He Suffered For Us, We May Suffer For Him, Be Like Him In That Suffering
Section 3.4 of 1 Peter (1 Peter 2:21-25)
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH;
and while being reviled, He did not revile in return;
while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;
and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness;
for by His wounds you were healed.
For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
Before beginning on this fourth sub-section of the third section of the First Letter of Peter, let us recall what was being discussed in the previous sub-section. The third sub-section utilized the servant/slave and master relationship as a model for how the Christian should behave among those who would slander and persecute them. In order to counter the claims of wrong-doing being made against them, in public they should display obedience to authority, following the just institutions of their time and culture “for the Lord’s sake.” They were to act as free people, but due to their servanthood to God, not because they were free to do evil. Servants were to obey even cruel master’s, “…for what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure?” We come now to the final verse that is important as it is a transition into this sub-section:
“But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.” (1 Peter 2:20).
We ended with Peter telling us that God finds favor in His people enduring suffering for doing what is right. Some may not quite grasp the point here, and when contrasting the previous statement with that verse, I hope you will be able to understand what is missing. Many suggest this to be a reason why God is not loving, for who would allow someone they love to suffer? That is to be left for another series of articles, but suffice it to say, even those we love we will allow to experience pain and suffering, if that pain and suffering we already know will only strengthen and embolden them. But here is what is being either avoided or simply overlooked due to the reader’s presuppositions,” …you patiently endure it.” This verse is not suggesting that we go out looking to suffer and feel pain in order to find favor with God. It is stating that when we are made to suffer for the Lord’s sake, for our faith, and we patiently endure it, we are demonstrating our faith, that is, our trust in God to carry us through. This leads us to naturally ask the question, “But why is it that I must suffer, why can I be kept away from suffering?” Now you can enter this sub-section from the proper context, let us dive in.
Throughout a great deal of this letter we are being told to do things that go against our nature. We have already been told that through our faith we have salvation through the grace of God and our faith in Jesus. We now know that because of that, we are a Holy nation, set apart for God as His own people. Because of these two realities, if we do truly have that faith and do truly accept that salvation, then there are certain behaviors which would naturally result and should be lived out. Those behaviors become a way of life that is drastically counter-cultural to those groups of people they have come out from, live among, and are being persecuted by. This makes people unsure and uneasy, and it is up to us to step up and show outwardly and publically who were truly are as children of God. We must set aside our old, worldly habits and live in obedience to God. We should not react to the slander, persecution, and hatred of those around us the same way we would have when we were lost. But why is this?
“For [we] have been called for this purpose…”
Okay, what purpose?
“…for [us] to follow in His steps…”
Why should I do that?
“…Christ also suffered for [us],” does it not make since that we should be willing to suffer for Him?
But what makes Him worthy of my suffering?
“…[He] WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH…” and if that is not enough, “…he Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross…” and “…by His wounds you were healed.”
Well, why did He do that?
“…so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness…”
Ok, well, how do I follow in his footsteps?
Take a look at His example, “…while being reviled, He did no revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously…”
So, servants, obey your masters even when they are cruel, for though you may suffer, you will be able to endure it through faith in the God who judges righteously. Your obedience will show rightly upon the nature of Christians, and will reflect positively on your brothers and will aid in lifting the way of the Christian life out of the darkness and into the light of the public eye. By doing this, that slander will be proven false, and the Gospel will be free to do its work in the hearts of those with ears to hear and eyes to see. This is a repeating theme and important focus of this letter, and of the Gospel itself. We suffer for Christ, just as Christ suffered for us. Who are we to act as though we are not worthy of punishment when God Himself took what we rightly deserved?
The final verse of this sub-section is another portion where it can be properly assumed that Peter is writing to Jewish believers. However, it is applicable to those Gentiles, lost, apart from God by their own maneuvers and choices. “…now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” This verse is more relatable to the last few subjects of the previous sentence, “…so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed…” The authors of the various texts of the Bible often utilized those terms and concepts that were common during their time, common to their culture, and connected to the ancient teachings. Utilizing the analogy of a Shepherd, and the care of the flock, was a regular form of referencing the Love of God, and how He works with His people. When the sheep stray, it is due to living the sinful lives of those around outside of the fold. When they return, they follow the Shepherd, and so long as they follow shepherd, they will be cared for. If they stray and turn away, there is nothing the shepherd can do for them. However, the Shepherd will always go out to find that lost sheep, and rejoice when it is found and brought back to the fold.
To be righteous is simply to live in right relationship with our God. It does not give us salvation. It is simply a term used to identify when someone is living in obedience to God, striving to fulfill His will. Though we all experience failure in this endeavor, it is the fact that we strive to repent, to seek forgiveness, and to try to make up for that failure that keeps us in righteousness with God. Not through our actions, but through our choice to have faith in God alone. That faith is made evident through our patience in enduring the trials and tribulations of this world without responding in kind. By staying true to the ways of God, we can overcome the slander and rumors spread by those who either do not understand us out of their own ignorance, or by those who do know us but strive to destroy us for their own gain. Always be on the alert, be obedient to our Lord, and remember that He suffered for us in ways we can hardly imagine, so too must we be willing to suffer for His sake, and patiently endure it.