“For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
When was the last time you saw a post on social media that was so wrong you felt like it was your moral duty to correct it? Perhaps just this morning. There are a lot of people out there who are just ignorant, aren’t there? Of course, it may be the case that someone else has read something you posted and felt the same way. That’s not quite so comfortable a thought. Let’s shift subjects a bit. As followers of Jesus, we live in a world that seems increasingly intolerant of our faith all the time. And much of that vitriol seems to be expressed on social media…where we want to correct it. And we’re back to that again. Okay then, what should we do about it?
This morning we’ll take a little break from Mark. We’re nearly through the second chapter, which is a bit faster of a pace than I thought we’d be taking to get through it. All the same, a little variety every now and then is a good thing. This particular bit of variety came from another of those moments when I was reading the Scriptures and a verse I had read before dozens of times jumped off the page at me, grab ahold of my attention, and wouldn’t let go. It offers a message that I think is pretty timely given where we are as a culture. That’s why you’ve got to be in the Scriptures every day. You just never know when God’s going to do that.
In any event, here in Peter’s first letter, he was writing to a group of believers living in what is today the nation of Turkey. They were scattered all over this region, but the one thing they all had in common was that they were living in the context of a culture that didn’t like them. At all. In fact, as far as the Roman government was concerned, followers of Jesus were quickly moving up the list of public enemies who needed to be controlled or eliminated. All the frustration the Romans had from dealing with the Jewish peoples’ refusal to play ball culturally was getting taken out on this Jewish sect that had turned out not to be Jewish at all, but something new.
Because of this, life was tough for these believers. That’s actually putting it pretty mildly. They expected and received persecution everywhere they went. They got it from friends, from family, and from the state. What Peter was doing was offering them some advice on how to get along as faithful followers of Jesus in the context of a culture that didn’t like them. His advice amounted to this: Be good and do good and let the chips fall where they may. In other words, be faithful to the path of Christ, and even if things don’t go so well in the short term, God’s got your back in the long term.
Specifically, Peter called the believers to submit to every human authority. That went for every human authority from the local governor to the emperor himself. And before you go trying to claim that’s a harder thing to do nowadays than it was then, keep in mind that Peter was living under the authority of the infamous Caesar Nero. But, we don’t do this because of those authorities themselves. We do it because of the Lord. Our submission is first to Him, and once that is firmly in place, we can willingly submit to any other authority He places in our lives (Paul says more about this in Romans 13:1-5) without fear of what they might do to us. Now, yes, there may be occasions where we have to lean into that first submission at the expense of the second, but that’s not often and not what we’re talking about right now.
But is that it then? We are simply supposed to roll over and play nice with authorities who are trying to make our lives miserable? That seems like an approach guaranteed to make our lives miserable. When do we get to fight back? How can we show them the error of their ways? How do we correct them?
Here, at last, we land back where we started. No, God doesn’t want this ignorance to stand. In fact, as Peter writes, it is His will that we silence it. And think about that one for a minute. We don’t see the phrase “it is God’s will” very often in the Scriptures and so we do well pay attention to it when we find it. The silencing of the ignorance of our critics is God’s will. But how we do it matters. Look again at what Peter said: “For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people…” how? How are we to do it? “…by doing good.”
Think about all the ways to silence the ignorance of foolish people Peter doesn’t say. Don’t berate them with the truth. Don’t passive-aggressively post “corrections” of their views and then share those broadly. Don’t get into back and forth arguments with them in the comments of their post. Don’t talk about them behind their backs. Don’t do any one of a number of other things we might be tempted to do otherwise.
Instead, silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. Show them by your example the worthwhileness of the Christian life. Love them into the kingdom. Go above and beyond with kindness toward them so they can taste and see that the Lord is good. And even if they respond with more ugliness and vitriol, turn the other cheek, and keep loving them anyway. That’s God’s will for you. The only challenge now is how well you can put it into practice.