Actions and Attitudes toward Suffering

Peter’s audience was well acquainted with suffering. They were a minority population with few rights in a hostile environment.

It can be assumed that they faced varying levels of persecution, even if its specific nature was not mentioned.

Peter outlined various attitudes and actions followers of Jesus can take when faced with suffering, persecution, and oppression.

Don’t be Surprised.

Peter’s first instruction is that followers of Jesus should not be surprised when they encounter suffering, persecution, and oppression.

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 (1 Peter 4.12).

It is natural to try to avoid suffering, but we should recognize that suffering is part of life.

If we live long enough, we’re going to suffer. That is something we should recognize and be prepared to experience in a Spirit-led manner.

Intense persecution or a “fiery ordeal” is not the general experience of American Christians. That is not the case in other places in the world.

No matter the reason for suffering, we should anticipate it and ask God to help us when it occurs.

Rejoice in Suffering

I listened to a news story yesterday about an Orthodox priest, who conducts funerals for Ukrainian soldiers. Ten funerals are his daily average.

On one occasion, I conducted two funerals on the same day. It wore me out. I can’t imagine officiating 10 funerals every day for weeks on end.

The priest, soldiers, and families have to wrestle with Peter’s next verse on suffering.

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 (1 Peter 4.13).

I have found suffering to be a sort of “holy ground” in life. No matter the cause of suffering, each person will have to find God’s peace in the midst of it.

When Disparaged and Vilified

Christians in the workplace experience being disparaged or denounced by coworkers. New Christians are often the butt of jokes by the old crowd they were a part of.

Shirley Burdick, a dynamic Chinese Christian, learned that her grandfather was paraded through the village where he was a pastor so the community could throw rocks at him.

Shirley’s grandfather was shielded from the rocks by his congregation, who walked at his side.

Peter explained why such treatment as this is blessed.

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 (1 Peter 4.14).

Whether it is coarse jesting at work or being stoned for your faith, we can rely on the Holy Spirit to get us through.

The Spirit will rest on us during such times, giving us the correct response to unfair treatment.

Shame as a Weapon

Shame was a major weapon in the ancient world. In Greco-Roman society, people went to great lengths to prop up their reputations.

It was a common practice to pay people to come to your house and loudly declare your wonderful attributes.

On the other hand, to suffer shame was greater than losing money in the ancient world.

Christians today run the risk of being disrespected at work or among old friends for their faith.

Peter’s message about shame is appropriate for all levels of shame that may come to a follower of Jesus.

But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief maker.

Yet if any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name (1 Peter 1.15-16).

There are some instances where Christians should be ashamed. Their behavior has brought shame to the name of Christ and his church.

There are other times when we should hold our heads up high. If we suffer because we are identified with Christ, praise God.

Sweep In Front of Your Own Door

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of all of the talk. It seems that everyone is offended and has a grievance toward some perceived wrong.

This sentiment has not escaped the church. What are we to do?

In effect, Peter says that it is time for the church to sweep in front of its own door.

For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (1 Peter 4.17-18)

Jesus talked about “speck inspectors” who can see the problem in a person’s life but neglect their own personal glaring defect (a log). See Matthew 7.1-5).

Jesus always has it right and his instruction here is no exception.

“First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye” (verse 5).

Peter’s Summary

Suffering, persecution, and oppression are very troubling experiences in life. We can be sure that Peter didn’t take them lightly.

Like the previous verses, his final note on this matter must be approached with reverent seriousness.

Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God’s will entrust their lives to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good (1 Peter 4.19).

YouTube Video

Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on YouTube today. It can be found on the Bob Spradling channel.

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