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Suffering for Being a Christian June 27, 2014

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 1 Peter 4:12-19.

Summary: Peter begins by exhorting his readers to acquaint their thoughts and hearts with suffering. Indeed, if they commune with Christ in suffering, then they will be filled with joy at His Second Coming; thus, they should rejoice. When they are taunted by unbelievers, they are blessed, since they have been anointed with the Spirit of Christ. Now the suffering that they should be acquainted with should not stem from their living in an impure and unholy way; instead, this suffering should stem from their communion with Christ. He asserts that believers will suffer before the Second Coming of Christ; after His Second Coming, though, unbelievers will suffer terribly. To support this point, he quotes from Proverbs 11:31, where it is stated that:

  • those who endeavor to walk uprightly in the ways of God will encounter great difficulties in the process
  • those who do not endeavor to walk in the ways of God will encounter even greater difficulties after they die.

Peter concludes by asserting that believers – who suffer according to God’s good pleasure – should place their souls in His safekeeping and follow His will in everything.

Thoughts: In verses 12 and 13, Peter states that the Christian life necessarily entails some degree of suffering. Leighton offers some thoughts on this point:

The ungodly world hates holiness, despising the Light. And the more the children of God walk like their Father and their future home, the more unlike they must be, of necessity, from the world around them. Therefore, they become the target of all the malice of their enemies. And thus the godly, though the sons of peace, are the occasion of much disturbance in the world.

Believers who live in nominally Christian nations such as the United States may have difficulty applying this passage to their context – compared to believers who live in nations where the political structure is directly opposed to Christianity. As a believer in a nominally Christian nation, I am thankful for the separation between church and state along with the freedom to practice my religion…yet I feel disadvantaged in that I wonder if this passage truly applies to me. Indeed, many of the New Testament epistles were written to believers who were enduring persecution. Now one might note that members of the Christian right can apply this passage to their context, as they have endured their fair share of insults and verbal assaults from those who oppose their views on issues such as gay marriage and abortion. Yet one might ask: has the Christian right truly acted in a “godly” way in advancing their agenda? Can a believer in a nominally “Christian” nation truly incur “all the malice of their enemies” by acting in a godly way?

In verses 14-16, Peter states that when believers suffer, their suffering should stem from their holy lives. Leighton offers some interesting thoughts on this point:

So what if you are poor, mocked, and despised? The end of all this is at hand. This is now your part, but the scene will be changed. Kings here, real ones, are in deepest reality mere stage kings. [If, as there is good reason to believe, these words were written soon after the battle of Worcester, September 3, 1651, they have a special significance, referring to the dethronement and tragic end of Charles I. – Editor’s note.] But when you are no longer the person you now are, how glorious will be the result. You appeared to be a fool for a moment, but you will truly be a king forever.

I was inspired to learn about the Battle of Worcester, and my research clarified that Charles II, not Charles I, was defeated at that decisive engagement. My research also revealed that Charles II opposed Presbyterianism in Scotland, implying that Leighton struggled under his reign. Thus, it can be inferred that Leighton applied this passage to his context, essentially stating that Charles II and his supporters persecuted him for living a holy life. Did God approve of Leighton’s thoughts in this regard? Since Charles II was a member of the Church of England, was Leighton making a legitimate application of Peter’s exhortations (i.e. could a conflict between two Christian denominations be viewed as an example of persecution)? Perhaps if Charles II was only a nominal Christian, then Leighton would have been justified in his application of this passage. I am eager to meet Leighton in the next life and probe him on this section of his commentary.

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