Will they always understand?

Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong! (I Peter 3:13-17)

Have you ever done the 'right thing' only to have others criticize your efforts, or worse yet, not even notice that you did it? We can 'do right' and have all the 'wrong' motives for doing it. We can 'do right' with the 'right motives' and still be misunderstood by others, or not have our efforts acknowledged or appreciated. Does it make it any less important to continuously choose the right attitude and the right actions? Nope, sorry, it does not. A clear conscience is much better than the praise we might receive from the other person anyway. Be eager to do good - but don't always look for a 'good reward' from this world when you have done it. This world doesn't always understand 'right actions' done in the love and grace of God. It doesn't always recognize that we belong to Christ and our actions are 'formed' by the Spirit of God that lives within us. When they are criticizing our actions, they are really dissing Jesus!

Gentleness and respect in the face of criticism is often the furthest desire from how our hearts would like to respond. Yet, Jesus asks us to take a moment to be conscious of his power to respond with grace and peace. To be 'gentle' when the first desire of our hearts is to 'strike out' because we are misunderstood or under-appreciated is only possible when God's Spirit is given control of our thoughts, words, and actions. We might want to hurl back accusations or actions that show our disgust of the other person's behavior, but that is not our best course of action! We will suffer at times, even when we 'do good' - but when we suffer for having made wrong choices, is it possible the 'criticism' we receive is really a reminder we have made a wrong choice? Maybe God is using the words or actions of the other person to show us we did not do a very good job with the circumstances when we responded the way we did.

What's to be learned from our passage today? First, we aren't above the criticism of those who don't recognize Jesus behind the actions. They may not even realize that the grace we extend isn't something we 'naturally' come by but is 'worked out within us' in those times we spend with Jesus preparing for our day. Second, we are responsible for our own attitude and actions, not those of others. Their actions and attitude are between them and God. Did they affect us by their attitude or actions? Yes, but God doesn't expect us to change them - he asks us to never waver in doing good, even when we are misunderstood. Lastly, we only learn to 'do good' when we know what God requires of us. We get to know how to make 'good choices' because we have taken time to get to know how Christ acted when he was faced with similar choices. The more we get to know Christ, the closer our attitude and actions will be to his. The outflow of love and grace that comes from spending time with him is palpable. Will it always be understood as more than us being 'goody two-shoes'? Nope, but Jesus didn't always do things because his actions would be understood - he did those things because they were the right thing to do! Just sayin!

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