A few weeks ago, while sharing in corporate worship at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, I listened to Dr. John MacArthur preach from 1 Pet. 3:13-17. This, of course, is the same passage I’ve been preaching from the last two weeks (for the record, I think Pastor John did a pretty good job 🙂 ).
Pastor John rightly emphasized that the church’s mission in this troubled, terrifying world is not simply to survive, but to evangelize. As the distinct people of God, our calling is not to defeat and destroy unbelievers, but rather to love them and seek to win them to Christ. This “evangelistic priority” is clearly stated by Peter when he says that believers are always to be ready to humbly give an answer to those who ask about the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15-16). Here’s the amazing, life-altering truth for us to grasp: God sovereignly orchestrates persecution in our lives, so that we might show and tell the excellencies of Jesus Christ to the very ones who persecute us (see also 1 Pet. 2:9-12)!
A glorious example of the significance of this truth is found in the testimony of Rosaria Butterfield, in her book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Pastor Steve referenced this book a few weeks ago.)
Rosaria was an outspoken lesbian activist and tenured English professor of “Queer Theory” at Syracuse University, when Jesus Christ transformed her life. While the Lord did the work in Rosaria’s heart, He used the faithful, humble, loving, patient witness of a Christian pastor and his wife, Ken and Floy Smith. Though the Smith’s might have been tempted to see Rosaria as an enemy, they instead seized the opportunity, over many years, to share the love and hope of Christ with this lost soul. Rosaria tells it this way, recounting her first visit to the Smith’s home for an unhurried dinner:
“Ken and Floy did something at the meal that has a long Christian history but has been functionally lost in too many Christian homes. Ken and Floy invited the stranger in – not to scapegoat me, but to listen and to learn and to dialogue. Ken and Floy have a vulnerable and transparent faith. We didn’t debate worldview; we talked about our personal truth and about what ‘made us tick.’ Ken and Floy didn’t identify with me. They listened to me and identified with Christ. They were willing to walk the long journey to me in Christian compassion. During our meal, they did not share the gospel with me. After our meal, they did not invite me to church. Because of these glaring omissions to the Christian script as I had come to know it, when the evening ended and Pastor Ken said he wanted to stay in touch, I knew that it was truly safe to accept his open hand…Before I ever set foot in a church, I spent two years meeting with Ken and Floy and on and off ‘studying’ scripture and my heart.” (Page 11, from the book.)
Oh beloved, I say to you as I say to myself, and as God says to us in 1 Pet. 3:15-16: Go, and do likewise!
Because He lives,