I’ll have to admit that when it comes to pop culture, I’m often a year or two behind the times. I usually catch on to what is going on in the world – I did hear about the oil spill in the Gulf, and I can name the president (Hillary won, right?…just kidding…). But every once in a while I hear a story from a year or two back that I would have been really interested to hear then, but for whatever reason, I never did. In today’s study, author Voddie Baucham discussed two stories as examples for the lesson that I had not heard – the stories of heavyweight boxing champ Evander Holyfield and retired NBA basketball player A.C. Green. Both of these men have publicly stated that they are Christians, and both undoubtedly have been criticized for their faith. A.C. Green, who was never married throughout all of his basketball career, stated publicly that he was a virgin for that entire time. He said that he had committed to abstinence until marriage, and that he never broke that commitment. Apparently he was given quite a hard time about it – fellow players throughout his career “would frequently send women to tempt him to compromise his morals…instead, Green would respond by calmly quoting scripture.” To contrast that, Evander Holyfield was an very outspoken Christian who, not too long after Mike Tyson bit his ear off, was accused of taking performance enhancing drugs. On top of this, it came out that he had fathered 5 kids out of wedlock and had failed to pay child support for at least one of his children (in a year where he made close to $100 million). Both of these men were given a hard time about their faith – Green’s temptation and hassling by his teammates, and Holyfield’s criticism after the truth coming out about his indiscretions. Today’s lesson showed that one of these men was persecuted because of righteousness, while the other was persecuted because of sin. The first, because it was undeserved, is a blessing. The latter, because it was completely deserved, is a punishment. And we need to keep this in mind when we contend for the faith.
Today’s lesson used the passage from 1 Peter 3:13-17:
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
The main points we can take from this are:
- By living right, we take a lot of heat off of ourselves. As Peter asks rhetorically “who would harm someone that does good?” In the chapter before this (1 Peter 2:13-14), he points out that rulers and authorities are put in place “to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.” Therefore, if we do right, we are much less likely to be punished.
- When someone does speak bad of us because of our “good behavior,” they are put to shame in their own “slander.”
- Sometimes we do suffer in spite of our faithfulness. Just because we are living right, this doesn’t mean that we will never go through hard times – take the examples of A.C. Green and Evander Holyfield above. Green had to withstand criticism and temptation because of his commitment to righteous living. Holyfield also endured criticism, but the difference is that Holyfield’s was deserved, which is due punishment for his unrighteous actions. Green’s suffering was not punishment, but was suffering for the cause of Christ, which is really just blessing in disguise.
Baucham used one other example that was too good not to share. He talked about movies that we like to watch, and the difference between a drama and a tragedy. In a drama, the hero of the movie undergoes suffering, persecution, or hard times, but he or she prevails. In a tragedy, the hero undergoes much of the same, yet in the end he or she fails. So why do we watch movies that are tragedies? Movies like Braveheart and The Gladiator, where the protagonist dies at the end? We watch them because in those stories, although our hero dies, his cause prevails. Although Maximus dies at the end of The Gladiator, right before his death he makes it so that Rome returns to a republican government and that his fellow prisoners are released. In the midst of tragedy, great things happen. The same is true of when we suffer for the cause of Christ. We may undergo hard times, and some may even die for that cause, but in the end, our cause will prevail. Christ will return, and we will enter the gates of Heaven with Him. And when that happens, we’ll barely remember the suffering ever happened.