Peter would not have made it in Marketing. Anyone with an eye for effective advertising would have pulled him aside for a talk when he wrote down the words, “So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too.” (1 Peter 4:1 NLT)
“Come on Peter,” they might have said, “ ‘Get ready to suffer!’ is a TERRIBLE slogan, you HAVE to change it.” Peter probably would have laughed - after all, he tried to pull Jesus aside for that kind of talk once too.
So what is Peter getting at? Is the Christian life just supposed to be a parade of misery? Some Christians in centuries past have certainly taken it that way. Entire monasteries were founded on the idea of using “bodily suffering” in order to become holy. Such groups would deprive their members of food, hit themselves with whips, or take vows of silence in order to alleviate their sin through pain and discomfort.
That isn’t what Peter is going for. Peter doesn’t tell his audience to seek out suffering, merely to be prepared for it. Suffering is part of living in a fallen world that is broken by the power of sin. Living in such a world will necessarily involve pain and unpleasantness, whether in the guise of persecution (as it was for Peter’s original readers), or through disease, grief, injury or any of a thousand different causes.
When I first started working as a teacher, we had a couple staff members who would spend the first 10 minutes of every staff meeting complaining that they “couldn’t believe” what this or that student had done this week. After about a month of this, I chimed in during the middle of the gripe session, “We are educators whose job is to teach and discipline children. If we are surprised by their misbehavior, then that says more about us than it does about them.”
The same logic applies here. As Christians, we of all people should know that this world is filled with suffering. After all, we are put here to be “salt and light;” we are sent into this world because it is fallen, flawed and run by the Enemy. If we are surprised by the fact that such a world can be uncomfortable for us to live in, that suggests that we’ve forgotten the job we were sent here to do.
Conveniently, Peter ends this section by reminding us what that job is: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Pet. 4:8 NIV). First, and most importantly, our duty as followers of Christ is to love as He loved. Though we will make mistakes, as long as we are motivated by our self-sacrificial love for our fellows, we will rarely be too far off the mark.
Secondly, Peter tells us, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others.” (1 Pet. 4:10 NIV) Once again, Christ has sent us here to continue His work and to be His hands and feet in the world. Our gifts are intended to help, to heal and to end the suffering of the world and the people in it.
How are you using your gifts? Are you motivated by love and concern for others? Or are you too distracted by suffering in this fallen world to get into the fight? Pray today that God will remind you of the job He sent you here to do - and show you where you can be of the most use.