“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:12
I want to just think about these four verses today, starting with the above. Here it is, all together, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:12-15) Yeah, I want to dig into this so it’s a solid part of my life attitude.
I want this to be my “go to” attitude when things aren’t going my way. This isn’t about just when life is honky-dory, everything is fine-and-dandy, oh so sweet. 1 Peter is about being a slave, which is bad enough in itself. It’s also about being a mis-treated slave. It’s about being a wife, with typical misunderstandings in the relationship, as well as being a believing wife in a difficult relationship. It’s about being a husband, with typical misunderstandings in the relationship, as well as being a believing husband in a difficult relationship. It’s about little persecution for just being human or especially for being a believer. It’s about big persecution for being a believer that leads even to the point of death. Altogether, it’s about how to live like we belong to Jesus in tough situations. It’s about how to be who God has made us to be, who we were created to be in Him, and not who the world rewired us to be.
And here’s the good news. When Peter tells us that the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, those who have put their trust in the Lord, and this His ears are open to our prayers, that is awesome news! It’s not telling us that God is looking over, like a judge and saying, “Those are the good people, I will do good things for them. Those are the bad people. I won’t have anything to do with them.” That would be bad news because we all start out as bad people because we are all sinners according to His word. When would he ever turn His face to us? Oh, Lord, if You never turned Your face to me, I would be lost forever!
Let me get on with the good news. “…[B]ut God shows [not showed!] his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) So, You, Lord are not looking for people who are already good. He’s looking for the people who will and have surrendered to Him as Lord and Savior. He’s looking with the eyes of a Father for the prodigal child to come back to Him. This is the image of the eyes of the Lord. His face is looking toward us with His compassion and grace, not a pointing finger, but with arms open to embrace us and transform us with a new robe and as His child again.
His ears are open to our prayer even before we speak it. Remember the prodigal son? Remember the words he rehearsed? “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” (Luke 15:21) But before he finished everything he had rehearsed, His father had already restored him. Actually, before the son ever spoke a word out loud, his father’s face had been turned toward him with ready favor, just bursting to lavish his love on him again and have him back in the family. Remember the welcome before the words? “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” And if you ever doubt that God has that kind of compassion for you and me, just look at how much farther he went when He gave Jesus Christ upon the cross to bring us back to Him. Face it, God runs to us with open arms, He puts Jesus’ robe upon us, Jesus stepped up as the fattened calf for us, unlike the older brother in the parable. Jesus welcomed us into His Father’s arms in the fullness of inheritance without regret and at the cost of His life because He lives by the power of His heavenly Father and He rose again to rejoice together with us and the Father. Now, how is that for good news and a family reunion! No dysfunctional family here.
So, God knows what is in our heart, even before we do. He listens, He cares, He does something about it. I can count on You doing the best thing I need, the best thing for me, even when I don’t know the answers.
But why is Your face against those who do evil? Is that what that really means? Maybe. But if so, how did I ever come to know You? If I was a sinner, which You say I was, how did You ever turn Your face toward me, if Your face is against those who do evil? What if it means that Your face is turned away from those who choose to continue in evil? Not that You turn Your face away from them and have no compassion for them, but that they don’t want to see Your face. They avoid Your eyes. They turn away and run away. What if I’m responsible for looking into Your face in order to understand Your compassion? What if my fear of being judged or changed, my desire to keep doing what I’m doing, leads me to choose to avoid Your compassion like the plague? If I run the other way, I guess Your face would be against me, or opposite me, wouldn’t it? And I wouldn’t ever know the love and compassion that was just waiting to be showered upon me. How sad!
I can know that even in the midst of the junk and pain of persecution or hardships of life and serving the Lord, Your love and compassion for me can carry me through, if only I keep looking to You and expecting You to be my Father, and letting You be. If I remember who my Father is, if I remember Who loves me, then I can remember “who can harm me?” You know, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Don’t just take my word for it. Go to Romans 8 and soak it in. Live by it.)
It’s not just about being zealous about good things or good works. It’s about being zealous in God, letting Him have His will in You, just like Jesus, by His power. I have to remember, only God is good. Even if I’m saved, my works are not good, unless I’m letting the Holy Spirit lead those works. The world’s not going to be upset about me doing good things by its standards. The world is going to fight against me doing good works that demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s when it gets tough. But that is when it’s best and I’m closest to You, Lord!
When I am doing God works, and people know it and fight it, and I’m persecuted because of it, I have the promise that I will be blesssed. Blessed with what? The blessings that come from knowing who I am in Christ, that my heavenly Father has me in His arms, that He is bursting with love and care for me, that this world is not my home, and should I be kicked out of this home, like they kicked Jesus out, I have a better home with my Father Himself. Who cares if it has pearl gates larger than a person! Who cares if it has streets made of gold! Who cares if it has a mansion! It has the love and light of my life, My Father, His Son, and His Holy Spirit! I get to be 100% present in the fullness of their delight and love! The worst that could happen is the best that can happen!
That’s why Peter said, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, or be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” If the above is what I really believe, if that is my true attitude, if above all I honor Christ as my Lord, holy, above everything else, then all these other situations should become opportunities to share that good news with those around me.
So I need to ask myself, is that what my attitude looks like in my baby trials, in my baby persecutions? Because in all reality, no one is throwing me to the lions, roasting me on a post with tar on my body, or burning me at the stake. I’ve read stories of those who have been. There was an older pastor, burned at the stake, who before-hand told his people, “If the Lord helps me bear the pain, I will raise my hands over my head and clap.” He was lead to the stake singing praise, worshipping his heavenly Father, His Savior, whose eyes were lovingly turned to him. The fire was started. He continued to sing. His skin began to melt. He sang, raised his hands over his head, clapped them together, and died. He believed the word of God. He walked in the words of Peter. He had no fear of them. He was not troubled by them in a way that distracted Him from the face of the Lord. He was blessed beyond the end here. He honored Christ with every part of his being. With his last breath and last clap, he didn’t reprimand his persecutors, but He gave the most glorious defense to everyone around him, even those who didn’t ask, in the most gentle and respectful way. Lord, help me love You so much, that I take to heart Peter’s words as well.