Suffering for doing what’s right

Jeff Garrison
Bluemont and Mayberry Presbyterian Church
February 26, 2023
1 Peter 3:8-22

Sermon recorded at Mayberry Church on Friday, February 24, 2023

At the beginning of worship:

Robert Marshall, a friend of mine going back to my Utah days, wrote a book titled On Rabbit Trails and Bear Hunts. In it, a preacher goes hunting. He’s not prepared for it and become lost in the wilderness. He then happens upon a cabin where a recluse lives. The man had grown up there with his parents and upon their death essentially became a hermit with no connection with the larger world. 

This man feeds the lost hunter with his soup made of game, while the who had been lost tells the hermit how to find Jesus. The man had never heard of Jesus and becomes intrigued. He’s given a Bible and reads it and dedicates his life to following Jesus. 

We can count a win for our side, right? 

How does the Church look to New Christians excited about Jesus?

Well, the hermit enters society for the first time. He’s stunned by life in the modern world. But he’s not nearly as shocked as he when he visits a church. Having come into the faith without preconceptions, he’s troubled by what he finds. This new Christian doesn’t understand why people behave and related to one another in ways so opposite from Jesus’ teachings.[1]

I hope we’ll do better. Those of us who trust Jesus need to live in a manner that honors God and reflects the love and grace of Jesus. That’s not only my idea. Peter also makes this suggestion as we’ll see in today’s service.  

Before reading the Scripture:

I’ve tried to impress upon you in the opening sermons from 1stPeter that this world isn’t out home. We’re resident aliens. Our citizen papers are in God’s kingdom. 

You know, when I was a kid and was dragged by my parents to visit their friends, my mom would always remind us to be on our best behavior. When you’re a guest, it’s the polite thing to do. In the section we’re reading today, Peter addresses the sufferings his first century audience faced, but also reminded them that they needed to behave themselves and to live gently and be gracious to everyone. And if those in the first century, who were facing persecution, could do it, we certainly should be able to follow their footsteps. 

Read 1 Peter 3:8-22

We have a very rich text today. I should have probably broken this up into several sermons, but maybe I can come back to the passage and do that in the future. 

Finishing up his teachings on household codes

Our first two verses sum up Peter’s teachings on the household codes. I’ve talked about these codes for the past three weeks.[2]It was a familiar genre in the Roman world where everyone had their place. Peter wants Christians to fit into their place, too, but with one exception. Christians not only live under the authority of the emperor or the governor. They also live under a higher authority. While they are to honor those who hold earthly power, be it Caesar, a government official, or even one’s master, they (and we) are to first for live for God. Because God showed grace to us, we should display grace to others. 

Our opening sentence is anchored in in love. This “Philadelphia love” is in the center of Peter’s thoughts, surrounded on both sides by examples of how we are to think and to feel. We’re to have a unity of spirit, sympathy, a tender heart, and a humble mind, all grounded in love, which is right in the middle.[3] Ancient rhetoric often put the main idea in the middle of one’s thoughts, unlike us who generally end with the main idea.[4]

The important thing to remember here is that we live as Peter outlines, others will see our graciousness.

As a friend said in his commentary on this text: “’Let them criticize us as foolish or whatever,’ Peter says, ‘but don’t give them further cause to criticize the church by being nasty yourself.’”[5]

No revenge

Next Peter reminds his readers not to seek revenge or return evil for evil. In the Christian economy, might does not make right. But this also means we are to take the higher ground by not only refusing to seek revenge but to provide a blessing for those who treat us badly. 

Peter encourages his readers to consider the long-term implications. Their hope is in the world to come. Even though they live “outside the boundaries of acceptable society, they are at the center of God’s salvific intervention.”[6] Peter backs up his teachings with a quote from the Psalms, reminding us that God watches the righteous and God’s face is against those who do evil.[7]

Our suffering and Jesus’ suffering

In verse 13, Peter takes up again the topic of suffering while considering Jesus’ suffering. He asks a rhetorical question, “who will harm you if do good?” After all, it makes sense that if you do good, people will leave you alone. But, as Peter knows firsthand, they didn’t leave Jesus alone. 

