Read 1 Peter 4
Peter is writing in a time of great persecution, but even in this, he tells his readers to “not be surprised” at the suffering that they are facing. In fact, other parts of Scripture tell us that, because we are following Christ, we can expect persecution and suffering. However, Peter wants to make a qualification here, clarifying the both why we suffer persecution as Christians and for what reason.
Part of suffering and persecution as Christians is participating in Christ’s sufferings. Jesus said that the world would hate His followers because it hated Him first. That said, Peter also wants the reader to make sure and understand that our sufferings, the persecution that we face, perhaps even the backlash from the world that we face, is happening to us because of the fact that we are Christ followers… not for other reasons.
This, I think, is an important distinction to make. Christians today are often seen complaining about this and that, things that are going on in the government and in our culture that are counter to what we believe to be morally right or Scripturally sound. Yet, when it comes down to it, not a lot of those things really “oppress” or “persecute” us.
What Peter is referring to here is the physical attacks that were happening to the Christian community during that time. The government and many other people were working to limit the spread of the Gospel through the persecution of the church. Peter makes sure to point out that it is for the Gospel that we should be suffering, not other reasons in our lives.
Nowadays, there is a number of ideological, cultural, and even personal things that we can stand up for and for which we could receive backlash. All of those, however, pale in comparison to the “honor” and “joy” we have to suffer for the Gospel.
Do you think that the church in North America “suffers” for the Gospel? Does society see the Gospel message as such a threat to us that they try to put us down and keep us under wraps? Or are they just going about their business, tuning out our complaints, not worried that we’re really going to make that much of a difference?