O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
God is calling us home...Suffering
God is calling us home...Suffering
Based on 1 Peter 2:20-25
Preached on March 25, 2015
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For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Fellow baptized saints, God is calling us home and sometimes the journey brings us suffering. Tonight I want to talk about suffering but not just any kind of suffering. We're not going to think about the suffering that comes from your arthritis, or your cancer, or your heart disease or whatever else you may have from time to time. (I don't mean to make light of physical ailments and please, keep listening because at the end of the sermon I will say something about our physical ailments.) We're also not going to be thinking about self-inflicted suffering, you know, those kinds of suffering that result from your mistakes or your sin. For example, you get romantically involved with someone who is not your spouse, and it makes life miserable. Or you take some money from work (of course you intend to pay it back!), but you get caught and things go sore. St. Peter says, "What credit is it if, when you sin, you are beaten for it and endure?" This is not what Peter writes to the Church about. Everyone in the world suffers for one reason or another but tonight Peter teaches us about a suffering that is unique to us as Christians. The unjust suffering that comes our way because we are followers of Jesus. In 1 Peter 4:16 Peter says, "If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name." In other words, your faith in Jesus is going to bring you suffering. Expect it. For our text this evening specifically says, "To this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you. To this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you."
You and I should be more and more aware of suffering for our faith. "Open Doors USA" is an organization in Santa Ana, California that tracks the persecution of Christians around the world. Listen to this from their website. "Each month 322 Christians are killed for their faith. 214 churches and Christian properties are destroyed. 772 forms of violence are committed against Christians (such as beatings, abductions, rapes, arrests and forced marriages)." John Allen, Jr. has written a book titled, "The Global War on Christians" (Image, 2013). As the title says, this is global. It is not just confined to Muslim countries in the Middle East. Mr. Allen cites one study that says 45 million of our fellow believers in Jesus were martyred in the twentieth century, that is, their lives were cut short because they called Jesus their Lord (Wall Street Journal, December 20, 2013; A17). But this isn't new. When St. Peter wrote his letter to the Church, the physical persecutions hadn't started yet but they were just around the corner. Anti-Christian sentiment was heating up.
The people who received Peter's epistle were being socially persecuted. These early Christians were a small minority of the population and so most people had no idea what Christianity was all about. They faced hard lives. They were not citizens. In fact, some of them were slaves – as we see in our text. The general population didn't know what Christianity stood, all they noticed was that these followers of Jesus didn't join in some of their civic events, and their social events, and their parties, a.k.a. orgies. So people talked about the Christians behind their backs. They slandered them. They put them down. They shunned them.
Can you identify with that kind of persecution, with unjust suffering for the faith? There are times when following Jesus means speaking up for someone who is being trashed by gossip. There are times when following Jesus means opposing unethical business practices. There are times when following Jesus means you're not going to go to that event to which you've been invited. When you follow Jesus instead of running with the crowd it is only a matter of time before you've been slandered, put down, or even shunned. You may well pay a price in your reputation and your career. So what does St. Peter say to them and to us? What does God say in this situation?
Act as Jesus did when He suffered unjustly. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return.
Jesus is our example. When he was sinned against; He didn't sin back. When his enemies came at Him, He didn't respond with deceitful words; He didn't "spin." He spoke the truth. And when He did suffer unjustly, He didn't lash out with cursing and swearing. Unjust suffering makes us angry. Anger is a natural emotion that we feel when we are threatened or something dear to us is threatened. Anger at unjust suffering is not wrong. What's wrong is when we let our anger lead us to respond to sin with sin. Jesus didn't do that. He's our example when we take it on the chin for Christ. Jesus teaches us to endure and to trust our vindication to God. 1 Peter 4:19 says, "Let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good."
Now comes the most important thing. Listen up! Jesus is more than an example; He is your Savior. We've got to keep the distinction clear between example and savior. If you're drowning, you don't need a swimming instructor to demonstrate how to swim. You need to be saved. If you're trapped in a burning house, you don't need an example of putting new batteries into your smoke detectors whenever time changes. You need to be saved. And if you're in a bad auto accident, you don't need an example of defensive driving. You need the Jaws of Life. Yes, Jesus is our example but first and foremost Jesus is our Savior. He rescues us from the eternal consequences of our sins. Peter says Jesus is our example but immediately makes Jesus our example because Jesus is our Savior.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Jesus bore our sins on the cross so that we can receive forgiveness from God. Jesus died so that we can live for what God teaches us is good and right. Jesus died for our restoration and to bring us back to our heavenly Father. And now because we trust that Jesus is our Savior, we are willing to suffer for Him as God is calling us home. In His Holy Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr