Sojourn: Toward an Enduring City
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright (c)2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. http://www.esv.org
As we worshiped together on Sunday, we considered Peter’s call to remain faithful to Christ even if it means suffering for our faith. The call to embrace suffering is a countercultural word in a time when comfort and security are top priorities. But in Peter’s own life, we witness a remarkable transformation of his own theology of suffering. We can draw great encouragement from the work of God in Peter’s life, that he could go from a man who rejected Jesus’ plan to suffer to a man who honored Jesus in suffering. What changed? How did Peter go from a man who took up his sword to a man who took up his cross?
Above all, Peter came to understand the significance of Christ’s sufferings in his own life. The death of Christ went from a repulsive idea that conflicted with Peter’s messianic expectations to a life-giving, sin-conquering, world-changing event that transformed Peter’s identity. Peter had a front row seat for the suffering of His Savior, and while he watched the heart-wrenching events unfold, Peter failed repeatedly in denying his Lord. After His resurrection, Jesus pursued Peter. And the man who once counted on his strength and bravado now found his hope in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we read Acts, we can see that Peter and the apostles, full of the Holy Spirit, have been radically transformed. They know that Christ has triumphed through suffering, and they rejoice to share in His sufferings and share in His victory. A humble boldness is born.
Beyond grasping the power of Christ’s sufferings in his own life, Peter surely saw how the Lord used His suffering church to spread the gospel. The sword was a failed strategy, an attempt to fight the Lord’s battles with the world's weapons. The glory of a suffering Savior would be best reflected in a suffering church. As the church suffered, her sufferings would not have the power to save anyone, but the Lord would use His suffering people to point to the worth of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. When the world saw men and women who were willing to suffer (and even die) for sinners, people would ask, “What kind of love is this?” And the church could answer, “We love because He first loved us.”
Where does our theology of suffering need to change? If we’re not taking up the sword, are we running away from the fight? Have we grasped the significance of Christ’s sufferings in our own life? Can we find in His humiliation the power to remain humble when we feel tempted to fight back? And can we find in His exaltation the power to be courageous when we feel tempted to run away? Brothers and sisters, remaining faithful to Christ in the midst of difficulty is an opportunity to show the world the power of God’s love that triumphs through suffering. What if it has been granted to us, not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake (Philippians 1:29)?