God is with you - Part 17
1 Peter 2v19-25
Christian Ethics, Part 3
7th July 2017
Over the last two weeks, we've looked at three of the Christian virtues described in 1 Peter Chapter 2, the virtues of submission, honouring everybody and servanthood. The next Christian virtue is suffering:
1 Peter 2v19-20
The world will tell you that if you're suffering for doing good, you should have a moan, complain, demand your rights, petition the government, wave your finger in your boss's face. Make him understand that you're important too. Demand equal dignity. But Peter says, speaking by the Holy Spirit, that it's a commendable thing to suffer for doing good, and to continue to act righteously while suffering.
Again, you don't hear that too often in the world, do you?
Is this too much for us? Is this too deep for us? It's pretty tough, isn't it? It's a real repentance of giving up our rights for Jesus's sake.
If you're the Christian slave of a non-Christian slave master or, to water it down many times over, the Christian employee of a non-Christian boss, and if you misbehave, what are the chances that he's going to come to Christ? Or if every time he treats you unjustly you man the barricades and demand justice, what are the chances that he's going to be saved from his sins?
But if you peacefully, generously, just continue to do the right thing, it's just possible that your goodness will touch his heart and he will repent of his sins. And the chance of that happening is worth anything, isn't it? If we believe, as we do, that every human is of infinite value, then whatever I can do so that one of them has a chance of believing in Jesus, then it's a good investment, isn't it?
I want to live different from this world.
And if you're the Christian slave or employee of a non-Christian slave master or employer, you are infinitely more free than he is. You're infinitely better off than he is. You're infinitely richer than he is. The person who has Jesus and nothing else has infinitely more than the person who has everything else but doesn't have Jesus.
An accurate understanding of the situation is to feel sorry for our oppressor, sorry for our slave master, because we get eternity in glory, and he gets eternity somewhere else, and therefore want to do everything we can to give him a chance of finding Jesus.
I'm not saying that slavery is fine, or oppressing your workers is OK. Of course it isn't. But Christians banging the desk and saying, "I'm not standing for it" isn't the Biblical way to go. The Biblical way is to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5v44).
The Biblical way is "if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well" (Matthew 5v40). The Biblical way is "If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles" (Matthew 5v41). The Biblical way is "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Matthew 16v24).
This is Christian ethics, not what you hear in the media, or in the street. We are - or should be - utterly different from the people around us. We are - or should be - people who delight to sacrifice, delight to serve. And if we don't delight to serve, it's time to go back to God, and find out why not, and repent.
I admit that when I see one of my brothers or sisters in Christ being oppressed, I do tend to wade in on their behalf a bit. But I hope that when I'm oppressed, I don't. I hope that I let other people boss me about, because who am I? And if I do what is right anyway, if I love them anyway, if I'm patient in the affliction anyway, then maybe something of the goodness of God will touch their hearts.
Maybe the only difference between me and my oppressor is that I've received the grace of God and they haven't yet. Maybe they need the same grace that I've received, and I am God's channel for them to find the forgiveness, peace and power that they need in their lives.
Can we receive that it is commendable before God to bear up under suffering and still do the right thing? Or is that too much? Can we decide that every time I get beaten up for no reason, and still love the person doing it, that's commendable to God? Peter says:
1 Peter 2v21
1 Peter 2v22-23
When they falsely arrested Jesus, beat Him, spat at Him, and forced a crown of thorns down onto his head, when they tied him to a post and whipped Him, when they nailed him to a cross, He didn't argue. He didn't demand His rights. He hardly spoke at all. But He prayed, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing" (Luke 23v34).
This is our example.
1 Peter 2v24-25
The cross here is called the tree because it's written in Deuteronomy 21v23 "anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse". Jesus allowed the curse that is rightly ours to fall on Him, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.
Next time your council, or your headmaster, or your tax man, or your boss oppresses you, remember that you've died to sin and you live for righteousness, that by the wounds of Christ you have been healed.
Jesus saved you. He didn't demand his rights, or fairness. He gave his body to be tortured and killed for you. And our role is, if necessary, to give our bodies to be tortured and killed for Him and for our neighbour. Your salvation was all by grace, all by the sacrifice of Jesus.
Can we find it in our hearts to follow our leader, to take Christ as our example, and to willingly sacrifice, not only for each other, but also for those who have not yet found Jesus, knowing that it's not fair, knowing that they're treating us worse than we deserve, but also knowing that without our witness, they probably won't find Jesus?