“If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. None of you, however, should suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. But if anyone suffers as a ‘Christian,’ he should not be ashamed but should glorify God in having that name. For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God? And if a righteous person is saved with difficulty, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner? So those who suffer according to God’s will should, while doing what is good, entrust themselves to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:14-19, HCSB).
Let me begin this post with a disclaimer: You might find something I say in this post offensive to you as a Christian. Please don’t get mad at me because I want you to like me and keep reading my daily devotionals.
Instead, get mad at the Apostle Peter, because he’s the one that originally said it! I’m only explaining what Peter said in the context of our post-modern lives.
If you don’t agree with what I have to say, then write a comment and point out my errors. But please do it with love because I’m a sensitive guy and don’t want my feelings hurt!
For some time I’ve been disturbed by people, institutions, and ministries that bear the name of Christ and then live and operate the same way that everyone else in the world does (and sometimes worse). You know what I mean:
- The Christian university with a successful sports program sanctioned for recruiting violations, repeatedly over a long period of time
- The Christian ministry sued for financial mismanagement
- The Christian leader caught having an extramarital affair
You know what? I’m tired of Christians who compromise their morals and ethics and then have all sorts of excuses and apologies when they get caught.
Sure, we all make mistakes. We all sin. But we shouldn’t be living in our sin; we shouldn’t be sustaining it! And then be sorry when we get caught in our sin.
So, the question we need to ask ourselves is: What distinguishes those who claim to be Christians from those who don’t?
Does it matter? Is there supposed to be a distinction? If not, then why try to persuade people to become Christians?
Do we just embrace the culture and try to make this world a better place to live?
The Apostle Peter didn’t think so and so neither do I. This world is not our home and won’t be our home in eternity, at least the way it is now.
In these verses and the preceding ones, Peter says that if you bear the name of Christ in this world then you are going to encounter suffering and persecution. But, you will encounter suffering because you are living a way of life that runs counter to the way of this world, a way of life defined by the name of the One whose name is stamped on your life.
So, Peter points out, if you suffer, it should not be as a result of your evil-doing, but should be as a result of bearing Christ’s name, Christian, upon your life.
In other words, if you are a Christian doing evil and you get caught and have to apologize, that’s not suffering for Christ, that’s not persecution. That’s suffering as a result of your own evil-doing! And there’s no blessing attached to self-inflicted suffering!
Now Peter had already set a high standard for Christian behavior and ethics in the first chapter of this letter: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:14-16).
And Peter didn’t just make that up, he quoted it from the Old Testament law (see Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7).
Be holy because God is holy!
Now, I’m not going to list the ways I think Christians should be different or distinct from the world. You can go back and read almost any of my previous (or future) posts to find that information.
But I would like to reiterate the warning Peter gave in these verses, believing it is still as relevant today as it was for first century Christians suffering persecution.
No matter how completely saved you think you are; no matter how capable God’s grace and mercy is to save you completely and keep you for eternity; you are “saved with difficulty” or “barely saved” as the NLT phrases it.
God goes to great difficulties to save us and to keep us saved!
The great revivalist, Charles Finney, said that God is always ready to forgive sinners if they will repent. The difficulty God encounters is to persuade them to repent of their sin. And, I might add, being sorry and apologizing for getting caught in your sin is not the same as repenting.
Finney said that God has so constituted human beings as to limit Himself. God has made people capable of controlling their own moral conduct by the free action of their own wills, and so He expects them either to swear allegiance to Him or rebel against Him. If sinners are to be prepared for eternal life, a transformation from rebellion to allegiance must take place.
But the change needed is on a spiritual and moral level, and so the means that God deploys is spiritual and moral.
People form habits, mindsets, and patterns of behavior that make it incredibly difficult for them to break away from or remain broken away from once they become a Christian.
And since their salvation must be effected by spiritual and moral means, the difficulty arises when there is not a total surrender accompanied by a strong allegiance to Christ to the extent that they don’t leave behind their sinful habits, mindsets, and patterns of behavior.
We need to get some good old-fashioned fear and trembling back in our religion!
Maybe some Christians need to be “scared straight.”
If judgment begins with God’s household, we want to be found living as members of God’s family, His children, and not as orphans.
So we must bear the name of Christ with loyalty, respect, and humility. We must hold on to our salvation steadfastly and live it out resolutely and with conviction and without compromise.
After all, we are barely saved!