Monday, September 14, 2015

Should Christians Suffer?

1 Peter 2:13-25

18 You who are slaves must submit to your masters with all respect. Do what they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel. 19 For God is pleased when, conscious of his will, you patiently endure unjust treatment. 20 Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you.

21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.

22 He never sinned,
nor ever deceived anyone.
23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted,
nor threaten revenge when he suffered.
He left his case in the hands of God,
who always judges fairly.
24 He personally carried our sins
in his body on the cross
so that we can be dead to sin
and live for what is right.
By his wounds
you are healed.
25 Once you were like sheep
who wandered away.
But now you have turned to your Shepherd,
the Guardian of your souls.

As Peter addresses the early church, part of the culture were what he calls "slaves". We must be careful to not read back into the word what we might understand from our version of it in the 20th century. In Peter's day, someone who had no opportunity for a job could sell themselves as a bond servant to a master. The master provided all he needed, and so he was better off than having nothing to eat, or no place to sleep. Some versions use the word "servant", others "bond servant", but the essential meaning of the word is someone who has given up all their rights to serve an earthly master.

But the question came up, "What if my master is cruel to me? Should I stay there?" But Peter tells them to remain with the master, not only to win him over to Christ, but to endure suffering. And then comes the key point. Peter points to Jesus, who not only endured suffering, but did nothing wrong to deserve it. He willingly suffered for two reasons. One, in obedience to His father leaving His case in His hands. Second, he suffered for you and me so our sins could be healed. And being dead to sin, we could use our newfound freedom to serve him.

What does this mean for us? While we should never seek out suffering, when it comes our way either justly or unjustly, we should ask, "God what are you teaching me in this? How are you making me a little bit more like Jesus through this trial?" In the end Peter would suffer for his faith in Jesus. And unlike in the garden where he denied Jesus three times, later after this he suffered unto death for the sake of His master and for the faith he proclaimed! Peter practiced what he preached. The question is will we also practice what we preach when suffering comes our way either deserved or not!

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