Explore the Bible: 1 Peter 4:12-19
Persecution is a very real issue for the church of Jesus Christ today. You’ve probably seen the videos of Christians being executed for their faith, or read the stories about the way Christians in some countries are being exiled from their homes and all they have. In places like that, standing for Jesus literally requires a believer to lay down his or her life for Him. As their brothers and sisters, we need to stand up for the persecuted church and the martyrs who are giving their lives for His sake.
In our culture, we face opposition, but at this point in time not at the same level. That doesn’t mean that Christians in Western society don’t face serious consequences for standing up for Christ. Some have faced lawsuits, some have lost businesses, others have been fired (or not hired) because of their beliefs. Still, most of our opposition at present comes in the form of attempts to denigrate our faith, to paint us as bigots of various stripes, or to try to shame us socially. These are uncomfortable, but certainly not risks that warrant abandoning our Lord and our faith.
Sometimes when we face opposition, we start to see everything as persecution. If anyone criticizes us, or finds our behavior or words objectionable, we think of ourselves as martyrs suffering for our Savior. When we do face opposition for the sake of Jesus, we should stand strong, but not overstate what is happening to us. But in some cases, Christians aren’t suffering because they are standing for the cause of Christ, but because they engage in genuinely objectionable behavior.
I knew a young man once who, as a new Christian, believed he was being persecuted for his faith. When I asked him about his “persecution,” he told me he was being reprimanded for sharing his faith and reading his Bible. As I probed a little deeper, I found that he was witnessing to his co-workers while he was supposed to be doing his job, and that he read his Bible not on break times, but while he was on the clock. I had to gently explain that what his company objected to wasn’t his faith, but his theft of time from the company.
Peter reminds us in this passage that when we are persecuted because we have done evil, we should not expect the Lord to reward us. We must stand up for Christ, but we must also be people of integrity. Perhaps that will bring us into conflict with what we are ordered to do on the job, and we may have to take a stand and face the consequences. Generally, however, we can be those who do our jobs, or live in our communities, with an honesty, integrity, and compassion that those who do not know Jesus can’t match.
When we do face opposition for the name of Jesus, Peter tells us we are blessed. We may not feel blessed as we stand up to the world, and suffer the consequences, but we must remember that this world is not our home. As followers of Christ, we measure what we have in light of eternity, and when our priority is to honor and serve Jesus we can stand, whatever may be thrown at us.