Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus was the fifth emperor of Rome. He ruled from 54 to 68 A.D. He was most noted for his extravagant debauchery, cruelty, and persecution of Christians.
The Apostle Peter was one of the three disciples closest to Jesus during His three-year ministry on earth. Peter most likely wrote his first (inspired) letter to Christians between 60-64 A.D. That was during Nero’s reign! Believers were suffering because of their faith at the time they read Peter’s letter. Probably very few Christian families did not personally know someone who had already died as a follower of Jesus. And it was to such as audience that Peter, under the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit, wrote these words:
“Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 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. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” [1 Peter 3:13-17, NASB]
Don’t fear. Don’t be troubled. Trust Christ. Do what is right. Be ready to respectfully explain why hoping in Jesus makes rational sense and isn’t just crazy wishful escapism.
The amazing thing is that when Peter tells believers to be ready with an answer (an apologia) for their faith — in other words, to engage in apologetics — he’s assuming that nonbelievers are so impressed with the hope that they’re seeing in Christians in spite of their dire situation, that the nonChristians are asking the Christians about it. Evidently Christian hope and profession in this first century cauldron was a quintessential case of “the darker the night the brighter the light.”
How about in America today? What does the world see? Are Christians exuding hope or despair as coronavirus runs rampant? Are Christians shining as candles of faith or withering in fear of dark winters and hard times? Are they trusting in Christ or obsessing over the news and the future of earthly government? The power and value of Christian hope is going to appreciate as times get harder and darker. What an hour of opportunity.
Hope for America is not to be found in Washington D.C. Only Jesus can transform a nation that is way beyond reforming because only Jesus can transform Americans. The Church should therefore prioritize evangelism, stress one-on-one discipleship, and emphasize the need to provide persuasive evidence for historic Christian truth. Every follower of Jesus should focus on the nation’s soul and spiritual infrastructure, not become sidetracked with political power and the kingdoms of this world.
Here at the AIIA Institute we’re doing what we’re doing in order to lead the way along just such lines.