“Don’t pay back evil for evil or insult for insult. Instead, give blessing in return. You were called to do this so that you might inherit a blessing.” (CEB)
We don’t like to suffer. I don’t like to suffer. After all, it hurts. I’m not really into pain. I’m not a high tolerance pain kind of guy. I have no problem taking a pain pill at the first sign of discomfort. Yet, I know there will be time I’m going to have pain – physical, emotional, and spiritual – and there is no way around it. To live in this broken world is to experience suffering. To suffer as a Christian, however, is different because we are following the way of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There must be suffering before glory. Just as Christ suffered, we ought to expect that we will suffer as his followers. As Christians walk with Jesus during the season of Lent, they journey through the desert full of temptation and hard circumstances. At the end of the journey will be the glory of Easter, a celebration of the resurrection. Christian theology and practice hangs it’s hope on these redemptive events of Christ’s cross and resurrection, suffering and glory.
We are not above our Master. We, too, will suffer. The real question is whether we will suffer because of our own foolishness and selfishness, or because of our devotion to Christ in being kind, humble, and gracious. When insults come our way, we don’t respond with insults. Verbal cruelty is not the way of Christ. Anger, slander, gossip, lies, manipulative words, and belligerent bullying have absolutely no place in the kingdom of God for any reason. God takes a zero-tolerance policy toward hate speech.
Christians are to us their tongues exclusively for blessing, not cursing; for love, not hate; for truth, not lies; for building-up, not tearing-down; for proclaiming good news, not bad news laced with insults. If we suffer for being Christians proclaiming good news, we shall receive blessing from God. But if we suffer for giving-in to retaliation and our base desires for revenge, then we will suffer the consequences of our own stupidity.
God has called us to bless the world, not condemn it. Christians are to be on the front-lines, leading the charge of spreading respect, civility, kindness, and the gospel. Jesus said that it’s no problem to show love and respect to people we like. It’s a whole other ballgame to do the same for those who treat us with disrespect and hate. Yet, God watches over all who obey him, and he listens to their prayers. God will handle the hate-filled person, not you or me. Our task is to have a deep concern for humanity, both the ones we like and the ones we don’t.
Take some time today or in the next few days to slowly and carefully read the book of 1 Peter in one sitting. It’s a short book. Pay attention to how the adversity of living in this fallen world gives Christians the opportunity, hope, and encouragement to live well. May it be so, to the glory of God.
Loving Lord Jesus, you suffered and died on my behalf. It is a small thing for me to follow you and walk in the way of suffering. I know and have the confident expectation that blessing awaits. Keep me true to following you through all the adversity I must face in this fallen broken world. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.