This Sunday, I get the privilege of preaching for my friend, Joel Acevedo. He is the minister of the Hispanic congregation of Briarwood Presbyterian Church who has been leading his people through the book of 1 Peter. They have been working through the topic of Christ and Suffering.
In studying for my upcoming sermon, I became reacquainted with the following quote from Dr. Scot McKnight:
Suffering, while it may not be as much a part of the everyday fabric of our lives as it was when Peter was writing, should probably be more a part of our lives than it is.
The contrast between the Christian community’s belief in the Gospel as well as its commitment to holy living and our culture’s unbelief in the Gospel and its permissiveness ought to generate more sparks than it does.
I contend that one of the reasons there are so few sparks is because the fires of commitment and unswerving confession of the truth of the gospel are too frequently set on low flame, as if the church grows best if it only simmers rather than boils.
I believe McKnight is correct. We, who make up a Christ’s family, ought to be:
- Kind — We should live at peace with those in the neighborhood.
- Humble — We should serve our neighbors.
- Winsome — We should be salty neighbors adding taste to our cities.
- Submissive — We should honor the authorities set in place by God.
- Worshipful — We should humbly and happily practice holiness.
- Blessed — We should enjoy the gracious consequences of walking wisely.
- Teaching — We should actively share God’s Word in words and deeds.
- Gracious — We should seek to win arguments and antagonists.
- Distinct — We should look and sound different than our neighbors.
- Suffering — We should expect persecution being associated with Christ.
Now friends, I am not encouraging us to seek out suffering. We are not to find the pool of persecution and dive in head-first. Suffering does not always equate to God’s favor, and it does nothing to make us more beloved in our Father’s sight. In addition, there are many “peculiar” cultists and fundamentalists who suffer, not on account of Christ’s righteousness, cause, or name, but based upon some fanatical practice which they hold. We are not to be odd Christian masochists who seek out weirdness and pain as proof of our divine acceptability. (Peculiar is not a good translation of the Greek Text in 1 Peter 2:9)
However, recognizing our Savior knows of that which he speaks, let us recognize that some measure of suffering and persecution is surely to come knocking. Though Jesus was the most kind, loving, tender, and gracious, trouble followed him wherever he ministered. According to our Master’s lectures, he and his teaching would be the reason why many families and communities would be divided. Persecution was the promised lot of his disciples and all who followed their leadership, and the Bible is filled with their tales of tribulation and tears. Yes, those seeking to sow the most love are destined to reap suffering — so says Jesus. Therefore, while we seek not to cause trouble, let us not be surprised when trouble comes calling.
But now, let us ask ourselves a tough question, “Why do we not suffer more than we do?” Is it because we simmer with love for God, God’s Gospel, and God’s image bearers? Is it because our souls are set on “low heat” and we boil not? I think we
- Simmer and are not so involved, connected, kind, and loving.
- Simmer and do not live holy, blameless, saintly, and different lives.
- Simmer and do not herald God’s Law and accompanying consequences.
- Simmer and do not share God’s Gospel — the exclusive way of reconciliation.
- Simmer and seek to be only winsome.
- Simmer and seek to be overly accepted.
- Simmer and seek to be never distinct.
- Simmer and seek to be sinfully inclusive.
- Simmer because we have not recently been set ablaze with the Gospel.
We are on “low heat,” and desperately in need of the Spirit turning us up a notch or two. Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on us!
*Scot McKnight, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Peter, p. 75)