Near the end of an early Star Wars movie, Luke Skywalker was trying to maneuver his fighter into a tight spot to fire a shot at just the right location to destroy the Death Star. One problem was, enemy fighters kept getting on his tail, shooting at him. It was rather distracting. Then, a calm, almost mechanical monotone the commander repeated, “Stay on target. Stay on target.” Of course, Luke settled down, focused on the target, and saved the day!
That’s what Christians need to do when their environment, even their culture, seems headed into chaos. Stay on target.
Keep your behavior excellent.
Peter wrote to Christians who were suffering persecution under Nero. There was no appeal to law, to mercy, or to “inalienable rights.” (Throughout history and today, Christians in many countries know what this is like.) While he encouraged them (1:1-10), Peter also gave his suffering friends no quarter. He commanded them,
“Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).
What was the target? The glory of God. How were they going to bring glory to God? It would come by the obedience of believers and the redemption of unbelievers.
How would sinning oppressors be won to Christ? God would use the believers’ excellent behavior to testify of Christ and draw oppressors to Himself in salvation.
Practice the Great Commission.
Where did Peter derive this concern for his oppressors? Jesus had commanded him, “Go therefore and make disciples, baptizing them… and teaching them…” (Matt. 28:19-20). Making disciples of Christ requires evangelism and discipleship.
Should we do good deeds to our neighbors and influence our society for good? Certainly. But the commission was discipleship. Healthier, happier sinners are still condemned sinners. It is those saved from hell that have the hope of heaven.
The book of Acts records that after their arrest, Peter and the apostles targeted their enemies with evangelism. They didn’t demand rights to free speech or religion. They certainly said that they must obey God rather than men, but they said it only as a last resort in answer to an ultimatum, and followed immediately by another presentation of the gospel. They spoke respectfully and made a beeline to the gospel. “Stay on target.”
What about today? Christians must stay on target–pursuing the glory of God through excellent behavior, evangelism, and discipleship. Civil rights is not the main issue. Those who are slaves of sin, any sin, are in a state of guilt. They suffer bondage and a never-ending dissatisfaction no matter how “legal” their sins may have been declared by men. While Christians must have compassion on them, that compassion is not blind, permissive, or accommodating toward sin. Rather, it sees the train wreck ahead and calls 911 to urge the operator to switch rails, to save the people on the train. Those caught in sin need to know the truth about the cliff ahead, about sin and hell. Only when they see where sin leads will it matter to them that,
“Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).
Through repentance from self and sin, by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ alone, there is forgiveness. There is deliverance.
Like the apostles, in easy times or hard, Christians need to stay on target.