Follow Christ’s example and suffer for your faith

Apr 14, 2024 by

by Julian Mann, TCW:

THE Prayer Book Epistle reading for today, the second Sunday after Easter, is a strong encouragement to Christians suffering for their faith.

The passage is from the Apostle Peter’s first New Testament letter, written from Rome during the reign of the Emperor Nero (AD 54-68). It was probably written shortly before the state-sponsored persecution of Christians broke out in AD 64, unleashed by Nero’s decision to blame them for the Great Fire of Rome.

The original recipients of 1 Peter were Christian communities in several Roman provinces south of the Black Sea in what is now Turkey. This apostolic epistle would have been read out in their churches. It is a short letter and the spiritual benefit of reading it in full would more than repay the less than half an hour it takes.

The immediate context of today’s reading is Peter’s admonition to his Christian hearers to respect secular authority including his command to slaves to submit to their masters, even the harsh ones. Such New Testament statements are unacceptable to many modern readers. But the cold reality is that if the Apostles had incited a slave rebellion after the Spartacus uprising almost overthrew the Roman state in the previous century, they would have killed Christianity stone dead.

For the sake of the gospel, Christians at all levels of society were not to be insubordinate towards secular authority even when that proved difficult:

‘For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls’ (1 Peter 2v19-25 – King James Version).

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