In 1527, the Swiss Guard made history as 189 guardsmen held of an army that is reported to have been 20,000 strong. A renegade army under the deposed Duke of Bourbon sacked Rome. Ignoring the command of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, they marched on to the Vatican to plunder its riches and to murder Pope Clement VII. The Duke’s army, an army that may have been as strong as 20,000, arrived at the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica where they met the 189 Swiss Guardsmen who had vowed to defend the Pope at all costs.
The guardsman fought the Duke’s great army, expecting nothing less than death while the Pope and a few of his men escaped through a series of underground tunnels. 42 guardsmen survived and all of them were injured. The Pope escaped and the Vatican was defended.
This is the stuff of legend.
My question as we live our lives for God, who according to 1 Peter 1:23 has made us imperishable, is this: do we live legendary lives?
And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
In the beginning of his letter, Peter states that in Christ we have each been born of imperishable seed. In this life we are fragile. We break. We suffer physically and emotionally. We can be bullied and cut down. We can get sick, and we can die. In Christ, though, we are imperishable, indestructible and incorruptible. In this body I may die, but in Christ I will live forever!
Because of this, Peter states that God’s people are capable of enduring all suffering. After all, what is suffering compared to an eternity with Christ? Peter is honest about suffering and states clearly that those who suffer even when they do good are blessed when they endure. God cares deeply for us and desires that we endure through any suffering that might come our way.
Peter also recognizes that we are entrusted to God. We should not allow others or our circumstances to control us. We belong to God, not people or circumstance.
Peter’s deep commitment
The reality is, if we are imperishable, we can stand for the things of God!
Like the 189 Swiss Guardsmen who stood in defense against an army numbering 20,000; we can stand for what is right even if the whole world stands against us. This is the stuff of legend!
We are imperishable in Christ. They may kill us or put us down, but the reality is that we live forever. Peter is sure to reiterate God’s promise to those who suffer: even if we should suffer for doing what is right, we are blessed.
It may also be important for us to note that we can overcome all fears because God is bigger than the things I am afraid of and He is bigger than the fear within me. He has made me imperishable! I do not have to be intimidated or disturbed. I am imperishable.
This is why I resolve to do what is good, always honoring the Messiah as Lord in my life. Remember that we are entrusted to God, not to other people or to circumstances. One other thing I might ask about fear is this: When we do not strive to overcome any of our fears, no matter how small they may seem, what do we imply about God? Do we imply that He is incapable of handling our fears or that he is smaller than the things we are afraid of? We can overcome any fear in Christ!
If we are committed to the things of God, people will see the hope we have in God. If we constantly celebrate Christ, people will see the love we have for Christ, and they will question why we are the way we are. They may admire us for the love we have, or argue against us because they disagree with what we stand for. In any case, Peter challenges us to be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have in Christ.
The reason is the Gospel of Christ:
- God creates people
- People rebel against God
- God loves people anyway and provides a way for reconciliation in the person of Christ.
- I now know God and He is good to me. That is why I have placed my hope in Him.
Here is what so many Christians miss, and I want to emphasize this: we are to stand for God and be ready to give a reason for our hope with gentleness and respect. Christians are very good, sometimes, at standing very dogmatically for things that they believe to be the things of God. Christians are very good about arguing with people to defend those views. What Christians are not good at today, for the most part, is engaging the world with both gentleness and respect. If someone disagrees with me, I do not have to accept their views. I do have to practice gentleness and respect as I engage them.
If we were to live in isolation from the world, scripture would not give us instruction on how to interact with the world. I’ve noticed some things about this Christian subculture we have created for ourselves. We have:
- Christian radio stations
- Christian book stores
- Christian coffee shops
- Christian clothing brands
- Christian schools
- Christian social clubs
- Christian sports leagues
- Christian biker gangs
- Christian clubs with good wholesome Christian raves
Even though I am not sure how to feel about that last one, I am not demonizing or condemning any of these things, but I have recognized a trend where Christians seem to create a Christian world for themselves. What we lose is the interaction that we should have with the world. How can we practice gentleness and respect as we engage the world if we do not engage the world in the first place?
Imagine you are a firefighter. You train and train and train, but never fight a fire. Such is the Christian life if we do not do the work of God. So we strive to be deeply committed to the things of God. We ready ourselves to give a reason for the hope that we have in Christ, our Lord. Along with these, we strive to engage the world, and to do so with gentleness and respect. We always remember that we are imperishable because we are in Christ.
“Bourbon, Charles, Duke of.” In The Encyclopaedia Britannica, edited by Hugh Chisholm, 328. 11th ed. Vol. 4. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1910.
 1 Peter 3:13-17 (HCSB)