1 Peter 2:19-25
April 30, 2023
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
1 Peter 2:19-25
For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval.
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
| Prayer |
“What are we to believe?” and
“How are we to live?” are
Two questions addressed last Sunday
That naturally surface in Peter’s first letter
Addressed and delivered to the small, immigrant communities of transplanted Christians
Newly relocated from Jerusalem to Turkey.
Father, both our Father and the Father of Jesus,
Has a plan for us,
To liberate us from death and
To impartially pass judgment on us and our behavior.
Have we lived in reverent fear of our loving God?
Have we turned from the futile ways of our ancestors and
embraced Jesus, his blood, his salvation?
Have we placed our trust
wholly and completely in God?
Living obedient to God’s truth?
These are the criteria by which
Our loving, heavenly Father will hold us accountable.
Today, Peter addresses the issue of
Enduring pain as a result of unjust suffering.
It is one thing to suffer justly,
To serve a deserved sentence,
To pay the penalty for a convicted sin,
But it is another thing to suffer unjustly.
If punished for doing wrong, what credit is that? Peter asks.
But if you endure punishment for doing right,
You have God’s approval. (2:20)
It is important to state unequivocally:
Peter is not granting permission to harm your spouse or others,
As has been inappropriately interpreted and taught.
The old line “Jesus took it, and so should you,”
Is justification for evil that Peter never envisioned,
And diverts the focus from his true intention.
I asked my wife, Cynthia, this past Monday about suffering,
And she told me I had better start with a definition.
Merriam-Webster defines suffering as “the conscious endurance of pain or distress.” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/suffering)
Suffering can be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual.
Suffering is common to the human condition,
No one is exempt,
All have or will at some point in life
Experience the pain of suffering.
Life is mortal.
To live is to suffer.
To die is to suffer.
She had led a good life.
90 plus years.
Raised a family.
Farmed the land.
She was an expert quilter and teacher of quilting.
She was a spiritual leader among many.
She was admired by all.
Her balance disturbed,
She fell backwards,
Her head impacting the cement stairs that led to her kitchen door.
Light faded to black.
Consciousness ran thin,
Then was totally drained.
There she laid for time unknown.
A long day,
I sat by her side,
Held her hand as the doctor nodded his consent.
“Will I die today,” she wrote on paper with a pencil,
Her endotracheal tube prevented her from speaking.
“Yes,” I replied.
The ventilator was turned off and the tube was removed.
“Will I suffer?” she wrote.
“No,” I said, as I shook my head and we cried.
Debate the validity or purpose of suffering.
Truth is, a sheep of my flock
suffered and died.
What was the point? I asked.
Why did she suffer and die?
For the first century, newly minted Christians
Attempting to evangelize the population of Turkey,
Suffering took the form of
Treatment as immigrants, migrants, and slaves,
Rejection of their message and mission, and
Martyrdom, even, for their efforts.
They wanted to know if there was a point to their suffering.
Was there a reason for their mistreatment?
For the injustice they endured?
Was preaching Christ crucified and risen from the dead
Worth the pain, suffering, and cruelty they were enduring?
“If you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.” (2:20-21)
Live by Christ’s example.
Suffer, yet endure.
Whether suffering from a broken arm, a broken mind, or a broken heart
To suffer is to be on the receiving end of God’s call for your life.
To suffer is to be divinely called.
“Whom shall I send?” the prophet Isaiah asked.
To suffer is to be called to
Share with God
Your anger, your pain, your trials and temptations.
Share with God
Your lament, your regrets, your repentance.
Opening to God
The pain of heart and soul
Is to be drawn into God’s embrace and love.
To suffer is to answer God’s call.
Following in the footsteps of Jesus
And so will you.
Living by his example
Means dying on a cross,
The culmination of denial, betrayal, pain, and suffering.
Suffering is the purest form of authenticity.
Yet, this is what we so desperately want to hide.
We want others to think
We have the perfect life,
We have it all together,
We have no problems,
We mask our pain,
We cover our sin.
The result, Rick Warren, observes,
“Is that we are labeled hypocrites and phonies.
Everyone already knows
we don’t have it all together.”
… “We think people are impressed by our prosperity.
But actually, they’re more impressed
with how we handle adversity.
It’s not our success
but how we handle suffering
that gives our witness credibility.”
(Plough, Pain & Passion, Spring 2023, pg.82)
The greatest witness of God’s love was the crucifixion of Jesus.
Your greatest witness of God’s love is the suffering you endure.
It’s one thing to tell others how you were saved.
It’s quite another thing …
It’s much more powerful
to share how you endured.
Suffering advanced Parkinson’s disease,
Pope John Paul II found it important
To liken his suffering to that of Jesus on the cross,
To bear witness to Christ
And God’s amazing love for humankind.
Nearly twenty years later,
I have not forgotten
Common as life,
Our common suffering is an invitation for fellowship
To reach out, invite in, and engage the world in Christian ministry.
If I suffer from depression or addiction,
So much better can I empathize with those
In the throes of similar suffering.
If I endure severe anxiety and panic due to trauma or abuse,
So much better can I relate with those
Fighting such demons.
If my marriage ended in divorce, or struggled and survived,
So much better can I relate with those
Struggling to save their own marriage.
If the pain of death and grief encompass my life
So much better can I
Show up and
Share in another’s anguish.
Personal pain, if allowed and carefully shared
Can increase sensitivity and deepen empathy with others
Allowing for a common connection
That leads to acceptance, inclusion, and healing.
Jesus lived life on life’s terms.
He experienced loneliness, misunderstanding, rejection, and withering criticism.
“Even though Jesus was God’s son,
He learned obedience from the things he suffered.”
“Suffering made Jesus perfect.” (5:8-9)
So, too, do we learn obedience the same way.
So, too, can we expect to be perfected by our suffering.
Every actual occurrence of suffering
is an opportunity for us to grow more Christlike
To draw us closer to God.
We are more alive,
More pure of heart.
(ibid. pg. 80)
Using pain to help others
Is the heart of redemption.
It may not be a ministry or calling to which is aspired,
But it is a pain that becomes an opportunity to be embraced,
Less the pain be wasted and lost.
There is so much more
To explore on the topic of suffering.
This letter from Peter, Paul’s letter to Rome, and James
Speak of the endurance that suffering builds,
As if capacity is a grand and noble thing.
Suffering as the divine consequence of God’s gift of free will
Can be debated in seminary classrooms,
In parish pews, and
Among family and friends around a campfire all evening long,
But to what end?
I think of my friend Ray,
A few years older than me,
Raised in the NYS institutional system,
Now aging and infirmed,
Sent to rehabilitate miles away from family, friends, church supports.
It feels like everyone but Ray knows this is how it ends.
And his suffering is for what?
I am bitter.
I find comfort in the fourth chapter of Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth.
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.”
“So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”