Summary: We look now at a passage, which is startling in both its sobering and exalted view of Christian suffering.
We look now at a passage, which is startling in both its sobering and exalted view of Christian suffering. Recall once more the context of the letter. The Christians of the scattered churches in northern Asia Minor are facing trials placed on them by their neighbors. Some form of persecution is taking place. Slander is one, and it probably leads to other consequences. Slaves are being beaten. Wives are probably being abused in some way. They are all being ostracized in society and being harassed in various ways.
And these troubles are taking place precisely because they have become Christians. While their new moral lifestyle offends their old partying neighbors, their new religion offends everyone’s conventional religious sensibilities. They don’t fit in anymore. They’re suspect. They irritate the partiers, shock the religious, and arouse the suspicions of the authorities, and all because they embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let’s see what Peter has to tell them and us.
First, he tells them not to be surprised: 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.
There is a bit of irony here. Peter had noted back in verse 4 how the nonChristian neighbors thought it was strange that the Christians did not join them in their sinful activities. Now the Christians are thinking it strange that they should suffer for not joining in. “Something’s wrong here. We leave behind the lifestyle that offends God, and we get suffering in return. What gives?”
They are offending their neighbors; that’s what gives. The partiers think they are judgmental and self-righteous since they won’t join with them anymore. The religious think they are sacrilegious since they reject the old ways, and that they are intolerant since they won’t try to assimilate their practices with the other religions. And the authorities are suspicious of them since they won’t turn their religion into a good civil religion that endorses the government.
Peter had already heard the explanation from Jesus. The night before he died, he told his disciples: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you (John 15:18-19). Why expect to be treated differently than Jesus?
Indeed, being treated in the same manner as was Jesus, far being a cause for alarm, should be a cause for rejoicing: 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
This is an important insight that Peter is giving and essential to being able to find joy in the midst of suffering. In our sufferings for Christ, we participate in the sufferings of Christ. In our sufferings we are given the privilege of identifying with Christ in the suffering he underwent for our salvation. He gives us the honor of being fellow participants with him. As we identify with him in his sufferings, how much more will we rejoice at the time his glory is revealed and we share in his glory!