If you asked a dozen people why they have been called to be Christians, what do you think would be their answers? My guess is they would be variations on these:
“To know that I will go to heaven when I die.”
“To make the world a better place.”
“To have my sins forgiven.”
“To spread the good news of the gospel.”
“To be a good example to my children.”
“I don’t know, exactly.”
“To lead a clean life.”
“To help other people become Christians and follow God.”
All fine and good. All may be outgrowths of a faith and trust placed in the atoning sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, the apostle Peter told fellow Christians in what is modern-day Turkey that believers are called for a distinct purpose, and it sounds nothing like those above.
A Christian is called to suffer for doing what is right.
In his letter to believers, Peter urges them to submit to every type of human authority with respect. Even slaves to their slavemasters. Even when the slavemasters are unfair, unjust and abusive.
“For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called … ” (I Peter 2:20-21a)
Peter then delivers the reason for responding with respect to unjust treatment: ” … because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” (vs. 21)
He goes on to outline how Jesus modeled this for us.
“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.” (vs. 23)
When you share the gospel with someone, understand you will face all kinds of reactions. Be respectful of them all, even when they are hostile.
When you vote against abortion or proclaim God’s view of sexual sin, don’t be surprised when the world wants to punish you.
When you turn down friends who try to get you to see a raunchy movie, indulge in drinking alcohol or attend the wrong kind of party, you will be ridiculed and possibly shunned by those so-called friends.
When you stand for righteousness in millions of ways, big and small, expect to face consequences from a world system arrayed against Godly thinking. And face those consequences with respect, Peter says.
Sounds difficult. Sounds harsh. Sounds like a recipe for a miserable life. Not so, says none other than Jesus Christ himself. In His Sermon on the Mount, as the account in Matthew 5 is known, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The word for “blessed” can also be translated as “happy.”
When persecution comes, dear Christian, be happy that you do not react as the world does, with anger, hatred and pride-filled bitterness. Instead, take joy in God’s prescription, which brings:
• Fulfillment of your calling.
For in this way, you delight God. In this way, you truly experience the hope and peace that is unattainable by any other means.
“Those who persevere in faith while suffering persecution should be full of hope, for they certainly enjoy end-time salvation since they are already enjoying God’s saving promises here and now through the death and resurrection of Christ,” writes Bible scholar Wayne Grudem.
“Just as Christ suffered and then entered into glory, so too his followers will suffer before being exalted.”