June 24. I Peter 4:12-19
GRACE LESSONS: Let’s focus in on verse 16 for our grace lesson, today: “But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!” I can imagine good, upstanding citizens who were Christian feeling terribly embarrassed to be considered criminals in their time. Wouldn’t you and I feel weird if we were singled out as villains in our neighborhoods and towns? Peer pressure is a powerful thing and it sure is nice to be viewed as a good and respectable soul. Yet, these poor Christians, already displaced by the anger of Nero and the spread of persecution, have to face being viewed as terrible people when they are not. Peter assures them that not only is there no shame in being persecuted for following Christ, there is actually honor in it. It’s a privilege to be called by His Name. You and I are His. Let’s hold on to that with humbled joy, knowing that we received undeserved pardon and favor, GRACE, from the Lord Himself and let that carry us if we are ever falsely maligned for what we believe. (But let’s always remember that we are to share what we believe with gentleness and respect as we learned yesterday. No pride. No condemnation of those who don’t know Jesus and can’t possibly understand His ways unless they have His Spirit. Let’s be persecuted because we followed Him with kindness and gentleness and love, not because we were haughty and judgmental and harsh.)
OUR PASSAGE: Peter hits the subject of suffering head on in this passage. He makes a difference between suffering because we simply claim to follow our Jesus and suffering because of our own folly. Let’s look at verse 15: “If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs.” How fascinating that murder and prying are in the same list!! You see, if we let pride rear its ugly head in us and we start thinking we are “so much better than them” because we know God’s laws, we can actually push non-believers further away from knowing Christ by our anger and disdain for them. We have to realize that until someone knows Christ, the things He calls us to do seem foolish. We need to remember who we would be without His saving grace and lead them to God as God does us. Read this verse in Jeremiah 31:3: “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” If God drew His people with unfailing kindness … shouldn’t we?
My verse: I Peter 4:13 “Instead be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.”
My response: This reminds me of Paul’s similar thoughts in Philippians 3:10 where he talks about the “fellowship of sharing in his suffering.” I’m picturing a group of friends climbing a difficult mountain together. Standing at the top—after all the blood, sweat and tears to get there—cements a bond between those friends that’s different from any other. When I suffer for my faith, I am a part of the suffering fellowship of those who chose God no matter the personal cost. It’s an honor to be part of that fellowship.