dr. King’s non-violent, non-reactive witness on social media? We could change the landscape of our culture! Today Dr. King and 1 Peter call us to the way of true freedom. On this path, we are not jerked by the puppet strings of reactivity or held captive to “giving as good as we get.” Try non-violent posting as a form of Christian witness.

Practice: Next time you see a post that boils your blood, pause for 3 deep breaths. All it takes are 3 deep breaths to interrupt the shot of adrenaline flowing through you. As you breathe deeply, you are free to decide, do I need to respond? If so, can I post with “respectful humility, maintaining a good conscience”? Or can I release this into God’s keeping and let it go?

Following Dr. King’s analogy, this is one way we can be thermostats, not thermometers * of the culture.

* Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter From The Birmingham Jail, HarperOne, 1994.

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Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.