Note: This is the first of what will be three longer posts for this Saturday. I will post the next post Saturday evening at 8:00 pm and then the last past on Sunday Morning at 8:00 am. Hope you will continue to enjoy these posts on the Books of I and II Peter.
Suffering, Really I Have to Suffer
I Peter 3:13-22; I Peter 4:12-19
Let’s face it, the reality is that none of us like to suffer. Given the chance to go on a picnic in the rain or suffer, we would choose the picnic in the rain. Why the picnic in the rain, though uncomfortable, it is less painful emotionally, physically, and even spiritually than suffering.
Yet, Peter tells us in I Peter 2:21, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps.” Jumping ahead to a verse we haven’t looked at yet, Peter tell us in I Peter 5:10, “After you have suffered a little while . . . .” Does this mean I supposed to suffer? Christ died on the cross, does this mean I too need to die on a cross? The picnic in the rain is sounding better all the time. It may not be the most pleasant thing having our food getting wet with rain water, but at least I would not really be suffering.
Strangely the best pancakes I ever eat had been cooked over an open campfire on a rainy Sunday morning and eaten sitting at a rain soaked picnic table with the rain still falling.
Yet throughout all of I Peter we see this theme of suffering continue to come up. What is Peter saying.
Widening our vision and looking over other books in the New Testament we see in the book of Acts, that book on early church history points out several instances where early Christian believers were imprisoned, whipped, stoned and in some cases lost their lives, all for the name of Christ.
So naturally my question, the questions all Christians should ask is, “What does it mean to suffer?”
Nero, who ruled Rome from 54 – 68 CE used Christians as convenient scapegoats. Rome nearly burned to the ground and Christians became the easy scape goat because they didn’t believe in emperor worship. So, the natural reasoning of the time stated that since they didn’t believe in emperor worship, consequently they couldn’t possibility be loyal to the government if they refused bow down and worship the emperor. This resulted in the Christians in Rome and even in other parts of the Roman empire to suffer persecution. Yes, for the true historian I hope you will accept my simplified version of history. But the truth remains, the Christians were persecuted, unjustly accused for something they had no part of. Is this what it means to suffer for Christ’s sake?
Let’s put this in true perspective, for it was while Nero ruled Rome that both Paul and Peter were put to death as martyrs. Since we don’t use the term Martyr much anymore, let quickly define it. A Martyr is someone that is willing to give up all for the sake of Christ. A Martyr is someone willing loose, health, home, family, wealth and even life itself for Christ’s sake. Is this what it means to suffer?
There is one other factor, and I hesitate to make it but Christians were unpopular for another reason. That being that they were often associated with the Jews and the Jews were disliked. Not because they were a blessed people and that the Redeemer came from them, but because they were always trying to find a way to revolt against the government. They were always trying to fight for their freedom, freedom from Roman aggression.
Because both Christians and Jews worshipped on the Sabbath, they were lumped together into one large group. In truth, the Christians were not trying to revolt against the government, but instead were working toward the salvation of all people, including those within the government. But the Christians, like what often happens today when a group gets into trouble sometimes those loosely associated with that group often get sweep up into believing they too are at fault when they shouldn’t.
A long time ago when I was in High school, there was a group of kids that truly had no respect for the English teacher. They were my friends, I sat near them in class, would sometimes laugh when they pulled their stupid tricks on the teacher. When the long hand of the law came down against them, because I sat next to them, they were my friends, and I sometimes found their antics funny, I too became swept up and punished for something I really had no part of.
To this day I thank Miss Barr for stepping in and saying, “Yes he laughed at me, sat with them, but really didn’t participate in what the others were doing.” I still feel bad I didn’t do anything to help her.
In our next post we will continue to discover what it is like to suffer with Christ and in Christ.