1 Peter 4:13-16
In this letter, Peter seems to be juxtaposing two words that seems to be completely incompatible: rejoicing and suffering. This strange combination is immediately followed by another: insult and blessing. But in reality, such paradoxical statements are part of Jesus’ own words, including one of his best-known teachings: To be blessed is to be the recipient of God’s kindness, even in the midst of insults, suffering, mourning or persecution.
Neither Jesus nor Peter are promoting self-imposed suffering! Rather, we should not shy away from it when it comes. We should not be cowards; when faced with adversity with those who wish to hurt us, we should stand tall against the trials and tribulations and not waver in our faith. Remember Jesus’ own suffering upon the cross, and remember that for Christ (as well as Christians), the other side of suffering is glory. We share not only in the suffering of Christ, but we also share in God’s glory: the radiance, splendor, magnificence, and weighty majesty of God. This is a glory we already experience, and which will be revealed fully in the future.
We might be tempted to ignore parts of Peter’s letter. (“I’m not a murderer or thief! This doesn’t apply to me!”) However, parts of this same letter are broader, and hits upon the more insidious ways we might be suffering or bringing suffering to others. An “evildoer” is someone who does harm or injury to himself, someone else, or even to our world. A “intriguer” could be a spy or informer, but more commonly could simply be someone who meddles in other people’s business. These terms, which Peter left vague on purpose, can be applied more accurately to some of the sins we commit even at this very moment. It is up to us, however, to decide if we truly repent for these sins.
In contrast to these forms of malignant suffering, those whose suffering is in Christ have no reason to be ashamed. Instead, through our suffering, we magnify the very glory of God.