“… If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” (1 Peter 4:16)
“… So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” ( 1 Peter 4:19 )
Five year ago [What does it mean to suffer?] I asked some probing questions about how much we truly suffer – in our modern age – by being Christians. Are we absolutely miserable because of our Christian commitment? Are we missing out on enjoying life because “suffering” gets in the way, or our commitment to God forces us into a certain way of life? And just how do we think our suffering compares to believers in the past – both the distant past and in the past hundred years?
But I am no longer that critical. The reason? Because the definition of Christianity and the hallmarks of that life are so diverse and scattered that one strain of Christianity can actually be at odds with another. And that, gentle reader, means there is suffering. Suffering by the Christian or Christians who believe they are the right. Suffering by those Christians who really are in the wrong. And suffering by the general non-Christian population seeing the friction and dichotomy between these two “Christian” groups. It may not be the suffering that Christians did in ages and eras before. But it is suffering – do not be in doubt on that point.
And the greatest tragedy is that this suffering can not be abated and healed until we know what is correct and authentic Christian belief. I have given my opinions on this issue; but this is not the time to re-examine and discuss that. I have never been a fan of divisiveness, and I am certainly not going to allow it here. But would I do suggest is that the varying Christian groups take solace from these verses. If they feel strongly that are suffering because they do not see or feel unity with other Christian groups, then these verse is for them. And if they suffer because Christianity itself is misunderstood and attacked or maligned, these verses are for them.
I would not ask a committed Christian to veer from their faith beliefs. I would ask though that all Christians remain open to discussion about their faith, both with other Christians and those who do not espouse a Christian faith.
May our God see our suffering, and heal us, every one. Selah!