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Our theme for our teaching focus this year is Called. We are considering each month some of the teachings of the scriptures in regards to our calling in Christ. We are seeing our purpose as Christians in our daily lives and our purpose in our worship together. The scripture I would like for us to consider in our lesson today is found in 1 Peter 2:20-21. We begin our reading in the middle of verse 20.

But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:20–21 ESV)

We need to consider these words carefully because they are jarring words. It is a gracious thing in God’s sight if we endure when suffering for doing good. But listen to the next statement: For to this you have been called. We have been called to what? We have been called to endure suffering when doing good. In fact, notice the rest of what Peter says. We have been called to endure suffering for doing good because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, so that we might follow in his steps. We often talk about seeing the life of Jesus as an example to follow. But Peter tells that we are also to see the suffering and death of Jesus as an example to follow as well. To this you have been called is what Peter says.

The knowledge that we have been called to a life which will include unjust suffering is what can be jarring to our hearts and minds. Suffering so often can be the deal breaker in our lives. As Christians, when we suffer, often our first reaction can be that this cannot be right. We have the tendency to retract from doing good when it causes our own suffering. It is a natural reaction, as natural as recoiling our hand from a hot stove. Suffering can knock us off our mission. Suffering can cause us to stop doing good for other. Suffering can cause us to stop teaching others the gospel. Suffering can cause us to stop living our lives as examples for Christian living in the world. We do not want to experience suffering so we just stop. We stop being different. We stop opening our mouths. Suffering just seems wrong. If we are suffering for doing good, then it seems to us that we must be doing something wrong.

Suffering Leads To Sin

Suffering causes an interesting transformation of our hearts. Think about how much sin is justified because of the wrongs they have experienced. Someone did me wrong so I have the right to respond sinfully. I have the right to be angry because you caused me pain. I have the right to have a critical spirit because of the wrongs you have done against me. I have a right to harm you because you did something harmful to me. There appears to be an automatic and deep rooted sense that if I have been mistreated, hurt, or let down, then I have the right to pay them back. I have the right to show them up. I have the right to administer upon them what I think is just. I have the right to use slander, criticism, threats, grudges, or whatever else to make sure the person gets what he or she deserves. We allow our suffering to be our excuse for sin.

I hope that we will see this shift in our society because it is important to see. In movies that I have seen lately, I want you to notice that the villain, the evil character, is not really evil, but is presented as misunderstood. In the horrific shooting that just occurred south of here, what you are seeing is not the message that this is an evil act, but that this young man was misunderstood. He had lost a lot. He lost his parents. We are compassionate to these facts but this does not mean that our suffering is an excuse for sin. But this is what is being presented to us as the moral teaching of our day in television and movies. Your suffering justifies your response. Our suffering can lead us toward two directions of sin. We are tempted to respond by hurting verbally or physically the people who hurt us or we just stop doing good altogether. We recoil and no longer live as lights in the world. But Peter is telling us that we need to rethink the role of suffering and why we need to do good in the face of personal mistreatment. Let’s listen again to what Peter taught in 1 Peter 2.

But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:20–21 ESV)

Rethinking Suffering

When we studied the book of Job we made a lot of considerations about suffering and noted how often we have the wrong idea about suffering and God’s use of suffering in the world. Notice that Peter does not ask us to view suffering as just something that is going to happen. Peter does not say to just resign yourself to the fact that you are going to suffer. The path of suffering for doing good is your calling, not your fate. It is our calling because it was Christ’s calling. Peter in this very letter does teach that suffering is a tool used by God to test our faith so that it is refined for God’s glory (1:7; 4:12). Peter even mentions that suffering can come as the direct result of our own sins (2:20; 3:17). But think about what Peter tells us in this passage. Our example in suffering is the one who was totally innocent and free from sin (2:22). Jesus did not suffering as the direct result of his own sins. Nor did Jesus suffer because he needed refining of his faith. Jesus suffered, not for his own sake, but for the sake of God’s purpose and the salvation of others. Look at this again in verse 21: “Because Christ also suffered for you.” He did not suffer for himself. Jesus suffered for you.

What we can easily do is read this to say, “Christ suffered, so we also suffer.” This is true but not the full idea that Peter is giving to us. Jesus did not do anything wrong but suffered for doing good. He did not suffer for himself but at the hands of others for the good he was doing. We are to also suffer for doing good for the sake of others. This is the picture Peter is giving. Look again at verse 21.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21 ESV)

The Greek word used for “example” only occurs here in the New Testament. The word was used to speak of a pattern that was copied for writing or drawing. Do you remember when you were in kindergarten and you were learning to write your letter that the teachers would give you lined paper that had the letters of the alphabet lightly written on the paper? What you were supposed to do was trace those letter. You wrote your letters directly over those lines so that you could follow the example. This is what Peter is saying here that Jesus did for us. Jesus’ footsteps are the figure to be traced by us. We have been called to suffer for the good of others just as Jesus’ suffered for our good. Jesus calls every Christian to walk this path of suffering with him. Suffering is not merely a series of unfortunately events but a calling we have been given to trace in our lives.

We show Christ when we suffer for doing good and do not respond sinfully. We do not show Christ when we suffer for doing good but respond in anger, slander, criticism, inflicting harm and pain to those who hurt us. The model to follow is not to suffer like Christ but to be like Christ in how we respond to suffering for doing good. If we stop doing good, then we are not following in the footsteps of Christ. If we hurt people when they hurt us for doing good, then we are not following in the footsteps of Jesus. If we justify and excuse our evil actions toward others because they hurt us, then we are not following in the footsteps of Jesus. We have been called to suffer for doing good without retaliation. Notice this is the point Peter makes in verses 23-25.

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:22–25 ESV)

Jesus did not sin when all of the evil was happening to him. He did not excuse himself to act in a way that was not pleasing to God because of the suffering he experienced. So how to do we do this? How do we step where Jesus stepped and follow this pattern? Peter tells us in those verses.

Following the Steps of Jesus

Peter says that Jesus continued to entrust himself to the Father who judges justly. He left his case in the hands of God. This is our faith: trusting in God in the midst of unjust suffering. Jesus did not stop his work in redemption because he was reviled and mistreated. He did not revile or threaten. He did not commit sin when he suffered. Jesus continued entrusting himself to the Lord who judges justly. How do we handle people when they mistreat us unjustly? How do we deal with people saying hurtful words to us? How do we keep doing good when we are being maligned for the good we are doing? How do we not respond in anger when someone is yelling at us? How do we remain kind when we are being slandered? How to be stay faithful to the Lord and not act sinfully we people are trying to destroy us? We are entrusting our lives to God who judges justly. This is what we have been called to do. When the good we do goes unnoticed, we are not hurt by this because we know that God sees what we are doing for him, not for our own glory. When the good we do is rejected, we are not going to respond in sinful ways because we are trusting God to be the righteous judge. Not only this, our suffering in the face of sin and evil is to be a means of drawing people to the Lord, just as Jesus drew us to the Lord through his suffering.

Unjust suffering is not a sign that we have done something wrong. Unjust suffering does not mean that God is not faithful. Unjust suffering is our calling. We have been called to speak good, righteous words  and live good, righteous lives knowing that people are going to hurt us in the process. But suffering cannot cause us to stop doing good and speaking good things to others. Mistreatment is not an excuse to be evil. Being hurt is not an excuse for us to do wrong. We have been called to trace the footsteps of Jesus. Be the message of light and hope to this dark, hopeless world. It is a gracious thing in the sight of God if when you do good and suffer, you endure.