“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.”
I’m sorry, what? If I suffer in my body, I am done with sin? What does that mean? The same word used for Christ’s sufferings is also used for our sufferings in this passage. This aligns with scripture in that we share with His sufferings, and we become like him. (Philippians 3:10) Suffering tends to burn away every frivolous thing. Our extravagant wants and desires become nothing in the face of suffering. The important questions – who God is and who we are – rise to the surface. What do we believe about God? Do we trust Him? Is He good? I think sin pales in comparison to the presence of Christ that we can only know in suffering. Christ suffered in his body for “the joy set before him” (Hebrews 12:2).
We want joy, but are we willing to suffer for it? Not for happiness or the comfort of circumstances. Joy is without circumstance, without occasion. Joy is recognizing our suffering in the light of eternity is fleeting, mild, and short.
Peter goes on to say that the life change that occurs when we come to know Christ can be shocking to those who knew us BC – before Christ. We are not better; in fact, we are dead. Well, dead to sin, dead to flesh, dead to anything that wants to take the throne of our life, dead to self. The people around us may mourn our death. Galatians 2:20 says we’ve been crucified with Christ, and we no longer live, but Christ lives in us. The life we now live in the body, we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us. Living, eternal living, starts when we die to the bondage of sin and our incredible debt is paid in full. This is living – that Christ would take residence in me, that the Holy Spirit would teach and guide me, and that the Father would allow me to participate in His will on Earth.
Peter gives suggestions for how we should approach the end of days. Be alert and sober. Pray. Love deeply. Offer hospitality without complaining. How should this inform our actions as believers in the last days? I’ve been grieved by the amount of vitriol coming from the church against all we deem unholy. When we are told that love will grow cold in the last days, we see it first in the church. Jesus mentions this in Matthew 24:10-13 when he talks about the end of days. He warns that “many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,..” The love of MOST? My heart breaks for those that have given up on faith in the living God due to the love of most growing cold.
Remember how Christ wooed you? Remember the love with which he has lavished upon you? Christ accepts all who come to him, but he also changes us all. Remember when you didn’t know how sin grieves the heart of God? They don’t know. How is holiness and righteousness attained by a wretch like me? By pursuing Christ. The Holy Spirit is faithful to discipline and admonish. If I remain in his presence, the refiner’s fire is effective. This fire does not come from posting angry comments on social media. Be careful what you post when you represent the Creator. Your life, your words, your posts should be filled with compassion, gentleness, kindness, and humility. In this way we are set apart – not set above. God does not show favoritism. When did we become so angry? So offended by the things of the world? As if they had any clue how much the Lord loves them or any clue how to live in holiness.
Also in 1 Peter 4:11, we are encouraged to use our gifts, our God-given gifts, to be stewards of God’s grace. Anything that we do – speak, give, serve – do so in the strength God provides. Maybe its just me, but I want to do “all the things.” God provides strength for me to do his will today. He’s faithful to provide what I need. This does not cover the headless chicken activities I try to sneak in. My worth, you see, is not in what I can produce. My worth, my value has been decided and measured by the cross of Christ. I am his treasure as he is mine. Nothing I do or don’t do can change his affection for me.
The last thing Paul addresses is suffering for being a Christian. We don’t even know what this means in the United States. The church gets upset when kids aren’t allowed to pray publicly in school or the ten commandments aren’t posted on every town square. We uphold American values above the love of Christ. And judgement should start with us. Can you imagine if we clothed ourselves with kindness and humility? If we didn’t attend every argument we were invited to? If we responded with love which covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8)? I want Christ to be revealed in me more than I want people to like me. More than I want to look put together. I want to be known for the love of Christ.
I have a friend who rejoices in persecution. He would share Jesus with someone, and they’d call him some name. He’d walk away giggling because he’d had just a taste of persecution. The last verse of 1 Peter 4 says, “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” When I suffer as I am doing the will of God, I will do two things: I will chase, pursue, with relentlessness my God. In His presence is full and complete joy. Then I will do the next right thing. If I know the good I should do, and I don’t do it, James says, that’s sin.
So here’s your to-go box. Love. Love deeply. Suffer well. Pursue Christ.