“For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”
1 Peter 2:15
Isn’t it fascinating that “doing good” is Peter‘s answer for what he calls “the ignorance of foolish people?” It almost seems too simple an instruction – and yet in it’s simplicity and relevance to our daily lives we see why it’s perhaps more difficult.
The simple act of “doing good” has almost been maligned in our culture. We are so bent on the idea of legislative solutions, restrictive policies and cultural overreach that we’ve essentially relegated “doing good” to being a back-burner option instead of seeing just how powerful it can be to actually choose to do good in the situations we have control over.
Admittedly, a significant part of the issue here is defining the word good; what does it actually look like to “do good.” And certainly the rest of his letter invests time in understanding that. But there is a broader conversation about what good actually is.
In my own life I think about my job, my family, my responsibilities, etc. as I’m trying to understand what good is supposed to look like. In my context I’m not in politics, I’m not a soldier, I’m a pastor and a father and husband. So how can I live good in those roles that I am actually responsible for? And not just any old good, but the kind of good that silences foolishness and ignorance?
What if we understood “good “here, in Peter’s writing, as more of a moment to moment ethic. What I mean by that is I don’t have the ability to create a set of rules that will anticipate everything that I’m going to face today. But what I can do is commit my life to pursuing the presence of God so that in every moment I’m asking, “what is good in this moment?”
Maybe that is the answer. Asking the question, “what does good look like in this moment?” And because I am pursuing the presence of God, because I’m trying to be a place where the Holy Spirit is active and understood and heard, I am assured that I have access to the very heart of God in every situation – which gives me not just the desire to understand what is “good” in this moment, but the wisdom to truly know what God is saying is “good” in this moment. Good for me and you is not (and truly cannot become) just a big set of rules that are a generalized governing of the entirety of life, but access to the moment-by-moment insight of the Spirit of God in the place where I actually am.
And that kind of perspective on this statement doesn’t lessen my responsibility in the world, it actually creates a deeper level of commitment. No longer can I point at Washington or the government for the problems that surround me, but I look inward and ask God to reveal what activity is available to me here and now!
For instance: not only am I instructed to love people, which can easily take on a very generalized feeling, but I am called to love the “persons” who are in front of me at any given moment. Whether they be my neighbor or my enemy I am instructed and called and expected to treat them like Jesus would treat them (and is treating them). But I am not doing this so I can be a doormat or a victim of good behavior. Peter says that this good that we do has the power to silence the ignorance of foolish people. That’s incredibly powerful in our world, if for no other reason than because there is a great abundance of ignorance and foolish people!
Think about all the foolish people in the world (or just limit it to those who you know), and think of all the ignorance that’s being spoken by them. To imagine even a few moments of silence in the middle of this cacophony of foolish ignorance is nothing short of miraculous. And just how much clarity might come from even a single day of muted foolishness? Revival might take place in that kind of environment – and all because we simply chose to obey the Scriptures and do the “good” that we had available to us instead of pointing to someone else and demanding that they get busy fixing the world.