Summary: Stick With the Good Shepherd 1) Because his pain is our gain 2) Even when our gain brings pain
“No pain, no gain.” That saying is true isn’t it? If you want to get your muscles into shape, you’ll need to work them to the point of exhaustion. That will cause some pain in the manner of sore muscles the day after your workout. Wouldn’t it be great if someone else’s pain could be your gain? What if instead having to spend an hour at the gym straining to lift weights and pounding the treadmill to get in shape, you could send someone else to the gym to sweat on your behalf and for your benefit? Their pain would become your gain: bigger muscles and a stronger heart without any effort on your part. Of course it doesn’t work that way. If you want to get stronger, then you and no one else will have to hit the weights. No pain, no gain.
When it comes to spiritual matters, however, the Apostle Peter says that gain is possible without pain. How? Because of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Today Peter will encourage us to stick with the Good Shepherd because his pain is our gain. And even though that gain will paradoxically bring pain in this life, we still have good reasons to stick with the Good Shepherd and not wander off on our own when the going gets tough.
Our sermon text was originally addressed to Christians who were slaves. Contrary to what we might expect, Peter doesn’t urge the slaves to rise up and rebel against their masters. Instead he encourages them to serve their masters well, even the means ones, and in this way let their light shine as Christians. Peter writes: “18 Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God” (1 Peter 2:18, 19).
While none of us are slaves we all are under the authority of others. If Peter were writing this letter to our congregation, he may have encouraged us to submit to our boss at work, even if that individual is harsh. Or he may have said: “Honor your parents, even when they’ve given the bigger piece of pie to little brother.” You see, anyone can work for a kind and generous boss; it takes a Christian, however, to work cheerfully for a mean one. And anyone can honor Mom and Dad when they’re driving us to Dairy Queen for ice cream but what about when they’re “dragging” us to music lessons?
When I read this section of Scripture I was quick to pat myself on the back when I thought of the summer I worked for Bob. I had to chauffer my boss around Milwaukee but since it was my first time driving around that city I had no idea where I was going. Instead of simply giving me directions, my boss often berated me for being so stupid for not knowing the way. But I never yelled back at him. I think I even kept smiling while he made fun of me. OK, so I may not have outwardly showed that I was fuming but inwardly I was. And while I may never have said anything mean and nasty to him, I did complain about him when I returned home from work. And that was not OK. Peter makes that clear when he writes: “21 To this [submitting yourselves to your masters with all respect] you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:21-23).
We are to be like Jesus in the way we handle those who cut in front of us at the ATM, who are never satisfied with our work, who pick on us at school, or who blame us for their mistakes and sins. Yes, such people are harsh and mean. But how did Jesus handle such people? He didn’t curse those who crucified him; he offered words of forgiveness just as Stephen did in our first lesson when he was being stoned to death. That doesn’t mean that Jesus excused the sins committed against him. He simply did not take the matter of vengeance into his hands. As the perfect believer Jesus knew that revenge belongs to God. In the same way we are to commend ourselves to God when we are unjustly harassed or punished. We don’t need to demand or try to carry out justice on our own; God will do this for us in his time and in his way. It comes down to a matter of faith doesn’t it? God wants us to trust him that by not retaliating when wronged we’re not showing ourselves to be weak or a doormat that others can walk all over; we’re showing ourselves to be his children who look to him for protection.