“Suffering For The Gospel!”(1 Pt. 4:12-19).
We understand better a greater part of the biblical narratives when we become honest to recognise that they were not written for us. Such narratives were addressing specific contexts. We can only claim the stories for ourselves because they have universal undertones; thus they speak to our context.
Even when we claim the narrative to address our context it can only be done selectively.
For instance the stories about Abraham is about Abraham. It is neither your story nor mine. We can only claim it by seeing ourselves as Abraham.
In today’s text Peter directs his message to people who were historically persecuted for the sake of the gospel. In our time we can count the number of people who actually suffer for the sake of the gospel. But in his time Peter wrote the letter to console and restore the confidence of those who were suffering for the sake of the gospel in real time. Many lost their lives, but they refused to recant their confession that “Jesus is Lord!”
Maybe in our generation few people know what suffering for the gospel actually entails.
When criminals are punished for their crimes, they cannot say they are suffering. They deserve what comes to them.
However, we are living in a world where even in God’s name sadists take delight in seeing others gnash their teeth for crimes they did not commit. We live in a world where the pain of some is what brings joy to some. The more pain they inflict on others, the happier they become.
To those who suffer innocently for the sake of the gospel and for doing good and being good, Peter has these words: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear his name…”
Christian suffering is in God’s will. Moses’ long exile was in God’s will and also for his safety and protection. Again the exile was a time of his grooming. When the time was ripe God asked him to return to Egypt so as to lead in the liberation of Israel(Ex.4:19-23). In the same way when Herod died, Joseph was asked to leave Egypt and return to the land of Israel. Joseph’s brief asylum in Egypt was for the safety of the Messiah(Mt. 2:13-23).
Whatever travails it is that believers experience, it will be worst “for those who do not obey the gospel of God…”
“So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”
Sunday prayer: Holy Spirit give me the courage to endure under righteous suffering and not to give up on doing good. Amen!
Have a blessed first Sunday of the year 2024! Peace be with you!
Rev Babila Fochang.