Reader: “Since Christ suffered physical pain,”
Response: “you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had.”
Scripture: I Peter 4:1-6
So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.
Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you. But remember that they will have to face God, who stands ready to judge everyone, both the living and the dead. That is why the Good News was preached to those who are now dead—so although they were destined to die like all people, they now live forever with God in the Spirit.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
Peter wrote this letter around 60 AD, most likely from Rome. Hostile persecution against Christians was rising. Peter’s letter is also true about the world in which we live. Though in the United States the level is not yet to the intensity of Nero’s persecutions, there are very hostile attacks on Christians in other parts of the world to be sure. There are places where it is life-threatening to declare one’s Christian faith. Peter assured his readers that suffering was normal for the life of a believer and that we should expect such, since Christ also suffered physically. While suffering can embitter and harden the heart, it is one of the primary ways of purifying the soul. How so? The life of a Christian is counter-cultural; we are swimming against the current. That kind of life is irritating and convicting to those going with the flow. For one thing, it proves to them that one doesn’t have to embrace the popular trend or practice. A Christian way of living removes a convenient excuse, “Well, everybody is doing it.” In a culture of people with darkened minds, the Christian life makes little sense to them. Another “benefit” to the suffering soul, is that when you suffer for or from something, my guess is that you talk with the Lord much more frequently than you do when things are going smoothly. I’m always amazed that in times of great stress, like this COVID-19 problem, people who normally are down on Christians, talk about keeping “those who are suffering in our thoughts and prayers,” especially when such words come from the media! When things get bad, we must talk to God! On the nobler side of things, suffering can bring us into closer fellowship with Christ, since he also suffered. Our response to our own suffering can be a powerful reflection of Christ living in us and bring glory to God. Observing a person of faith enduring suffering with grace, humility, and love is a powerful, disarming and inspiring witness to the grace of God. Peter writes that the day is coming when God will judge everyone with reward and punishment. Pain and suffering do not last forever. Jesus made sure of that. While we can do nothing in regard to our suffering to make it go away immediately, Christ chose to suffer on our behalf and he could have avoided his suffering yet did not out of love for his brothers and sisters and to identify with humanity to the uttermost. Hebrews reminds us that “Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.” Heb.2:18. One of the powerful truths of the Incarnation is that Jesus was fully human. Our Savior is not distant from anything you or I go through. Earlier in this letter Peter wrote, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” (1:16) It would appear that suffering is one of the primary paths to holiness. The end of it all is glorious!
Music: “It is Well with My Soul” Wartburg College Choir
You are love, and you see all the suffering, injustice, and misery, which reign in this world. Have pity, we implore you, on the work of your hands. Look mercifully on the poor, the oppressed, and all who are heavy laden with error, labour and sorrow. Fill our hearts with deep compassion for those who suffer, and hasten the coming of your kingdom of justice and truth. ―Eugene Bersier, 1831-1889, from Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers, p.80