A man storms down to the front desk of the hotel and demands to speak to a manager. When the manager arrives, the man immediately begins listing off a litany of complaints about his room: “All the TVs are so high on the wall you have to be standing to see them, the furniture is uncomfortably hard, there’s no bed and worst of all there are five other people he doesn’t know already there! I demand a refund!”
The manager replies, “Sir, that was the gym. Your room is on the third floor.”
As I mentioned in the introduction, this letter is written during the first great persecution of the church under Emperor Nero. But I would hardly blame you if you couldn’t guess that by reading it. Peter’s letter is surprisingly upbeat - he begins by praising and thanking God for the gift of our salvation, and then talks about how we should be rejoicing even though we have to “face some trials.” What is going on here? How can Peter be so… calm even as he talks about persecution killing hundreds? Where is his anger and indignation?
And it's not just Peter - Paul writes something similar in Philippians 4:4 as he sits in prison: “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice!” (NIV) In fact all the New Testament authors - men who endured beatings, imprisonment and torture for their faith - seem to brush it off as if it were nothing. Were they masochists? Are they just putting on a brave face? How did they endure horrible suffering with a smile when I can barely make it through an hour in traffic without losing my mind?
As in so many things, I think what makes the difference is perspective. CS Lewis said, “If you think of this world as a place simply intended for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place for training and correction and it's not so bad.” (Answers to Questions on Christianity). The reason Peter, Paul and the rest dealt with hardship so well is that they expected it. They didn’t think of this world as their home - a place of comfort and security where you can put down roots. Their master told them that “in this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33 NIV) and they believed Him.
For Christians sincerely seeking to follow Christ, the fallen world will never be a place of comfort. We are in territory occupied by the enemy; run by his rules. Injustice is everywhere, hatred is around every corner, and those in power abuse it without a second thought. If we feel out of place, if we feel like we don’t belong, that’s because we don’t. In fact, it is when you start feeling like you you DO belong - that this world makes sense to you - that you should start to worry.
We are not sent into the world as tourists on vacation, but as soldiers on campaign. If you keep that mind, you’ll find that the mission isn’t so bad - we have good company, ample provisions, and plenty of downtime for recreation. And best of all? The King has already won the decisive battle.
Have you forgotten where your real home is? Do you struggle to keep the mission in mind? Pray today for a better perspective - and a reminder that this world, for all its pleasures, is not your home.