Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. – 1 Peter 1:13-21 (ESV)
Suffering for your faith is hard. We have all been inspired by our brothers and sisters who have been willing suffer greatly, or even to lay down their lives, for the cause of Christ and His gospel. Yet, perhaps we have allowed slogans such as “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” too roll to easily off our tongues. Often such sentiments are expressed most easily by those who have never spent a night in jail or been beaten for their faith. The truth is, suffering for your faith is hard. Today’s passage draws our attention to a rarely contemplated truth: Jesus gave us a pattern to show us how we are to suffer for the faith. While Christ’s pattern of suffering would repay detailed study, there are four main points of application from His example for modern Christians:
- Jesus didn’t seek to suffer. In the early Church, and occasionally throughout history, there have been those who have actually pursued suffering in Christ’s name. Perhaps they did this simply out of bad theology or perhaps they did so out of the hope that their willingness to suffer would mark them out as particularly devoted followers of Jesus. In either case, such actions are unbiblical. Christ Himself did not seek to suffer.
- Jesus sought to avoid suffering. We often focus on the end of Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane where He prayed “nevertheless, not My will but Thy will be done.” We should focus on this. Yet, we shouldn’t miss the fact that Jesus, who was the only perfect man, also prayed “If it is possible, remove this cup from me.” Rather than reflecting cowardice, this is precisely what the Law requires. Q/A 135 of the Larger Catechism begins: “The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others …” For some reason, many Christians miss this and think there is something selfish about looking out for your own well being when in fact it is your duty to do so.
- Jesus chose pleasing His Father over avoiding suffering. While avoiding harm to ourselves is a duty it is not our ultimate duty. If we seek to fulfill the two great commandments of loving God and loving our neighbors this will inevitably involve at least some suffering. Yet, suffering should only be the necessary side effect of trying to please our Father in a fallen and sin filled world. Suffering should never be pursued for its own sake.
- Jesus endured suffering by entrusting Himself to His Father. “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” If we must suffer for the gospel, it is a wonderful encouragement to remember that we are in God’s hands and that He will ultimately vindicate us completely while using our suffering for His glory and for the good of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 62
Q. 62. What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment?
A. The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment are, God’s allowing us six days of the week for our own employments, his challenging a special propriety in the seventh, his own example, and his blessing the sabbath day.