There is little chance that anyone who has chosen to be in a faith-follow relationship with Jesus would not “vote for” living as a faithful evangelist on the kingdom mission to which our Lord commissioned his disciples. Corporately and individually, in addition to “caring for the found” the church is responsible to “seek the lost.”
The Apostle Peter has some salient counsel for the scattered believers he addresses in his first letter. He writes to those Christians, who were facing much opposition and suffering as a result of their having chosen Jesus as Lord, giving them a summary plan to help them live effectively on mission. Let’s explore those verses, from 1 Peter 3:8-11.
His first encouragement is to “live in harmony with one another.”
He clarifies that means that they live lovingly, sympathetically, compassionately and humbly.
Then he advises them to choose blessing rather than retaliation.
To return evil for evil or insult for insult is not the way of Jesus.
Peter goes on to exhort them to be “eager to do good.” Sometimes, he adds, they might suffer for doing what is right, but even then, there is no need for fear.
He infers that these attitudes and actions will be identifiable and visible to anyone with whom these Christians are in relationship.
As a summary admonition, Peter says “In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” Right living is grounded in being heart-right with God. When Jesus is Lord, church members are loving God with heart, soul, mind and strength and neighbor as self.
Then Peter makes clear his missional purpose in these paragraphs. In their everyday lives, believers will be in relationships with people who do not know the hope of a relationship with Jesus as Savior and Lord. When those pre-Christians notice the way of life of the disciple(s), they will ask questions. And when they do, at that very moment, an opportunity for telling the good news is born. Evangelism takes wings. Witness becomes a relational reality.
This is the point Peter has been aiming at. When believers live with integrity and honor among people who do not know Jesus, evangelism is in play. The only caution he clarifies is that the message is delivered gently, respectfully and with a clear conscience.
These inspired words of advice were right for the first century church and they are right for today’s church. When Christ really is Lord in the lives of today’s believers and those believers take the time to develop authentic relationships with pre-believers, questions will be raised and witness will have opportunity.
One more thing. A little later in his letter, in 1 Peter 5:3 Peter reminds church elders that they are to be “examples to the flock.” If we could ask Peter about how that connects with what he had already written about evangelistic opportunity and responsibility, he may well say, “If the elders/shepherds/pastors don’t live exemplary faith and witness lives, there is little chance the others in the church family will do so.” And I would add, even if they would “vote for” it.
This essay was originally written for the ICOMB newsletter that is sent to Mennonite Brethren national conference leaders around the globe.