Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 28, 2017
1 Peter 4:16
Suffer as a Christian
In the name of the Father and of the ☩ Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
I. Suffering because of me
Much, if not most, of the pain and suffering we endure is our own fault. And a lot of this self-inflicted pain and suffering is done intentionally by us. This means that we know what is wrong, but we do it anyway. This is what St. Paul meant when he wrote:
For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
ROMANS 7:19 NIV
We know they are evil, but we so often end up doing them anyway. And we hurt ourselves and others that we never dreamed of hurting, and above all, we dishonor Jesus. The evil that we don't want to do is what Peter wrote about in his first letter:
If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.
1 PETER 4:15 NIV
We might try to dance around his warning with a trite, “Well, I’m not a murderer or thief. I’m not a criminal—I’ve never been in trouble with the law. And I’m not a meddler; I stay out of other people’s business.” If we take this approach to Peter’s words, we are wrong. Jesus said that anger is as evil as murder:
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother will be subject to judgment.
MATTHEW 5:21-22 NIV
Jesus, God and the Judge of all, regards hatred and anger and murder as one evil thing. And we certainly are guilty of hatred and anger, both letting our anger rage and fly (losing our temper) and holding onto hatred and packing it deep inside ourselves (holding grudges).
Same with thievery and meddling: we steal from God in how we use our money. We treat our money as though it were actually ours, and not the way it truly is, on loan from the Lord Jesus to use for our daily bread and for the good of others. As to meddling, we have talked behind the backs of others to harm them, and not to build them up. We have listened to gossip and chosen not to defend the person being trashed.
So we are guilty, guilty of all of it. To pretend otherwise is to despise Christ and His holy law. So we say: “I am guilty, Lord. I have sinned.” And we also say: “Have mercy on me, a sinner! Treat me the opposite of how I deserve! Give me Your life instead of the death I have earned! Be kind to me and speak gently to me!”
And His answer is always the same: “Yes, I forgive You. Because of My blood and death, I will not hold Your murder, thievery, and meddling against you. I will give you life in the name of My Father and Me and My Spirit!”
II. Suffering because of Him
He makes and keeps you as His Christian. And while our suffering won’t stop there, our suffering will change.
By faith in Christ we now suffer because we wonder why we still suffer. The difference is subtle, but vital.
Unbelievers suffer for their murdering, thievery, and meddling, like us, but their misery only goes to the tips of their noses. They curse fate or chance or humanity or the government or their family for their predicament.
On the other hand, believers suffer because we struggle to see how it could possibly be any good that Jesus still leaves us here on earth. We suffer, wondering if Jesus really loves us since He is allowing us to dangle in our lowliness. We suffer, thinking that if we are still messing up and sinning, we must not really be Christians. The Devil delights in accusing us with these questions, and he leads us into suffering, hoping that the last thing we will do is resist him by:
Cast[ing] all your anxiety on [Jesus] because He cares for you.
1 PETER 5:7 NIV
Suffering is part of the Christian life. We might even say: “No suffering, no Christian.” To be clear, we don’t go looking for suffering as though the most miserable person is the most loved by Christ. But suffering will find us, and when it does, we hold on to Jesus and the name He put on us in Baptism.
The suffering Peter mentioned in his letter is in the context of actual physical persecution, in his days being crucified or burned in Rome or stoned or flogged in Jerusalem simply because you confessed Christ the Savior, or in our day men, women, and children being machine gunned on a bus in Egypt.
Our time and place is different. No one is killing our children, but many are trying to drag them into the worship of happiness at any cost. No one is trying crucified you, but we are surrounded by a business culture and co-workers that will kowtow to any lie, no matter how perverted or ridiculous.
And so we suffer, from within and without, for the name of Jesus. And when His glory is revealed when He returns to the earth—we pray sometime today—He will lift us up from our troubles and bring us into His everlasting peace, where where only the truth is sung and death and pain and suffering will be a distant memory, if not completely forgotten. Godspeed the day!
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many, for you! Alleluia! Amen!