Posts Tagged ‘suffering’



Crucifixion of St. Peter by Caravaggio

Crucifixion of St. Peter by Caravaggio

“Christian convert from Islam shot dead in Kashmir.”  “Christians live in fear of death squads.”  These are real headlines about real Christians in our own times. Such persecution makes our complaining about discrimination towards Christians in America seem a little whiny to me!

Could it come to death squads in America or Christians in Guantanamo?  That hardly seems likely, but then it was probably just as impossible an idea for the people of Germany in 1932 as well, the year before they brought the National Socialist German Workers Party into the government.

The privileged political status that Christianity has enjoyed throughout American history seems to be coming to an end.  Changing attitudes toward Christians by large numbers of other Americans has begun to make us afraid that someday it might not be that we can’t pray in public schools, but that anyone caught praying could be thrown into the lions’ den.

How are Christians to respond in the face of suffering or persecution?  This may become the most pressing conversation we can have in the next century.

Graciously, God used His Spirit to guide his servant Peter to write a little short letter to Christians who were facing some suffering, and in this first letter Peter elaborated perfectly God’s Way with suffering as a Christian.  Here are a few of the instructions that we American Christians may need to know someday!

  1. Why should Christians ever expect to suffer?  “  . . . you have had to suffer various trials so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed..” 1:7
  2.  How do Christians prepare for this time of suffering?  Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.. . . purify your souls “by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.”1:22
  3. How do Christians live among those who would persecute them?  Conduct yourselves honorably among the pagans, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge. 2:12
  4. What should your attitude be toward a government that oppresses Christians?  For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, 14 or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. 16 As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. 17 Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 2:13-17
  5. What should Christians do about employers who discriminate against them because of their faith? Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 2:18,19
  6. What should Christian wives do who suffer at the hands of their non-Christian husbands?  Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.3:1-2
  7. What does it look like when a Christian woman accepts the authority of her non-Christian husband? . . .  they [husbands] see the purity and reverence of your lives.  . . .  let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight.” 3:2-4
  8. What about husbands who might suffer with non-Christian wives?  In the same way, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. 3:7
  9. What about unmarried Christians, in fact, all Christians?  . . .  have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.3:8,9

Peter encourages these first century Christians then, not with the promise of release from suffering, but with a framework for it:

Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? 14 But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, 15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. 3:13-15a

It’s not that Christians can’t defend themselves; Peter says to be ready to defend yourself . . . but pay attention to what that means to him:

Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. 3:15b-17

I suspect these are hard words for American Christians—but were they any easier for those first century Christians in the middle of their persecution and suffering. Are we supposed to be more protected from suffering?

Peter’s conclusions drive this point home clearly!  The Word should speak into our hearts as well as it did theirs!

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief maker.16 Yet if any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name. . . . 19 Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good.

Did you know that traditionally Peter was crucified head-down for his faith?

When the world gets so upside down that God’s people suffer and die for doing good, no army, no vote, no march, no legislation, no petition, no guns, no talk shows are going to make things right again. 

No, Peter’s final word to us today tells us that only God can stop suffering—and He will!

Resist the Evil One, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. 10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.


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