Right before Peter wraps up his letter he spends a little more time talking about what it means to suffer as a Christian. Suffering and hints of suffering are found throughout First Peter. This is one of those instances where he deals with it directly. When you choose to follow Jesus you are choosing a path that runs against the grain. When you choose that expect friction. Don’t be surprised by it when it happens.
“12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.“
Peter says these things are happening to test them (4:12). What do you think he means by that? Is this some kind of divine trick as if we are pawn in a cosmic game of chess? I don’t think that is the case. Persecution is not from God but from the world. The way we respond to suffering can show the genuineness of our faith. I don’t think this is a test God imposes upon us as much as it is the nature of the outcome of suffering itself. Those who are faithful will endure and those who are nominal probably will not.
When you become a Christian you start by dying. We see this in Luke when Jesus says those who follow him must take up their cross. We also see this in Paul’s baptismal theology in Romans 6. When you become a Christian you die to certain things. This is the rhythm of our faith – dying and rising, dying and rising. We come to expect it.
Next Peter addresses what Dave Ramsey calls “Stupid tax.” Don’t claim to suffer for Christ if your suffering is because you were an idiot. Suffer for doing what is right and don’t try to co-opt the cause of Christ onto your suffering if your suffering is the natural consequence of bad behavior.
All of this points to our commitment. I don’t mean that in terms of faithfulness, although that would result. Instead I am talking about 4:19 where we commit ourselves to God in the suffering. We entrust ourselves to His care. We trust that God will do whatever needs to be done to his children who are suffering as a direct result of their faith. It is hard to entrust yourself to the power and control of another person when you are in physical, emotional and spiritual pain but that is what we are to do and we are to do it with God, “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (4:19).
Last we continue to do good. Our doing good is not contingent upon the quality of our life, the presence of pain and suffering or anything else. We do what is right and good because it is right and good. We talk about unconditional love. Maybe we should talk about unconditional good-doing. Keep on doing good, no matter what. This is a part of our faithful response to suffering. And with all of this we keep in mind that Jesus went through it first and most severely. We glorify him when we endure these things faithfully.
How have you suffered for your faith?