Christians in the Western Hemisphere have enjoyed a few centuries of relative ease compared to our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, although there have been periodic spikes in persecution at times. We have enjoyed the quietness of living our lives in peace as Christians and have gotten to the point of expecting acceptance by our secular peers and in many cases we strive for popularity. So when we look at recent reports that Christians in the West are increasingly targets for persecution, we think it’s an anomaly. However, a look at God’s word tells us repeatedly that Christians living quiet, peaceful lives is a rarity. Most of the history of the true church is filled with persecution and rejection and we are told that we should expect such things to happen.
One of the many passages in the Bible that brings this message home is 1 Peter 4:1-4:
Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;
That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.
For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:
Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:
If the Lord Jesus suffered because of his righteousness on our behalf, then we should have the same mindset and expect to suffer for his righteousness in us on his behalf. When we are willing to suffer for the Lord, it shows that we consider ourselves dead to this present world and we are determined to be done with our sin. We are basically telling ourselves that for the rest of our days on Earth, we are through with chasing after every which way to fulfill our lusts and are focused resolutely to do God’s will. We are zoned out to the world and in a zone to please God.
In our past unsaved fleshly lives, we thought it was sufficient to be self-willed heathens, walking in unbridled desires by feeding the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life. We thought it was really cool to drink to get drunk, to have wild raucous parties, to overeat, and to participate in all kinds of pagan festivals or embrace pagan mentalities. But then we had a close encounter with the Lord Jesus and he flipped the script on us and totally transformed our lives, giving us a completely new direction and purpose.
Giving up our focus on the things of the world made us stand out from the worldly crowd. We ended up standing out so much that the people still caught up in the world’s way of living took a look at us and came to the conclusion that we are just plain weird. Since they tend to judge people based on human-centered standards, the fact we don’t participate in the lifestyles they lead or espouse their philosophies and principles to cater to their unrestricted excesses, they speak evil things about us as Christians. This leads eventually to them trying to force us to be like them by any means necessary, whether it’s through bullying, badgering, blaspheming, and blacklisting.
Peter is telling us that we should see this type of environment as normal for the Christian. Since that’s the case, it’s no surprise that Jesus several years before Peter’s letter gave us this warning in Luke 6:26, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” If we constantly want people around us to heap praises on us, it should raise a red flag. Why? It shows we are willing to do anything or say anything to be accepted. The only way that will happen is if we, as a Christian, are ready to compromise our Christianity in an instant.
Later in 1 Peter 4, he points out that we should consider it an honor to suffer for Christ and rejoice because we know in the future we will be rewarded for our present troubles.
Harry A. Gaylord