This last Sunday in our series through 1 Peter, we read encouraging words originally given to first-century Christians suffering through the religious persecution of their day, all for following Christ and reflecting his goodness in their daily living. For us today, while we might not be facing the same kind of severe persecution, we are, nonetheless, familiar with mild jabs like being ridiculed for the faith. But the novel coronavirus has brought new experiences to Christians here in the States—experiences that align very well with what Peter is addressing in this section of his letter.
He’s been talking to us about suffering for being doers of good, and I think the current pandemic has allowed us to get a small taste of this kind of suffering. As God’s people today have committed to the good work of worshiping the Lord and gathering as God’s people, there has been major backlash against these essential aspects of Christian living; we cannot deny the threats churches have experienced in current events.
Hopefully, this all serves to whet our appetites more and more for the Lord—to crave our heavenly homeland and to long for Jesus and his kingdom—because this world will always be hostile—to one degree or another—against followers of Christ. Especially when the good we do is maliciously framed as evil or wrong. When the good work of protecting human life, for example, is misconstrued as antagonism against women. Or when the good work of public prayer is condemned as an offensive act. There is very real anger against Christians in this world, just because they are doers of good.
Certainly, this is to be expected. Jesus himself experienced this in his own earthly life. On one occasion, after healing a man with a shriveled hand on a Sabbath, the religious leaders of his day couldn’t stand it, and they began to plot how they might kill him. In the narrative, Jesus even asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4). Of course, his accusers remained silent, but they wrongly thought the good he did was evil, just because the healing occurred on a day of rest. As those who follow Jesus today, we’re to expect these kinds of reactions against us, as well. Isaiah 5:20 points to this: in any culture, there will always be people “who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.”
This is what Peter has been encouraging us through in this section of his letter. As we saw last week, if we ever suffer for doing good, we are blessed. And because God is the one we reverently fear, we are spiritually empowered to live courageously, without fear of those who might be angered by the good we do. Peter is encouraging us to keep doing good, no matter the threats and no matter the potential consequences. And this week, he gives us one more great motive to continue being doers of good in the face of persecution and opposition: God’s vindication.
Notice Peter’s words in 1 Peter 3:18: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit” (emphasis mine). As Peter once again raises the example of Jesus’ suffering in his earthly ministry, he also points us to what happened after his suffering. Just a few verses later, in 1 Peter 3:22, he reminds us that Jesus, after suffering, “has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him” (again, emphasis mine). Peter’s entire focus here is on what happened following Jesus’ suffering: his resurrection, ascension, and victorious exaltation over all creation. Of course, our Lord suffered greatly, and we don’t gloss over that. But after his suffering and his death, our heavenly Father vindicated him!
The great encouragement here is how we relate to Jesus in all of this, for just as Jesus was vindicated, we can be assured God will one day vindicate us, too. Notice the pattern: Jesus suffered innocently and died, but God raised him in power and vindicated him. So it is with us. Though we might suffer at the hands of God’s enemies, God will one day raise us by his power and he will vindicate us, as well. The Apostle Paul gives us the same assurance: we “share in [Jesus’] sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:17, emphasis mine).
My dear New Life Family: stay the course! Persist in doing good and leave room for God’s vindication. Even if the world would ever direct its hostility against you and falsely accuse you as an evildoer, continue being a doer of good, for all the good you do in Christ’s name is never done in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
God has vindicated Jesus, and we can be sure that one day he will vindicate us, too. And because our God is a God of vindication, we can exchange our sorrows in suffering for the joy of the Lord, knowing that our living Christ has overcome sin and death for us. We can also stay the course, empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue being doers of good, no matter the threats against us.
May the glorious assurance of God’s vindication sustain us with God’s joy and endurance.
With love for you in Christ,