We should know that just because you do what is good and noble, you still might catch grief. We’ve should have all learned this lesson in Jr. High or Middle School. You show friendship to one that’s lonely, but it’s the wrong person and the cool kids shun you. It’s a mean world, and it doesn’t get any better. But we’re still to strive to do what is right. 

We see that this question is rhetorical by the answer Peter provides. He knows that some have done what is right and have suffered for it. As the old saying goes, “No good deed goes unpunished.” But instead of feeling sorry for themselves and their suffering, Peter tells them they’re blessed. Talk about counter cultural. 

don’t fear what others fear.

But think about it. Our fears are not what others fear. Because of this, we shouldn’t be frightened by their threats or their behavior, for our hearts have been sanctified by our Lord. We don’t fear what others can do to us.[8] After all, the worse someone can do to us is to kill us. But in the light of eternity, we have hope. This hope may seem irrational in this world, but not for those of us who know our citizenship belongs to another world. 

Defending your faith 

This is why Peter then tells his readers to be ready to make a gentle defense of their faith. It seems illogical to many, but if our persecutors can see in us our love and our lack of fear, hopefully they may be touched by the spirit and led into a new life in Christ. Of course, they may not. 

Think of the Egyptian Coptic Christian martyrs in Libya who were captured by Islamic terrorist a dozen or so years ago. They refused to denounce their faith and were beheaded. Their witness remains as a visual sign that while we have it easy, some Christians in our world are more like those to whom Peter addresses his letter. 

Our hope

Our hope is in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a hope symbolized in our baptism. Baptism does not physically wash away our sins. Instead, we’re reminded of what Jesus has done for us and that we now have hope because Jesus, in heaven, watches over us. 

As Christians, we are not promised a life without suffering. And sometimes suffering comes because we try to do what is right. Yet, we’re to strive to do what’s right, to live noble and gracious lives, and despite being beaten up in this world, we’re to trust God that at the end all will be well.


There is a Japanese art form called Kintsugi. The artist takes broken tea ware and repairs them, often using gold and other fillings to make an even more beautiful piece of work. The word Kintsugi comes from two Japanese words. “Kin” means gold and “tsugi” means to reconnect.[9] These old tea pots have with their crooked breaks that shine in gold become treasures.

Likewise, we may be broken in this world, but we’re promised a resurrection. God will take our brokenness and put us back together. That’s our hope. 

Now let me end with an assignment, some homework. Peter tells us to be ready to gently defend our faith. What would you say if someone asked you why you believe in Jesus? Think about that this week. How do we explain the hope we have in Jesus Christ and what it means to us? Amen. 

[1] Robert E. Marshall, On Rabbit Trails and Bear Hunts (2007).

[2] See,, and

[3] Peter H. Davids, The First Epistle of Peter (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990), 124. 

[4] For an insight into this rhetorical style, see the “Prelude: The Prophetic Homily Rhetorical Style and Its Interpretation” in Kenneth E. Bailey, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes, Cultural Studies in 1 Corinthians (Dowers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011). Bailey, throughout this commentary, shows how Paul uses this older style.

[5] Scott Hoezee,

[6] Joel B. Green, I Peter: The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007), 114. 

[7] Verses 10-12 are taken from Psalm 34:13-17.

[8] Matthew 10:28, Luke 12:4.

[9] Makoto Fujimura, Art and Faith: A Theology of Making (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2020), 43-44.  I reviewed this book in my blog last year.  See

Photo of Mayberry Church Road, looking south toward Mayberry Trading Post.
Mayberry Church Road looking south, toward Mayberry Trading Post

8 Replies to “Suffering for doing what’s right”

  1. Great sermon! So much excellent stuff there. Fear and revenge are sins of particular currency in our present cultural context. See you soon HHI.

    1. It is an old country store, built in 1893. There were a lot of such stores around these parts back in the day, but very few are left operating

  2. Good morning, thank you for your uplifting words, always inspiring to read them. I’m also always a creature that devours photos, and this one looking at what I believe is the Mayberry Trading Post, is simply inviting, what a location. Enjoy the rest of your weekend and the new week ahead. It’s a blank page that we fill up as much wonder and life that we can! Take care.

    1. Yes, that’s the Mayberry Trading post. There’s only a couple businesses in Mayberry today: church, a B&B and a lodge, a goat farm. The trading post will open back up on April 1, the new owners have done a lot of work getting it ready.

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