1 Peter 3:14-16 "But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame."

In the past we were able to live in the isolation of "nothing bad will happen to me (us)" mindset. "Bad things" happened to others, but not "me" ("us"). "I" am protected! Being a Christian, or an American, or a Southerner, or a "law abiding citizen," or an asset to the community protects "me." "Our security is provided by 'who we are'!"

When we felt a sense of security in the past's "isolation," our worlds were pretty simple. Every family in our neighborhood knew each other. Life was confined to work [always local], home, church, and community. Some even remember when little was locked, sharing was common, and most everyone knew the name of every family in the community. You were not afraid to invite a stranger in your home, pick up a hitchhiker [or be one!], and trust [without questioning] that someone was "down on his luck."

Times have changed! Drugs and alcohol invade all our extended families. Laughable "pranks" were exchanged for deadly incidents of rage, hate, and greed. Businesses open in late night or early morning hours increasingly are robbery targets. Robbery easily escalates to murder. Jobs unexpectedly end. Careers are quickly redirected. A loved one has a life-threatening illness, or loses a job, or faces difficult times, or has his/her "personal world cave in."

Seemingly the world gets smaller daily. American deaths in Iraq are on our morning news programs. Details of a suicide bomber's moment of horror in the Mid-East are on at 5:30 p.m. Europe's natural disasters are our headlines. Our loss of jobs is related to the economies of third world countries. Much of what we consume comes from places we have not visited -- and never intend to!

Our hope is not some imaginary shield built by isolation. It is not based on the false confidence that "bad things" never happen to us. It is not obvious to our circumstances. It is produced by a risen Savior who teaches us that "now" is temporary but "after death" is permanent. We endure "bad things" when they happen to us with the assurance of hope and the patience most are unaccustomed to seeing.

From Christianity's beginning, those who caused suffering were amazed. After the suffering, they asked, "How did you do that?" The Christian patiently, gently, respectfully explained Jesus Christ gave, nurtured, and sustained his/her hope.

Be ready to explain! Without doubt, we will have many opportunities!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 2 November 2003

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